The Walking Dead’s Decision Behind Those Three Big Deaths Not everyone makes it out of The Walking Dead alive: the title of the popular zombie drama could tell you that. But the most recent episode of TWD, the penultimate installment of season 9, featured some especially grisly deaths that left viewers shocked. Spoilers ahead!
Episode 15 of Season 9, “The Calm Before,” revealed that the Whisperers and their leader Alpha killed 10 characters by decapitation, then stuck their heads on spikes and organized them in a row.
“If the alpha doesn’t assert herself, then there’s chaos.”
This is exceptionally brutal stuff, even for The Walking Dead, but the three murders that drew more gasps from viewers than the others were those of Tara, Henry, and Enid. Both because their deaths proved just how ruthless Alpha really is, and because those characters don’t die in the original version of this storyline as seen in The Walking Dead comics, Ezekiel and Rosita did.
After the episode aired, The Walking Dead director and co-executive producer Greg Nicotero opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about the decision to kill Tara, Henry, and Enid and the choice to deviate from the comic book source material, saying,
“When we break the story, and when the writers are in the writers room, we don’t always know when an event is coming. A lot of times, we’ll find out at the very beginning of the season where some of the landmarks are. But we had no idea who it was going to be or when it was going to be until probably two or three episodes before we shot.”
Nicotero says that the deaths felt “random and uncontrollable,” because Alpha didn’t choose to kill people based on any personal vendetta against them: she killed to kill, to send a message to the people of Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, the Sanctuary, and Oceanside. Nicotero continued,
“First of all, the deaths are at the hands of a human being instead of walkers, so that immediately makes it different… You’re constantly reminded that man’s inhumanity toward man is the most horrific thing that can occur. There’s a real brutality to it.”
Nicotero revealed that the creative team had to think about how the deaths in this episode would affect other characters, and that pushed them to pick Tara, Henry, and Enid. As he explained, there is a “very specific reason to lose” Henry due to his relationship with his adoptive parents Carol and Ezekiel, as well as with Daryl Dixon. As far as Tara is concerned, her growing power at the Hilltop influenced the decision to kill her off. And in a somewhat similar vein, Enid’s developing relationship with Alden was also a motivating factor.
The critical consensus regarding the brutal episode has been positive, with Den of Geek calling “The Calm Before” quote, a “stellar exercise in taking a television show and making it look like an event.” CBR called it “easily one of the best episodes of what’s become one of The Walking Dead’s best seasons” thanks to the heads-on-spikes sequence, which is bound to impact the future of the show in a massive way.
Meanwhile, Nicotero commended Alpha actress Samantha Morton on her chilling performance in the episode, telling the Hollywood Reporter,
“Samantha has done such an amazing job this season. She so embodies everything that the show needs and wants.”
Though these deaths will likely leave a hole in the hearts of many Walking Dead loyals, they do help to thin the very thick cast of a series that isn’t going anywhere any time soon. AMC has already ordered a 10th season of the show, with CEO Josh Sapan saying in September 2018 that the network plans to keep the Walking Dead IP alive for another decade through all sorts of media, from the flagship series to spin-off shows to films and additional comic book issues.
Cutting down the number of characters on screen is a necessary evil, as it will allow the show to continue refining its focus moving forward. We know it’s difficult to say goodbye to characters, some of whom have been around for years, but perhaps these 10 new Walking Dead victims had to fall so their fellow apocalypse survivors could flourish.
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