When adapting something from a preexisting source material, the usual rule is: don’t change things. Whether it’s events or characters or relationships, fans usually don’t respond well when someone messes with their favorite stories. Adapting a book or a comic can be a bit of a minefield.
But every now and then, especially when it comes to TV, some changes are not only necessary, but welcome. AMC’s The Walking Dead is one of those rare exceptions where change can be a good thing, especially since one of the show’s foundations is shock factor. By changing up certain factors of the story, the TV show is able to keep the jaw-dropping moments fresh, and in some cases, make certain storylines more palatable or coherent for a new medium.
The show has made a ton of changes, so this list obviously can’t cover everything, but hopefully we’ve included some of your favorite original TV moments. From switching up kills to creating cool new characters, here are the 15 Best Changes From The Walking Dead Comic To The TV Show.
15. Dale And Andrea’s Relationship
If you think back to the old days of season 1 and 2, you might recall the charming father/daughter kinship shared between Dale and Andrea. Their relationship revolved around the wise Dale doling out fatherly advice to the much younger Andrea, much like a doting dad. The two opened up to each other about the death of loved ones, and Dale even risked his life at the CDC to convince her not to give up. Dale cared for Andrea like the daughter he never got to have with his own wife.
Now imagine if those two characters started making out. Yeah, not a great image. While the TV show kept it strictly platonic, in the comics, they operate with a whole different dynamic. Yeah, that’s right, Dale and Andrea hook up.
And before you ask, no, they didn’t make Dale older for the show. He’s still in his 60s when he dates her. Try getting that image out of your head next time you rewatch their scenes together. We’re kind of thankful for this small but significant change between the comics and TV show, because we just can’t see anyone being comfortable watching that.
14. More Morgan
In the comics, Morgan takes a bit of a back seat to the other, bigger players. There’s simply not much that sets him apart from the other survivors of the group. Abraham had his bravado and potty mouth, Glenn was the optimist, Hershel was the wise old man, Tyreese was a leader, Michonne wielded a samurai sword, etc. In truth, Morgan never really had anything that set him apart. But when it came time to cast the TV show, the creators chose the ever-commanding screen presence that is Lennie James. It suddenly became clear that Morgan could no longer be just another survivor, which is why beefing up his character made so much sense.
After a brief but incredibly memorable appearance in season 3, we were reintroduced to him during season 5 as a completely transformer character. The writers have gone in a completely new direction this time around, making Morgan a staunch pacifist who refuses to kill, even in the most extreme circumstances. Its a viewpoint that hasn’t been explored before in the show. Even the most peaceful of characters, like Dale and Glenn, have never been so black and white on the subject of death-dealing.
Not only did it give Morgan an added layer of character depth, it also proved to supply a new avenue of story telling. Including a fascinating flashback episode — guest-starring the always wonderful John Carroll Lynch — explained how he came to make this dramatic philosophical U-turn. And as frustrating as his stance may be sometimes, it is ultimately an interesting character arc with a stellar payoff at the end, when he was forced to kill to save Carol’s life. We’ll either see a conflicted and guilty Morgan next season or, as Lennie James has hinted at, a man who has just begun to unleash his inner beast. Either way, the show has made Morgan more than just another face in the apocalypse.
13. Douglas Monroe Becomes Deanna Monroe
When our survivors reach the Alexandria Safe Zone in the comics, instead of meeting town matriarch Deanna Monroe, they are greeted by her on-the-page counterpart, Douglas. Instead of the kind, tough loving mother figure and leader we had with Deanna, Douglas Monroe was actually a bit of a creep. He treated his wife Regina, who’s TV counterpart becomes Reg, poorly, and considered their marriage as merely ‘political’. In his mind, this meant he could chase as many women as he likes, often offering them positions close to him in the community and following them around. He even tried to get Andrea to sleep with him despite his marital status.
The change from a lecherous womanizer to a calm and collected female character was a welcome one. Deanna was a more interesting and formidable character (despite her sometimes naive views about the dangers of the apocalypse) and she provided a better match for Rick. Watching these two leaders challenge and learn to understand one another made the storyline all that much stronger. Of course, that is until she was eaten by walkers, as nearly everyone inevitably is.
