Joel Miller vs. Rick Grimes: Who Is Better in Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse?
The post-apocalyptic genre is still alive, especially with the popularity of The Walking Dead and The Last of Us TV series. Both series presented us with a world where people found themselves in the middle of the apocalypse, a dystopian world where only “the fittest” survive. The main protagonists of The Walking Dead and The Last of Us are Rick Grimes and Joel Miller, two men who stepped up in place of leaders and fought through the zombies and infected to survive. Both men are in similar roles, which got us thinking – who is better at surviving a zombie apocalypse?
Both men can survive in extreme situations, but Joel Miller is more qualified than Rick Grimes because he has already spent 20 years in the apocalypse. From the first episode of The Last of Us, we saw Joel fight against survivors and infected, with the duty of protecting a young girl, while Rick Grimes was a former sheriff’s deputy who fell into a coma, woke up in the middle of an apocalypse, and was immediately thrown into an extremely hard situation that forced him to fight against the biggest threats of the post-apocalyptic world.
Rick Grimes and Joel Miller are great and strong characters who have grown to be absolute experts in surviving the apocalypse, and throughout the show, we see how both characters improve their skills. Comparing characters from different universes and situations is a bit unfair, but this will be a fun way to discuss both characters. We will use the best-of-seven metric, and the first character that scores four points will “come on top.” If you are interested, stay with us until the end.
First of all, Joel and Rick had to overcome many obstacles to survive, and only the strongest people sprung up as leaders. Of course, different circumstances in their respective worlds forced them to lead, and ultimately, they both proved that they could do a really good job. When it comes to Joel, his task is to protect the young girl and lead her to Salt Lake City for Fireflies to find a cure. Joel is Ellie’s great leader and teacher, but he doesn’t lead the whole group of survivors as Rick does. The Walking Dead protagonist was alone initially but eventually found his family and group of survivors he essentially had to lead.
Throughout the series, Rick shows great leadership skills that propel the survivors to learn from him and survive. Moreover, Rick is one of the founders of Alexandria Safe-Zone and one of the Militia co-leaders; ultimately, he wants to fulfill his son’s (Carl) dream of rebuilding civilization. Joel didn’t have that “luxury” and had to fall under the leadership of FEDRA, the government agency, and military, who “protected” non-infected survivors.
Because of those circumstances, Rick Grimes takes the first point of this discussion.
Joel Miller 0 : (1) Rick Grimes
This category is obvious and understands the longevity of respected characters in the apocalyptic world. Of course, that includes all categories we will mention in the article when comparing the characters. When it comes to Joel in The Last of Us, he is a veteran and already “seasoned” survivor of the apocalypse. Some people will argue that Joel spent most of those twenty years in the Quarantine Zone under the protection of the military, but he was a smuggler who had access to the “outside world” – and dealt with many shady people.
Joel Miller is experienced in every sense regarding infected, like runners and clickers, and knows how to handle most of the problems in his way. He knows how most communities work and the system the government and the survivors’ communities established throughout the United States.
Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma in the first episode and is immediately thrown into the chaos of zombies and death – he needs to adapt and learn from the start, which has good and bad sides. Of course, Rick becomes a true veteran and expert in the post-apocalyptic world in 12 years, but the Outbreak in The Last of Us begins in 2003 and is still ongoing in 2023.
Overall, Rick is an experienced survivor and leader by the end of the show, but at the beginning of HBO’s Last of Us, Joel has 20 years more than the former deputy, which gives the Texan the point in this section.
Joel Miller (1): 1 Rick Grimes
This category is a bit abstract and does include many other “subcategories” in these comparisons. However, we will focus on the characters’ stature, stamina, and the fights they endured on their journey. Rick Grimes is a former deputy with experience dealing with criminals, and that does help in fighting the zombies of The Walking Dead. Besides zombies, Rick fights notorious enemies and crooked survivors who are ex-military, police, or skilled in surviving the cruel apocalyptic world.
