There is much to say about the role of religion in AMC’s The Walking Dead, but here I want to focus on the three crucial church scenes that have punctuated the series so far.
1. In season two, episode one, “What Lies Beneath,” the group is searching for Carol’s (Melissa McBride) lost daughter. They hear church bells and are drawn to the Southern Baptist Church, where, after killing the three walkers sitting in its pews, Carol and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and even Daryl (Norman Reedus) ask God to help them.
2. In a much different scene in the season five episode, “Four Walls and a Roof,” the group lures those remaining survivors from Terminus who had captured Bob (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) and eaten his leg into Father Gabriel’s (Seth Gilliam) church and brutally slaughters them.
3. And finally, in the season six episode, “Not Tomorrow Yet,” Rick stands at the front of Alexandria’s church and exhorts the survivors that their very lives depend on a preemptive attack on Negan’s Saviors—that they must find them and kill them.
The most obvious point to make about the trajectory of these scenes is the dramatic increase in brutality on the part of Rick and his group, which goes hand-in-hand with Rick’s movement from supplicating Christ to taking his place.