12. Sasha Williams
One thing the show doesn’t have a problem with is their ability to create strong and interesting characters, so is it any wonder a few of the original characters make it on to our list? Sasha Williams, played by Sonequa Martin-Green, is one such show-exclusive creation. In the comics, Tyreese has a daughter named Julie, who dies pretty early on during a suicide pact with her boyfriend. While this is an interesting storyline for sure, one we’d like to see appear in the show in some form, Sasha’s storyline is equally fascinating.
Not only do we get another badass female character (the show owes us after their butchering of the comic’s badass version of Andrea), we also have gotten to see her deal with a range of emotional arcs. From the loss of her brother and her boyfriend, to her dealing with crippling depression, to possibly finding love again, we’ve seen her struggle and triumph. She’s become a staple character in the group, even out-living her fan-favorite brother Tyreese.
11. Beth Greene
The second original character on our list is Hershel’s second daughter, Beth. In the comics, Hershel has two young twin daughters who, like Tyreese’s daughter, are quickly killed off before they are really given the chance to do anything. But by swapping them out for the teenaged Beth, we were given a story that turned a scared and suicidal kid into a fierce but compassionate woman. We got to see Beth grow into the kind of character who believed there was still good in the world, while still being able to kill when the occasion called for it.
She was given the chance to shine during her solo story arc at Grady Memorial Hospital, with actress Emily Kinney bringing her A-game to the episodes. The Grady Memorial storyline was also a great addition that didn’t come from the comics, one that provided a fresh perspective on how other groups were faring in the apocalypse.
Beth’s unexpected connection with loveable redneck Daryl also helped flesh out her character, and gave Daryl an emotional arc he’d been lacking since his brother Merle’s death. The younger Greene sibling was a great addition to the show, and we only wish she had survived to grow even more.
10. Lori’s Death
After Andrea, Lori has to be the most divisive character in both the comics and the show. Love her or hate her (and for the majority of fans, it was the latter), you have to admit her death in both mediums was still pretty gut-wrenching. But the death scene in the show was more of a proper send off for a character who was, for better or worse, a big part of the story.
Even the most ardent Lori haters have to admit that a mother giving her life to save her child is a heart-rending sacrifice. The moment was a huge emotional gut-punch for the season and had long-reaching aftereffects. The scene itself was also brutal and bloody; emotional attachments aside, the moment where Maggie is forced to cut her friend open with a hunting knife is hard to watch. And the final moment where Carl is forced to shoot her is one of the more memorable moments in his story arc, as well as a pivotal turning point in his character development.
The scene works so well, in no small part, thanks to the heartbreaking performances provided by the characters. Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori), Lauren Cohen (Maggie), Chandler Riggs (Carl) and a meme-worthy Andrew Lincoln all got to act their little hearts out. You don’t have to like Lori to admit that this scene was an achingly sad moment and a more fitting end for Mrs. Grimes than what she got in the comics.
9. Rick And Michonne
In an inspired decision, instead of forcing a relationship between Rick and the much derided TV version of Andrea — the woman he’s currently with in the comics — they instead opted to let a more natural relationship develop between these two. Michonne and Rick don’t share any romance in the comics, with the former dating Tyreese, Morgan and Ezekiel and the latter shacking up with the aforementioned Andrea. But it became pretty clear to anyone with a pair of eyes that actors Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira shared some great chemistry on the small screen. Capitalizing on this fact, the show laid the groundwork for one of the best slow burning arcs on TV.
When they first met, neither trusted the other, and Rick even threatened to kill her a couple of times. But soon enough, the two of them formed an alliance based on mutual respect, slowly building a rock-solid foundation of trust. Over four seasons, they turned that into a true friendship, which later became an unbreakable familial bond.
Rick and Michonne are always by each other’s sides, watching each other’s backs. The characters became inseparable before finally taking it to the next level in season 6. By then, Michonne, Rick, Carl and Judith had already become a family unit, so this just felt right. And after a disastrous romance with Jesse, we were jumping for joy when the much better-suited Rick and Michonne hooked up.
In the comics, after being forced to leave the prison, the survivors run into a group of cannibals called The Hunters. It’s a wonderfully gruesome storyline that ends with someone getting their leg eaten and the cannibals being massacred. This might sound exactly the same as what happens in the show, except with one major difference. In the comics, the group run into these disturbed individuals in the woods while they’re passing through the area. But by changing something as simple as their base of operation, not only were they able to create a creepy new location to set their stellar season 5 opener, but the show was able to add a whole new dimension to the storyline.
