Stupid Decisions Lead to Two Major Character Departures on The Walking Dead

Monday, 21 March 2016 - 12:08PM
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Monday, 21 March 2016 - 12:08PM
Stupid Decisions Lead to Two Major Character Departures on The Walking Dead

Spoilers for The Walking Dead season six follow!


After six seasons, The Walking Dead knows how to give the people what they want. Each episode has a few moments that are so violent, gory, disturbing, or, in the case of this episode, just plain weird, that it has everyone freaking out on Twitter and talking about it the next morning. In "Twice as Far," one character was killed off in a sudden, tragic manner, a fan favorite left the group for good (supposedly), and Eugene tried to bite a man's penis off. But somehow, everything in between was sinfully boring and painfully insipid, featuring rushed character development, annoying pissing contests, and otherwise intelligent characters making idiotic decisions that lead to their deaths or almost-deaths. This is a staple of B-movie horror, but shouldn't be a staple of The Walking Dead, which was once hailed as a well-written subversion of the genre.

The episode felt like filler from the start, as it was structured around a relatively boring premise: two groups leave Alexandria for supply runs, both of which include newcomers who are not experienced fighters. Both Eugene and Denise have chips on their shoulders and feel the need to prove themselves, and both make mind-numbingly stupid decisions that put their lives (and, by extension, the lives of the people who would try to save them) in danger. While both of these plots are silly, Eugene's is both less illogical and more annoying. Considering Eugene's history, it makes complete sense that he would want to prove that he's not a coward, and that he can contribute something. And since I kind of hate both of these characters, it also makes sense that they would get into a completely childish argument and split up (another B-movie staple), which places them and the survivors in the other group in danger. 

Denise's plotline makes much less sense, because she's not only contributing something, she's one of the most indispensable people in Alexandria. She's not a doctor, but she's the only one with any medical training, so of all people, she should be protected and kept inside the walls. But instead of pointing this out, or reminding her that more people would die if she wasn't there to help them, Daryl and Rosita agree to take her on an extremely dangerous mission (which, by the way, they didn't even need her for, since she ultimately didn't identify any medications). And she puts her own life at risk, because apparently you need to take risks to survive in the zombie apocalypse, even unnecessary and life-threatening ones.


But still, I cared more about Denise's emotional arc, because the interactions between her and Daryl were well-done by both actors, and because Eugene has never managed to rise above serving as unfunny comic relief (the moments in which he takes things far too literally, for example, are particularly cringeworthy and sitcommy). Even if her decisions were stupid, Merritt Wever made Denise seem so relatable and human, the plotline almost worked. But, of course, this is The Walking Dead, so the moment any secondary character gets any significant development, they need to be killed off.

This was possibly the worst moment to kill Denise. She had been around long enough that we cared about her, and wanted to see her become a more significant character, but hadn't been around long enough for us to be genuinely upset. It would have been much more impactful to kill Abraham (who received this same death in the comics), but TWD is continuing their trend of killing off marginally developed characters while the main characters remain invulnerable, at least until the season finale. 

Side note: It won't cause nearly as much of an uproar as The 100's recent controversy, mostly because Denise wasn't nearly as beloved a character, and because no one really expects The Walking Dead to be politically correct anymore, but this was actually a much better example of Dead Lesbian Syndrome. Not only did Denise die as an indirect result of her feelings for Tara, but she was clearly killed off because she was more dispensable than any of the straight and/or male characters. Abraham was supposed to die per the comics, but didn't because he's more important, and the Savior heavily implied that he was aiming for Daryl, but killed Denise instead. So essentially, Denise died in so that two more important, straight white male characters could live.

And we haven't even talked about Carol's departure yet, which was a perfect example of The Walking Dead eschewing believable character development for—well, usually I would say for the action, but this episode was so boring I actually have no idea why Carol didn't get more screentime. While Carol's onslaught of guilt has been coming for a long time, and could have been a fitting cap to her character arc, it's been so rushed that it barely makes any sense. It was only a few episodes ago that she was scoffing at Morgan's philosophy, but now she's so unwilling to kill that she leaves the group? And she leaves a dramatic goodbye letter for Tobin, who we've literally seen interact with her for a cumulative total of two minutes? Nothing about this makes any sense.

Finally, where are we on Lucille watch? Denise was on the receiving end of Abraham's death from the comics, which could mean that the writers are playing musical chairs, and he'll get Glenn's death instead. However, Robert Kirkman has stated that he regretted killing Abraham off before he had the chance to go up against Negan, so that might be the reasoning behind the change. 

However, Carol's development for the last few episode seems to make it more likely that she'll be killed by Negan in the finale. The writers seem to be in a rush to finish her character arc, to bring her full circle from a meek peacemaker to a warrior woman to a repentant pacifist, which may indicate that she'll be killed off soon. And the fact that she's leaving the group just a few episodes before the finale makes it seem inevitable that she'll return just before everything goes down, to either be killed off or save the day. 

What do you think?

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