How lame has this show gotten about teasing the death of major characters after the Glenn/dumpster fiasco of a few months ago? So lame that they’re now spoiling their own cliffhangers just in case there’s one idiot watching somewhere who actually thought Jedi knight Daryl Dixon might be sent packing by a minor character getting the drop on him. Turns out Daryl is not, in fact, dead despite taking a bullet fired point-blank by a guy who tried to shoot an arrow through his head a week ago. Who could have guessed?
“He doesn’t have an intention on killing him,” [Austin] Amelio [who plays “Dwight”] explains. “He’s [Dwight] been through a rough patch and I think he wants to show that he means business and he knows that by shooting him he gets his point across. I could have gone for the head. I didn’t. I went for the right shoulder. He’s not going to die. He’ll be okay.”
But wait. So nervous were the show’s producers that its dumbest fans might be fooled by this obvious fake-out that they went the extra mile to reassure them before the episode ended:
After the episode fades to black, Dwight’s character says, “Don’t worry. You’ll be all right,” a line added in by showrunner Scott Gimple later on so fans wouldn’t hate Dwight as much. But Amelio is okay with fans bringing the heat. In fact, he hopes people tuned out before the final line of the episode.
“I kind of hope people miss that line. I want the shock factor to be there,” he said.
They wrote a brush-with-death cliffhanger for Daryl, then chickened out in post-production by adding a line and then chickened out again by having the actor who plays Dwight spill the beans to the media about what really happened. Pity poor Norman Reedus, who gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter refusing to say whether Daryl lived or died from the gunshot as if there was any chance that TWD might dispatch one of its biggest fan favorites in such a cruel and random way. The time to impart that lesson, that anyone can die at any time in Zomebieworld from nothing more than bad luck or one false move, was with Glenn during the dumpster scene. Their cold feet then means the audience will never take a death tease seriously again.
Critics are savaging last night’s episode for the contrivance of having Carol and Daryl each stupidly leave Alexandria on their own, knowing that not only will they be outgunned by angry Saviors bent on revenge but that Rick and the gang will have little choice but to come looking for them despite the need to fortify the community for when the Saviors inevitably attack. That’s not one of my core grumbles, actually. It is stupid and contrived, but it’s not a major break with either character. Daryl’s a loner with survivor’s guilt who’s enough of a bad-ass to think he could take down a small group of Saviors by himself. Carol, meanwhile, is struggling with remorse over her duty to kill (and her talent for it). Without Morgan on the show, the writers could have turned her into a conscientious objector who’ll stay put in Alexandria to help run the community but who can’t bring herself to take life anymore. As it is, with Morgan in that niche, they had to find another path for her. That’s running away, however rashly. The only other obvious path is suicide, a final act of killing to ensure she’ll never have to do it again. The show may be squeamish about handing her that fate but that’s the natural endpoint for her character, I think. It wouldn’t surprise me if next week’s season finale says goodbye to Carol with her either killing herself or somehow convincing Morgan, the peacenik, to do it for her as an act of mercy. That would be powerful, but I don’t know if the writers can let go of her.
Which brings me to the core grumble: The “Carol as reluctant Rambo” thing is increasingly ridiculous. Leading the counterattack inside Alexandria when the Wolves invaded was great. Outwitting the Saviors when she and Maggie were taken prisoner was really great. Gunning down a truck full of armed men with guns pointed at her thanks to some cutesy machine-gun-up-the-sleeve subterfuge felt like a scene discarded from a Stallone movie in the 80s for being too implausible. They can’t keep doing this every week with her, particularly when these scenes really do nothing but underscore a point they’ve already made repeatedly, that she doesn’t want to kill but keeps being compelled to do so by the cruelty of her enemies. Her weekly body count has risen to the point where it’s impossible to imagine her rejoining the Grimes gang and settling back into a role as one of Rick’s lieutenants in the day-to-day operations. Either she dies next week, I think, or they’ll have to do something daring and have her and Morgan split off on their own permanently, with occasional look-ins at what they’re up to in seasons to come. I’d be all for that — anything to make the canvas of the zompocalypse bigger — but I doubt the writers are. She’s a goner soon, assuming they’re at all consistent about her character arc.
Anyway. The big Negan reveal is on tap next week and fans will be expecting the scene from the comics where he beats one of the major characters to death with his barbed-wire baseball bat. Place your bets: Who’s it going to be? If they’re true to the comics, it’s Glenn, but I read at least one critic today speculate that it’ll be Abraham, as Glenn’s simply too crucial a part of the show’s nucleus. I wonder too what significance there is in Maggie experiencing those labor pains last night. I can’t believe they’d write a miscarriage into the show — you don’t kill infants on American TV — but there’s a nonzero chance that Maggie herself might die, I think, if only because it’d be a brutal confounding of audience expectations. Imagine if TWD fans tune in next week expecting to see Glenn dispatched and he ends up surviving — only to return to Alexandria to find he’s a single dad. But if Glenn isn’t Negan’s victim, who is? It can’t be Daryl; the writers wouldn’t allow their most beloved character to be pulverized and passively murdered. Could it be Michonne? Carol? Someone’s gonna die.