The Walking Dead season 11
3) Sebastian Milton
This is going to be a tough one. In fact, the last three candidates we have for the final season are all going to be tough characters to defend, but I think it is possible.
In the case of Sebastian, when we put aside the litany of awful things he did, take a step back, and look at him in his entirety, it paints a picture of a young man who spent half of his life being groomed for a role he never wanted, a position which made him lash out and try to rebel the only way he could: By making himself appear as unfit for that role as he could.
As we learned in the final season, Sebastian was the grandson of William Milton, former president of the United States, and son of Pamela Milton, governor of The Commonwealth, and, as such, was expected to take his mother’s place when she could no longer serve.
But we also learned that Sebastian was not his mother’s first choice for the role. As Sebastian himself would reveal to Max in the same conversation that would ultimately doom him, he had a brother (Presumably older) who was the one his mother originally wanted to take over for her someday but didn’t live long enough to begin that ascension. With his brother gone, Sebastian was forced to take his place.
In that same conversation with Max, Sebastian also revealed that not only was his brother the one their mother wanted to take over for her but also her favorite in general, even saying, “This should be my brother. That’s the one she wanted. I’m just the one that’s still here.” Clearly, in Sebastian’s mind, he was an afterthought for his mother, a spare only to be utilized if she had no other option, and then, suddenly treated as the favored son only when that worst-case scenario became reality.
That knowledge, that he was being groomed for greater things only because his brother wasn’t there to do it, can not have been very good for Sebastian’s self-esteem. Imagine feeling like your mother is only grooming you for the family business, only seeming to give a damn about you at all because your brother, her favorite child, is dead. How would that make you feel? “Worthless” might be the first word I would think of, and if I was correct, I can also imagine that wouldn’t make you terribly happy, either.
I think, for Sebastian, to have gone through probably half his life or more not really being thought of (or at least, believing that), losing his brother, and only then being told he must be ready to become the leader of The Commonwealth someday made Sebastian resentful and cynical. I think he truly believed he was an afterthought for his mother and resented her not just for only caring about him when he was the last son she had left but now demanding he take on a role that he, at best, was never prepared for, and at worst, never wanted in the first place. With this resentment, while Sebastian would never go so far as to lash out at his mother, it manifested in other ways, specifically by being a snooty, arrogant, ungrateful, frivolous douchebag, the kind of person no one would want in charge, perhaps in the hope it would get his mother to abandon her goals of squeezing him into the box of leadership he didn’t fit into.
Additionally, I also think that Sebastian, along with not being keen on his mother’s plans for him, wasn’t exactly on board with how she ran The Commonwealth. When being recorded by Max, Sebastian mentioned how the system was designed to keep the poor poor and let the rich do whatever they wanted, using the fact that his mother rigged the community’s lottery as evidence. Despite how he usually behaved towards people of lower classes, Sebastian wasn’t mocking them for playing a game he knew was rigged and they didn’t or bragging about how the rich could do anything they wanted while the poor had to toil, but lamenting these things. If you go back and listen to him talking about it, he sounded like a man disgusted with his mother’s system but also resigned to it, like he knows that things would never change and has given up believing they might.
As for his attempt to kill Max, I think that had a lot to do with him feeling betrayed by Max, who, as we saw earlier in the season, Sebastian came to rely on as someone who could help him reach or understand his mother when he couldn’t, like when Pamela had cut him off from his bank accounts and refused to speak to him, and he asked Max if there was something wrong.
The rest, I think, was self-preservation. Already on the public’s shitlist for his doomed heists, and all the deaths they caused, Sebastian knew his Founder’s Day speech was his last chance to fix his standing within the community, and guarantee him a future, even if it was within his mother’s crooked system. With Max exposing him, I think Sebastian knew it was only a matter of time before either the public lynched him or his mother was forced to exile or execute him to retain her position, and feeling his death warrant was signed made him very angry.
Does this excuse him? No. Of course not, but I think it does explain his behavior and, maybe, opens the possibility that his actions were more than just the violent outburst of a spoiled brat.
In the end, I think that Sebastian wasn’t an evil person, just one who, after being thrown into a role he didn’t feel ready for, and believing he was just a subpar replacement for his brother in his mother’s eye, had become cynical and jaded, and resigned to his place in his mother’s corrupt system. I think that, had his brother lived to take on the responsibility, he might still have been a massive jerk (probably still out of resentment for his mother’s obvious favoritism), but he wouldn’t have been one so willing to throw away innocent lives. Maybe, if he believed his brother could have changed things, he might have even been the one to advocate for such changes.