[WARNING: SPOILERS for The Walking Dead midseason 5 premiere ahead.]
AMC’s The Walking Dead has never shied away from major character deaths; in fact, many of those who were introduced in the show’s pilot are no longer among the surviving cast. In its many premieres and finales, The Walking Dead can be notoriously fatal for those characters in the show’s apocalyptic, zombie-filled world.
Most recently, the midseason 5 finale saw Beth (Emily Kinney) killed in the middle of a tense standoff. In the show’s even more recent return to air, another core character fell, this time due to a zombie attack: Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman). The two major character deaths thoroughly shocked viewers, but The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd claims it isn't a tool being used to exploit viewer investment.
In an interview with TV Guide, Hurd explained that killing off characters isn’t merely intended for 'shock value', but simply a progression of the story that the writers have been planning far in in advance. Additionally, a death on The Walking Dead is meant as - above all else - a conclusion to that character’s story arc:
"That's the whole point. [People assume] it's some sort of tactic, which it's not. It's an organic evolution of the story that was planned from the very beginning. Rather than [saying], ‘OK, we just shocked people with a big death and now we're going to shock them again!’ it really is completely organic to the storytelling and to where the characters are at a particular point in their arc and the arc of the show.”
Hurd goes on to discuss Tyreese's arc, which came to its conclusion in the most recent episode. Explaining that his hallucinations were "an affirmation for him that it's OK to let go", Hurd implied that Tyreese’s struggle to find peace with himself despite the choices he had made - the people he killed and those he didn’t - led directly into his character's final moments.
From the viewer’s perspective, it may be harder to see certain character deaths as satisfying payoffs to their overall arcs. For instance, much of the first half of season 5 focused on Beth - including an entire episode - but her death was so sudden, viewers and the other characters had little time to react. Instead of time to grapple with the loss, the show moved on to Tyreese’s death in the following episode.
However, as Hurd explains, The Walking Dead writers chose to kill Beth and Tyreese because it made sense to the story they were trying to tell. Whether the storytelling employed by The Walking Dead achieved a satisfying end for the characters is largely up to each individual viewer - and there are sure to be many varying opinions.
But if bringing closure to every member of the cast is the top priority of the writing team, that could result in a more satisfying experience for viewers when all is said and done. However, it may be bad news for the cast; because in the show's world, true closure only typically comes with death.
How do you feel about Hurd's comments, and the recent deaths of both Beth and Tyreese? Do you see the case being made, or disagree entirely? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The Walking Dead airs @9PM ET on AMC.
Source: TV Guide