[Potential SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead.]
While The Walking Dead's season 6 premiere ratings didn't set a new record for the show, the zombie series remains one of the most watched and prestigious shows on television. It's likewise proven successful enough in the ratings to give rise to a spinoff, in the form of Fear the Walking Dead (which was a ratings juggernaut itself during its first season).
With that it mind, it's easy to imagine that The Walking Dead's cast members probably live in constant fear of getting taken aside and told that they're the next to get the ax. After all, previous seasons have established that nobody is safe. Well, almost nobody.
At an appearance during the 2015 New York Comic Con (hat tip Uproxx), Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman admitted that there is one character on the show that he just can't imagine killing off. The obvious choices for that mantle would be series lead Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), or perhaps badass heartthrob Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). However, according to Kirkman, neither man is as indispensable to The Walking Dead as Carol, played by Melissa McBride.
Carol of course began the series as a battered wife and doting mother, before losing both her husband and daughter in extremely violent ways. At this point, that version of the character seems like almost a lifetime ago, as the ensuing seasons of The Walking Dead have hardened Carol to the point that she is often more ruthless and pragmatic of a survivor than designated group leader Rick.
On one level, it's easy to see why Kirkman now considers Carol an essential element of The Walking Dead mix, especially considering how terrific McBride's performances have been in the last few seasons. For his part though, Kirkman says his rationale for not killing Carol off is primarily based on just how much better he feels her TV rendition is - when compared to her more co-dependent, mentally broken incarnation from the comics:
The Carol that’s in the comic was my attempt to show just how broken an individual can become from the zombie apocalypse. The Carol in the show, which is a much better character let’s be honest, actually is made stronger by all the more horrible things that happen to her in the show. Killing her would definitely not … we can’t do that.
Of course, can fans really believe Kirkman when he says Carol won't die? He's never been shy about toying with audience expectations, particularly when it comes to who may be on the chopping block each season. It's entirely possible Kirkman is just making sure an upcoming major death shocks us on the level of say Game of Thrones' infamous "red wedding." Also, Kirkman has made clear countless times in the past that he considers no Walking Dead character safe, which makes this sudden reversal an intriguing one on multiple fronts.
What do you think? Will Carol ever be killed off of The Walking Dead? Or will her steely resolve and iron will see her through to the end of the zombie apocalypse?
The Walking Dead season 6 continues with "JSS" next Sunday at 9pm on AMC.