SPOILERS UP TO THE MOST RECENT EPISODE.
At the end of Sunday night’s episode, “Indifference,” we Rick Grimes makes the decision to banish Carol from the prison camp because Carol took it upon herself to kill to characters who had contracted a flu that would likely kill them and turn them into walkers. Most of us, however, assume that Carol will return to the series although, for her part, Melissa McBride (who plays Carol) will neither confirm nor deny her return to The Walking Dead. If that was the last we ever see of Carol, however, that’s a very anti-climactic exit for one of the series’ most transformative characters.
But the reality is, Carol wasn’t even supposed to be here, and not because the character took her own life in Robert Kirkman’s graphic noveles (this post doesn’t address the fates of the comic characters). It’s because Carol was originally supposed to die in the season three episode, “The Killer Within,” along with Lori. In that episode, T. Dog was supposed to live. However, Melissa McBride lobbied for her character to stay on the series, and the writers switched it up at the last minute, killing T-Dog instead.
Good choice? I think so. T. Dog was great, but his character didn’t have the potential, I don’t think, that Carol’s has developed since last season. But Carol was not the only character who was spared by a change of heart among the writing staff. Here’s three more:
Hershel was actually supposed to die at the end of season two, along with Dale and Shane. In “Better Angels,” he was supposed to be killed by Randall when Randall and his crew were taken hostage by Rick. However, Glen Mazzara felt that it was just too much violence for end of the season, and that it would cost the show too many series regulars, and so Hershel was spared.
Likewise, Jimmy — Beth’s season two boyfriend who I barely remember existed — was supposed to die in “Judge, Jury, and Executioner.” As originally written, when Dale — who died in that episode — went out into the field and saw a dead cow, it was supposed to be a zombiefied Jimmy instead of the cow. The writers made another last minute decision, and spared Jimmy, although he died two episodes later when he was devoured by zombies in the RV.
Finally, Frank Darabont originally planned to kill Shane at the end of the first season instead of in the second season finale. However, AMC only ordered six episodes for the first season instead of the 10 or 13 episodes expected so Darabont pushed Shane’s death until the end of the second season so as not to rush it.
On the other hand, there was also one death that came sooner than anticipated. Dale had not originally been scheduled to die as early as he did in the series. However, after his close friend Frank Darabont was fired as showrunner, the actor who played Dale, Jeffrey DeMunn, asked to be killed off. Later, he had a change of heart, but his death had already been scripted and budgeted for, so his request to continue on the series was denied. He was killed in “Judge, Jury, Executioner.”