The Walking Dead
5) Pamela Milton
How do you defend a dictator? As I’m writing this…I don’t know.
I suppose the first place I’ll start is raising the question of why Pamela chose to run The Commonwealth the way she did, reinstituting the pre-apocalypse economic model and sociopolitical hierarchy. A cynical person
would did say it was all “… to keep her and her cronies in money and power.” But, that cynical person (whoever he was) may have been mistaken. Allow me to offer an alternative explanation.
I think it’s possible that the reason Pamela kept The Commonwealth on the old economic model was that, quite simply, she may not have known any better way to run things. As she herself said to Daryl and Carol after being imprisoned: How do you go about deciding who gets what? Who gets the bigger house? The better location? Who gets anything? I think Pamela — Especially aided by the fact The Commonwealth did manage a certain amount of stability during and immediately after the outbreak and, thus, maintained their economy — believed that the only effective way of answering those questions was through economics.
By retaining the American monetary system, she could assign value to goods and services and prevent the sort of upheaval that was going on outside of The Commonwealth’s walls by providing a logical basis for why certain people have certain things and others don’t. There’s less reason for people to fight over houses when there’s already an internal logic for why a person has a specific house — They have the money to pay for it — rather than something arbitrary.
Furthermore, retaining the old system ensures that certain things that a community as large as The Commonwealth needs to be done actually gets done. For example: Do you think that most of Pamela’s inner circle would ever be willing to deal with garbage, or sewage, or waste disposal jobs? Of course not. Honestly, most people don’t necessarily want to do those jobs but will do them so long as they are properly compensated. By paying people within the community to do the dirty jobs others may not want to do, she ensures a vital task is done and doesn’t have to force people at gunpoint to do those jobs (Something which would only serve to invite resentment and civil war if she had).
As for her treatment of dissenters, well, I think that had a lot to do with fear. Not fear of losing power, per se, but rather, fear of chaos. At the very least, The Commonwealth had close to a decade without the dead breaching their perimeter, and as such, the community had grown quite accustomed to stability. I can’t imagine that Pamela, being a politician, wasn’t made aware of just how hellish things were across the country during the outbreak. Whether through the news, over the internet, eyewitness testimony, or by her own experience, Pamela had to have had some idea of just how bad things were: Not just the dead, but also how savage things became in cities like Los Angeles, where the rioting that coincided with the outbreak only served to exacerbate it. I think that knowledge made her terrified of losing control of her community and what would have happened had she done so, rather than deal with dissent constructively, she chose to either distract the populous from it with well-timed walker attacks or simply remove the “troublemakers” from the equation altogether. A good response? No, but I think it’s one that would have made sense to her.
And, finally, bad as Pamela may have been, I do not believe she was without a conscience, in fact, when I said that, I couldn’t say she was the worst villain in all of The Walking Dead, this is why. Unlike people like Simon or Martin, who seemed utterly remorseless and devoid of anything resembling a conscience, Pamela did seem to care, to some degree, at least, about the things she did.
After Sebastian dies, for example, I think Pamela isn’t simply grieving for the loss of her son but also possibly recognizing how she neglected him, regretting that only after she’d lost him had she realized how poorly she had treated him. Furthermore, during the fight with the group inside Union Station, after accidentally shooting Judith, Pamela is visibly horrified by what she’d done. For her, it was one thing to shoot at adults partaking in what she would have seen as an insurrection or a coup attempt, but shooting a child was an a-whole-nother thing entirely. Sure, she kind of passed the buck and blamed Daryl and Maggie for what she did, but the mere fact it freaked her so much in the first place speaks volumes about how racked with the guilt she was overdoing it.
I can’t say Pamela was a good leader. An effective one, for sure, but not a good one. Having said that, I think she did want to provide for her citizens a certain amount of normalcy. It was an illusion, yes, but I think it was also her attempt at providing a sanctuary for people drained by the wasteland and wanting to give their children a chance at something resembling the lives they once knew. She ruled with an iron fist hidden by a velvet glove, but I also think she wanted to be as legitimately benevolent as she could be whilst doing so.
To answer my original question: How do you defend a dictator? By seeing that they hadn’t completely lost their humanity.