The storyline, involving a supposed safe haven and the false appearance of a warm welcome, perfectly set up for the groups’ mistrust of Aaron and Alexandria. By having our characters duped by the promise of sanctuary and instead being greeted with horror and death, it made both them and the audience uneasy about the prospect of Alexandria. Of course, who could blame them for being uneasy, especially if the last place that invited you in tried to serve you up for dinner. Suddenly, Rick’s paranoia felt totally justified and completely understandable.
The signs pointing towards Terminus that were littered throughout season 4 were also a nice touch, sewing the seeds of anticipation and giving us a single thread to follow while the characters were all scattered.
7. Switching Up Who Dies
One thing the TV show excels at is taking some of the iconic death scenes in the comics and giving them a fresh twist. This keeps both factions of its fans happy (for the most part). While some of the best comic panels get translated onto the screen for TV viewers to enjoy, comic readers can still be taken aback by who they choose to kill. It keep things fresh and unexpected while still respecting the source material.
Having Hershel beheaded instead of Tyreese, who had not been on the show for very long at this point, gave the audience a bigger emotional sucker punch. Choosing to have Bob be partially eaten by the cannibals allowed them to keep an iconic moment long after the original victim, Dale, had been killed off. Killing Denise with an arrow to the eye kept that classical scene in the story, but allowed fan-favorite Abraham to stay alive.
While some people might prefer a more straightforward adaptation, the showrunners’ willingness to take a few liberties with the source material keeps everyone guessing and prevents the show from becoming overly predictable. It’s because of this unpredictability that fans of Glenn are keeping their fingers crossed that this pattern continues in the season 7 premiere.
6. Shane Sticking Around Longer
Shane, despite his many flaws, was one of the best parts of the early seasons, thanks in large part to an excellent performance by Jon Bernthal. The actor toed the line perfectly between flawed antihero and complete psychopath, a talent he’s brought with him and applied to his current small screen role as the Punisher.
Shane was a divisive but fascinating character, whose arc was one of the big emotional anchors of the first two seasons. His conflict with best friend Rick, the struggle for leadership, his obsessive love for Lori and his worsening mental state accounted for some of the best character work the show has featured thus far. But if they had followed the comics, we might never have gotten to see this fuller version of the character. Comic Shane was quickly dispatched in the first few issues, before they even reached the Greene farm. We can’t quite imagine season 2 at the farm without having Shane at the center of it all.
Bernthal crafted a character who had a lasting effect on the series, and cutting that short would have been a travesty. The show’s more fleshed-out character was definitely a plus for them, and it provided a major boost to Bernthal’s career. He’s gone on to appear in the Oscar nominated Wolf of Wall Street as well as Ben Affleck’s new movie The Accountant. He’ll also be headlining his own Punisher spinoff on Netflix sometime next year.
5. The Governor
While the Governor was certainly an iconic villain in the comics, he wasn’t exactly the most complex of characters. A raging psychopath with no redeeming qualities, he was a little one-dimensional. His storyline also featured quite a few scenes that simply wouldn’t fly on TV, such as his graphic rape and torture of Michonne (not to mention his own Hostel-style mutilation at her hands). So instead of directly translating the somewhat cartoonish evil villain straight to the screen, the TV series decided to change things up.
While the show’s Governor is certainly a psycho, they managed to flesh him out quite a bit, creating instead a charismatic and manipulative dictator with a lust for power. We see how the townspeople of Woodbury are charmed by his seemingly caring public personality, while viewers are treated to his truly terrible nature in secret. His monstrous streak began to peak through the calm surface as Rick and the group begin to threaten his authority. The trustworthy facade started to crack, until he finally lashed out at the people of Woodbury after their failed takeover of the prison. His once-loyal followers simply realized his true nature too late.
Considering he was a normal family man before the apocalypse hit, it made so much more sense to see this more complex and gradual progression of his storyline. And the wonderful David Morrissey sold the charming psychopath angle so well, we really believe a town full of people could come under his spell. Considering the violent Negan, who rules his community with an iron fist, would come along a few seasons later, differentiating the two was a good idea.
4. Lizzie And Mika
The season 6 episode “The Grove” will undoubtedly go down as one of the most memorable episodes of the entire show. Emotionally taxing and devastatingly tragic, “The Grove” stayed with the audience long after the closing credits. Melissa McBride did an excruciatingly good job with some tough-to-stomach material, as Carol is forced to kill a little girl she’s grown to care about.
