While this article contains no actual spoilers for The Walking Dead television show, it will discuss the events in the comic series that the upcoming arc is based on.
So everyone following The Walking Dead is currently in a tizzy over the coming of Negan. Fans of the book, and certainly more than a few websites, have been openly discussing the immediate impact Negan had on the book and the readers as well as how they may change that up a bit for the show’s continuity.
When it comes to guesses about who might die, Glenn or Daryl, I think everyone has it wrong. I think the possibility exists for a much nastier entry of Negan into the television show.
As anyone familiar with the comic book knows, Negan made his entrance into The Walking Dead by killing off Glenn in brutal fashion. It was a bit of a shock to readers seeing one of the core few “unkillable” characters taken out in the manner he was, and fans of the television show may have more of an attachment to Glenn now than the readers of the comic book did then.
This has led to discussions about how Negan’s appearance in the final episode of this season of the show will require the death of a major character in order to introduce him with the same level of feeling like a true threat to the group and everything they’ve built. This has resulted in fans and writers falling into the simple game of “either/or” while looking squarely at Glenn and Daryl.
Certainly the show has been building up little moments here and there to create especially intense feelings if Glenn is the victim of Negan’s introduction to the show. Maggie’s pregnancy has been used to hammer home the idea that Glenn has so much to live for and is about to start building a new life in the world of the dead, a better life, at long last. Combined with a few other smaller arcs for his character over the last season, Glenn is fast becoming the character in The Walking Dead who most represents pure, innocent, optimistic hope. The actuality of Glenn’s death played out on TV, especially in the horrific fashion Negan likes to deal out such deaths, would hit a number of fans of the show like a ton of bricks.
Daryl hasn’t needed any tune-up work to make his possible death hit fans where it hurts. Daryl Dixon, a character original to the show, has largely been a fan favorite from day one. This is the character so many fans want on their team when the zombie apocalypse hits because this is the character everyone has grown to assume can survive anything. Should the world of The Walking Dead continue to slide downhill, everyone’s belief at this point is the last two things walking the earth will be the cockroaches and a living Daryl Dixon. However, the addition of at least one new character makes Daryl’s removal a distinct possibility.
Jesus is an interesting character in the books. When it comes to fighting, going on reconnaissance missions, making supply runs in the wasteland, rescuing teammates in need, or just general badassery, he’s pretty much right up there with Daryl. Typically with shows like this you’re not going to keep two characters around who fill the exact same storyline function. When you combine the fact of Jesus having important parts to play in the upcoming arcs with the rumors of Norman Reedus setting things in motion that signal his leaving the show, a number of people are calling on Daryl to be the victim of Lucille.
Now, personally, I’d like to see them shake things up by killing off Rick. I doubt they’d do it, but it would create an interesting moment of truly feeling like the show’s narrative had separated itself from the book. Even if it didn’t actually move the show away from using the book’s story as a general template, it would have the effect of screwing with the fans’ expectations while making it feel less like the story was following Rick’s adventures and more like it was telling the story of mankind’s survival in the world of the dead. Plus, bonus, how on edge would it make viewers about the future fates of any character if they were willing to kill Rick? But, again, I doubt they’d do it.
So why did I say I think everyone has it wrong with their discussions about whether it will be Daryl or Glenn who buys it when Negan appears? I say that because I don’t think it’s an “either/or” proposition with regards to the two characters. I think there are two options which have the potential to be a little nastier than everyone else has been discussing.
Why kill off only one character? Assuming the various “signs” of Reedus leaving are not simply innocuous things the cast and crew are intentionally allowing to continue to create larger and larger red herrings, why kill just one character?
Let’s talk money first. If they follow the arc from the books in the upcoming season, we’re about to see a fairly sizable influx of characters. This is still a TV show with a (notoriously tight AMC) budget. They can trim out some of the other second string characters they’ve picked up in the last season’s worth of shows, but this new, larger world they’re about to create will replace those characters in nothing flat. What better way to open up the budget a bit than by offing two major characters played by two of the better paid actors?
Then there’s the matter more important to the fans’ perspective of the total shock value. Everyone has been gearing up and preparing for a death since Negan’s name made its way into the media. Very few fans want to see either character killed off, the exception being due to some of the backlash over the teased not quite death of Glenn last year, but they’re preparing themselves for the death of one of them.
How much of a mind screw would it be, how much of a twist in the gut, if Negan beats Glenn to death in front of the eyes of the characters and the viewers, begins walking off, and then, just as the viewers start breathing again, turns to Daryl, makes a comment about the look in his eye making Daryl look like the unpredictable, dangerous sort, and then precedes to smash his skull in as well? Or, flipping the order, how freaked out would audiences be after seeing Negan kill Daryl before commenting that the one kill was for their immediate actions while a second death, a balancing of his perverted sense of justice, was owed for the death of his men a short while earlier and then going to town on Glenn?
Everyone is expecting a death. Absolutely everyone is preparing themselves for the death of a fan favorite character with Glenn and Daryl in the theoretical crosshairs. Almost no one I know of is expecting two deaths, but it’s what I might do if I were in the position of the showrunner right now. I’d meet the expectations of the fans, and then I’d really hit them just after they started breathing again and just before the credits rolled.
Or, as a secondary theory, I’d go with a different target. The fun thing about setting up Glenn’s happiness and growing optimism throughout the recent episodes is the ability to take it all away, breaking him without killing him just yet. The nasty thing about setting up little things here and there with Glenn to play to the expectations of a portion of the audience with regards to Glenn’s death is the same things would ultimately gut punch the audience if Maggie was the victim of Negan’s wrath.
This scenario wouldn’t even rule out an additional death. The only thing with this one is the additional death may come towards the mid-season finale of the next season as Daryl would die during the growing conflict, underscoring the dangerous nature of it, or Glenn, having gone over the edge, would die attempting to extract (and maybe earning) some level of revenge.
But, given the expectations of a major character death in the season finale, my money would be on the double whammy of Glenn and Daryl both getting killed as the way to really screw with the viewers’ expectations and heads. Again, between the upcoming influx of characters and the knowledge that more and more fans of the show have been prepping over the last year for a single major character to die in the season finale, it’s what I’d do if I were in their place.
Jerry Chandler is a serious horror geek with a lifelong love of trying to find books and movies that can scare the spit out of him. When not watching and reading horror, he can sometimes be found helping to make horror with his filmmaking family in NC, Adrenalin Productions. He loves Halloween slightly more than Christmas, and almost as much as Dragon Con. When not writing here, he can be found at his other homes on the web by looking at his own blog, his Twitter, and his Facebook.