The Walking Dead: What Is the CRM?


This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live episode 1.

Say what you will about The Walking Dead, but the franchise has never wanted for compelling villains. From The Governor and Woodbury, to Negan and his Saviors, and Alpha and her Whisperers, Rick Grimes and company have always had very real human threats to confront amid the shambling hordes of rotters.

With the introduction of many spinoffs and an expanded Walking Dead universe, however, the franchise needed one villainous organization big enough to threaten the whole world of the living. Enter the CRM or Civic Republic Military. First introduced via some enigmatic helicopters in The Walking Dead season 8, the CRM has prowled around the edges of the overarching story for more than half a decade now. The organization has been seen in Fear the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, and in the three final season of the flagship series.

While viewers got a rough sense of who the CRM is and what they are all about through these brief appearances, it wasn’t until the premiere of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live that we really began to understand their whole deal. So forget the piecemeal information you’ve gleaned from World Beyond and let’s take stock of what we really know about the CRM.

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What Is the CRM?

“The CRM, or Customer Relationship Management is a technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers” is what you would be reading right now if this article were written by AI that had skimmed Salesforce’s definition of it. Thankfully, you are not.

In the context of The Walking Dead, the CRM is the Civic Republic Military, an authoritarian fighting force that protects the Civic Republic of Philadelphia but also tends to get into everyone else’s business as well. The CRM is well-trained, well-armed, and dedicated to rebuilding the world the way it was before the zombie apocalypse began.

How Did the CRM Start?

A new bit of information about the CRM that The Ones Who Live brings to the table is how it actually began. If the CRM seems unusually organized and disciplined compared to the other post-apocalyptic militias we’ve seen thus far that’s because they trace their origins back to before the world went to shit.

According to a lengthy expository monologue by soldier Donald Okafor (Craig Tate), the CRM was once the Pennsylvania National Guard. For our European readers: each of the U.S.’s 50 states (and four territories) have their own National Guard units in reserve. Most of the time, a state’s national guard is commanded by that state’s governor but they can be “federalized” by the U.S. President at any moment to join a war effort. The Pennsylvania National Guard is particularly old, tracing its roots back to Benjamin Franklin founding the Associators in 1747. As of 2020, it was the second largest National Guard in the country.

As we’ve seen previously in Fear the Walking Dead, the United States military completely failed to stop the collapse of society during the onset of the zombie apocalypse in 2010 and instead just opted to bomb everyone and everything as part of Operation Cobalt. The Pennsylvania National Guard elected not to follow orders and instead bombed 4,000 marines gathered at Lincoln Financial Field, saving the city of Philadelphia from destruction.

After all the chaos died down, the Pennsylvania National Guard reorganized into the Civic Republic Military and even established a Civic Republic safe zone in Philadelphia where society was able to take hold amid all the wreckage.

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Are the CRM and the Civic Republic Different?

So we have both a Civic Republic and a Civic Republic Military – what, exactly, is their relationship? To pit it as simply as possible: the CR and the CRM are related but not identical. In a fully-functioning Democratic society, the military is closely aligned with civilian leadership. That does not appear to be the case with the CR and the CRM.

The CRM wishes to rebuild society as it was before. To do that, it needs infrastructure, cities, and people. Therefore it established the Civic Republic of Philadelphia and works to keep it safe. Beyond that, however, the CRM consistently goes off and does its own thing. As evidenced by its country-spanning network of bases and helicopters, the CRM doesn’t plan on being confined to only Eastern Pennsylvania.

What’s With The Three-Ring Symbol?

A logo featuring three interlocking rings has accompanied CRM equipment and uniforms ever since the organization was first introduced on The Walking Dead. Viewers of World Beyond know that those three rings are supposed to represent the “Alliance of the Three” made up of the Civic Republic of Philadelphia, a settlement in Omaha, Nebraska, and a settlement in Portland, Oregon.

Connected by the CRM’s military resources, the Alliance of the Three works together to rebuild society. Or at least they did work together until Omaha and its roughly 100,000 citizens were liquidated by the CRM. The three-ring symbol persists though since it’s probably too time-consuming to strike one of those circles off of thousands of consignee jackets.

Is the CRM Evil?

Yeah, the CRM is evil! Didn’t you just read the part where they killed 100,000 people? Granted, the CRM does have a grim rationale for doing everything that it does. In the case of Omaha, CRM leadership reasoned that the settlement wasn’t strong enough to last long term. It had already become a drain on the Civic Republic’s resources and it needed to be cut off like gangrenous limb before the virus of incompetence spread to Philadelphia.

Additionally, the CRM summarily executes all individuals they view as too dangerous and independent, then subjects their zombified bodies to cruel experimentation. The CRM believes it can find a cure for the zombie virus through this, but at a certain point all the cruelty adds up.

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The world of The Walking Dead is indeed a harsh and unforgiving one and the CRM would argue that one needs a harsh and unforgiving organization to create order within it. We’ll see whether that argument holds weight with the mighty Rick Grimes.

New episodes of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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