The storyline hit all the right emotional beats, playing into the grief Carol felt over losing her own little girl (more on that in a bit). We see Carol determined to make sure these girls don’t wind up suffering the same fate, which only makes it more tragic in the end. As if the death of two children wasn’t sad enough, the fact that Carol was the one forced to pull the trigger on Lizzie was just the devastating cherry on top.
But this critically acclaimed episode doesn’t actually happen in the comic book. It is instead based on a similar story involving twin brothers Billy and Ben. In the comic, it’s Carl that shot the murderous Ben after he killed his brother Billy. While it’s undoubtedly a great storyline for Carl, we can’t help but think the TV version packed a larger emotional wallop. Putting former mother Carol in the middle made for a more poignant tale, and McBride’s acting elevated it to another level. Not only is this Carol’s best episode, it might be the show’s best, too.
3. Daryl Dixon
If you were to poll Walking Dead fans for their favorite character, there’s a good chance this guy would be up there at or around number one. The leather vest wearing, crossbow toting, shaggy haired redneck has worked his way into the collective hearts of fans all over the world. His popularity even rivals, if not surpasses, that of lead character Rick Grimes. At this point, it seems impossible to imagine the show without him. So it might be surprising for TV fans to learn that he’s not in the comics at all.
The character of Daryl Dixon, as well as his brother Merle, were made specifically for the TV show and have no basis in the source material. It’s not known whether the creators knew exactly how popular this character would become, but they definitely struck gold when they added him in. We honestly don’t know if the show would have worked so well without the hick-with-a-heart-of-gold. Thankfully, this is one of those rare times where going completely off book worked out in a unanimously positive way.
2. Sophia’s Death
In the comics, Sophia Peletier is still alive and well, living in the Hilltop colony with Maggie. But as we all know, her fate in the show is far more tragic. A large portion of the TV series’ second season is devoted to finding the missing Sophia, with Rick and co. committed to getting her back. We all started to believe they really would find her — considering her arc in the comics — but alas, it was not to be. In what might be one of The Walking Dead’s most shocking moments, the group finds the zombified Sophia in Hershel’s barn.
What makes this change from the comics so good was the scene itself. It may well have been the first real sucker punch for viewers on a show that has been built on shocking moments. The moment that undead little girl stepped out of those barn doors was the first time that both the characters and the audience realized that absolutely no one was safe from the wrath of this apocalyptic nightmare. The characters’ hope for a happy ending is shattered as they all stand by in shock at the realization that even the most innocent souls were ripe for the zombified taking. This, coupled with Carol’s pained screams and the image of Rick looking squarely down the barrel of his Colt Python, made for one of the best scenes from the series as a whole.
Let’s face it: Sophia’s not exactly a central character in the comics, so by putting an abrupt end to her storyline, they were able to turn the otherwise forgettable little girl into an iconic part of the series. Plus, the death proved to be a major catalyst for our number one pick…
1. Carol Peletier
Absolutely, positively, without a doubt, the best change the TV show has made is the direction they’ve taken this character. Starting out as a timid, battered housewife, Carol slowly finds an inner strength that is almost unparalleled in any other character. Over the course of six seasons, she becomes a one-woman army, capable of taking out anything or anyone who gets in her way. While her incredible badassery quickly made her a fan favorite, her emotional arc made her a critical favorite too, with Melissa McBride gaining a ton of praise for her portrayal.
Carol has become a pivotal character in the show; in fact, she’s right up there with Rick Grimes himself. But without the creators of the TV series, we might never have seen this version of her, since Robert Kirkman’s Carol takes a very different path.
The Carol from the comics is nowhere near the tough, complex character we know in the show. She has a total mental breakdown while at the prison, tries to sleep with both Rick and Lori, and then commits suicide by walker, leaving her still-very-much-alive daughter an orphan. If the creators had decided to follow this route (or killed her off in season 2 like they’d originally planned to) we’d all have been deprived of some of the best acting and best story content the show has ever offered up. Going so far off book doesn’t always work, but thankfully, Carol Peletier is the exception to the rule.
Viva la Queen Carol. We can’t wait to see what McBride does with her next.
What’s been your favorite change from comic canon thus far? Let us know in the comments.
The Walking Dead returns for season 7 on October 23rd.