Throughout the series, Rick Grimes is a strong man who survives many life-threatening situations. TWD TV series actor Andrew Lincoln is a badass, but if we compare him to his comic book version, Rick Grimes is a bulkier and muscly man who can endure a lot. On the other hand, Joel Miller, from the TLOU game, is more jaded and bulkier than Pedro Pascal’s TV series version.
Still, even in the show’s first season, we see Joel accomplishing many feats that only fit people can do in the apocalypse. We only recently saw Joel get impaled on the metal rod and survive enough for Ellie to get him somewhere safe.
However, Rick Grimes endured many beatings in the years of the apocalypse that can only be comparable to Joel Miller, and because of that, we need to split the points – it would be unfair.
Joel Miller (2) : (2) Rick Grimes
Zombies and Infected
This category seems like we are comparing universes. Still, it mostly revolves around the strength of the enemies, in this case, zombies, who are the main and universal antagonists of both TV shows. Essentially, this category presents which character has stronger and trickier zombies or the infected.
The Walking Dead and The Last of Us have similarities regarding the start of the Outbreak and infection that transformed deceased humans into monsters. Both universes have a common enemy – The Infected. The Walking Dead comics present us with strong notorious zombies that are fast, scary, and incredibly strong for every “normal” human. Of course, the TV series version of the zombies is different, and after the show’s pilot episode, the showrunners seemingly “nerfed” their zombies to balance the odds for the survivors. The comic-book version of the zombies is really scary, and unfortunately, The Walking Dead show didn’t do them justice.
The Last of Us does a better job in that department because the showrunners wanted the infected to be strong as they are in The Last of Us game. Joel and Ellie fight against some scary infected, especially Clickers, which are also hurling spores that can infect anyone exposed to it. TLOU-infected is also harder to kill than in The Walking Dead, and for that, we need to give points to Joel because he has to work much harder to kill and dispose of infected beings.
Frankly, Rick and his survivors need to deal more with living people than zombies, which puts the TWD character in a less favorable spot.
Joel Miller (3): 2 Rick Grimes
This section understands the characters’ skills in fighting, handling their weapons, and knowledge during combat. Joel Miller was part of the United States Military but left in his early twenties. After the Outbreak, Joel becomes a smuggler and a Hunter who scavenges for supplies and fights other survivors. If any gun or rifle goes into Joel’s hands, he will handle it like a professional, and he is skilled with a bow and arrow. Essentially, a man is prepared for anything.
Also, Joel is an expert in crafting, interrogation, and weapon handling, which gives him an upper hand against much younger enemies. These skills are also useful against the infected, making Joel the ultimate apocalypse survivor.
Rick Grimes is similar because his background as a police officer made his beginnings much easier than the rest of the survivors, who never did anything like that. His weapon handling made him feared by the rest of the survivor groups in the country, and Rick even became known for his signature weapon – Colt Python .357 Magnum. Throughout the series, Rick Grimes becomes hardened and skilled in many ways, especially when fighting and handling weapons. We decided to split this section as well – once again, it would be unfair to these characters not to.
Joel Miller (4) : (3) Rick Grimes
Joel Miller vs. Rick Grimes: The bottom line
It’s always tricky to compare characters from different universes, especially when both characters have their own problems and circumstances they need to deal with to survive in the post-apocalyptic world. Joel Miller is a veteran survivor with more than 20 years of experience as a survivor, while Rick Grimes needed to really fast on how to survive. Both characters are great leaders, with Rick having the upper hand over Joel because he built whole communities of people he led through 12 years.
Joel and Rick possess great survival instincts and skills that only a few have, but their experience dealing with zombies and infected is vastly different, with TLOU’s Joel having to deal with stronger and more dangerous infected – they are also really scary.
However, the difference in enemies of respective TV universes prevail in this discussion, and Joel “wins” by one point. Joel is skilled and hard to kill, but Rick Grimes is not too shabby – it’s just that TWD’s zombies are inferior to TLOU infected, which gives old man Joel a harder job.
Nevertheless, both characters are iconic and unique in their own way, and that’s the most important thing.