The Catch 22 of who dies on The Walking Dead

Denise Cloyd (Merritt Wever) in episode 14 Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC, The Walking Dead
Denise Cloyd (Merritt Wever) in episode 14 Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC, The Walking Dead /

Death is part of life in the next world on The Walking Dead. But who dies, when and how is always big subject of debate and discussion among fans.

It must be really difficult to be a writer on The Walking Dead. With characters dying all the time and fans loving those characters, there is a big challenge for the writers to decide which characters should go and when.

There are special challenges for The Walking Dead. It has source material that is beloved. With movies that come from source material, it’s customary to stick as closely to the material as possible to please the fans. Usually movies that change things radically, like endings, or leave a great deal out get reviews from readers that the film adaptation didn’t live up to the book.

In the case of The Walking Dead, they have been able to do the unthinkable: they’ve not only changed the source material radically by adding and subtracting characters and plots, but they’ve managed to simultaneously stick very closely to the source material in long-term plotting.

So predicting the deaths is not a matter of just waiting for what happened in the books. It’s unpredictable. When we lose people, it’s heartbreaking and at the same time we know that it’s part of this new world. The losses move the story and are part of the development of the surviving characters.

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So many times though we hear complaints from fans about the deaths of certain characters and how their stories weren’t finished. But that, too, is part of death. Nobody’s story is ever really finished. We don’t die when we deserve or when our story is over. We die when we die.

Another complaint we hear is that they need to have main characters die in order to make it be realistic and not seem like any character is invincible. But they are running out of long-term main characters. And at the same time, we have people say, no, not Glenn, not Carol. If Daryl dies, I quit watching.

There’s a double edge sword for writers. If you kill all your main characters that people love, what would keep people tuning in to watch? If you just kill the red shirt characters then people say there’s no suspense or threat that characters may die at any time.

Has the show become all about who will die? It seems like that’s the other tightrope writers are walking. All of the other episodes of character development and walkers or other interesting events that don’t include a major death are dubbed as filler. Even Tyreese’s beautiful death episode was considered boring by some. I’ve heard people say that it didn’t need a whole episode.

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I don’t know the answer. They do have to kill people we love sometimes. It does keep us on our toes so we aren’t always confident that our loved ones will make it out of every precarious situation. But other stories are still interesting parts of the whole, too.

I imagine writing to be much more difficult than people think. I find it interesting that people seem to hope for a big deaths, but don’t want their favorites to die. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.