In the ninth season’s penultimate episode of The Walking Dead, the show followed through on its threat to give the series its own Red Wedding episode and killed off a whopping ten characters. The episode left fans of the show completely stunned.
Now that we’ve had some time to digest the shock, fans are probably asking, “Why did The Walking Dead kill off those particular characters, specifically Enid, Tara, and Henry?” As comic readers know, in the source material, the major deaths were Luke, Rosita, and Ezekiel. In fact, the only character who was killed off in this scene in both the comics and the show was Tammy Rose (Brett Butler). Why the switch up?
I have my own theories. Luke was relatively new to the show, and a fairly big get for the series in actor Dan Fogler, so the series didn’t want to kill him off. Meanwhile, after losing Maggie and Rick, and with losing Michonne next season, the series didn’t want to lose another major leader in Ezekiel. Why Tara instead of Rosita? Because Rosita’s pregnancy — and her love triangle with Eugene, Gabriel, and Siddiq — gives the series more story with which to work, plus killing off Tara gives them another opportunity to elevate a leader of The Hilltop. After Gregory, Maggie, Jesus and now Tara, that is obviously a cursed position, so no one may want it, but it does give Magna and her group an opportunity to fill the leadership vacuum on The Hilltop (and another reason to keep Luke around).
But why Henry? Beyond the obvious fact that he was a disliked character, it provides more storytelling ammunition where it concerns Carol and Ezekiel. It also gives showrunner Angela Kang an opportunity to further elevate Lydia by potentially having her take over Carl’s storyline from the comics.
Beyond that, the showrunner, Angela Kang, has her own reasons, as she tells Entertainment Weekly:
You know, there were so many conversations about it, because it’s really hard to decide who dies, and any time there is death on the show, sometimes it’s just story-related, sometimes, as with Andy [Lincoln], it’s because there’s a personal factor. There are contractual things. There are all kinds of things that go on … And it felt like, for the various characters who were on there, for example, Tara, as the leader of Hilltop, who Alpha really has a beef with, there’s some sort of sense and a feeling of retribution specifically with that death …
So it’s really a mix of things. Because we think that with Alpha, in some ways, this is an act of terrorism. And the thing about it is it’s terrifying because sometimes you don’t exactly understand how or why she picked her exact victims. And so that’s a big part of it. As well as, there are certain stories that we’re planning into the future, and so sometimes we’ve swapped out characters for those reasons.
Likewise, exec producer Greg Nicotero said it wasn’t so much about which death itself would have the most impact to viewers, but about whose death would impact the remaining characters the most, and thus contribute the most to the future of the story. From Hollywood Reporter:
It’s always about what these moments and these deaths do to other characters that catapults them forward. In regards to Henry and his relationship to Carol (Melissa McBride), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Ezekiel… there’s a very specific reason to lose him. In terms of other characters? Tara stepped up as a leader once Jesus (Tom Payne) died. She was showing some real authority and leadership at Hilltop. Ultimately, it’s an organic decision, the way it evolves, like the relationship between Enid and Alden (Callan McAuliffe). You see a budding relationship and a budding romance, where people are rising to what makes them the best person they can be, like Tara. In many instances, some people find those realizations. In other instances, it’s brutally torn from them.
Did they also switch up the character deaths to mess with the comic readers? “Oh yeah, a little bit. I mean, that’s a little bit of the fun of the show,” Angela Kang told Entertainment Weekly.
I don’t know about “fun,” but it was certainly a surprise!
The Walking Dead will return on Sunday with the ninth season finale, when we will find out how the communities start to move on from the devastation.