[WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!]
The season 3 finale of The Walking Dead is right around the corner, and fans are on the edge of their seats waiting to find out what will happen in the inevitable clash between Rick and the Governor. If you've read the comics then you'll know that the showdown occurs at the end of this particular story arc, and that things get very messy. If you haven't read the comics, then be warned that the following article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for up to the end of issue 48.
The creator of the comic book series, Robert Kirkman, also serves as an executive producer on the show. He has previously said that he's interested in keeping a healthy balance between adhering to the story of the comics and straying from them, saying that there are some events from the comics that need to be seen on the show, but that they're also shaking things up so that fans of the comics will be kept on their toes.
In The Hollywood Reporter's recent interview with the producers of the show, Kirkman warns fans to brace themselves for the upcoming fight:
"Things are going to be pretty intense; it's a huge conflict, and we've been building to it this entire season. There's definitely going to be some dire consequences, and there will certainly be some casualties."
Master of on screen gore effects Greg Nicotero directed last week's episode, 'This Sorrowful Life,' and hints that he and his special effects team had a fair bit of extra work to do in the final episode:
"It's going to get pretty bloody. We've spent a lot of time setting it up, and it's not going to end well. Clearly, we've strayed a little bit [...] from the comic book because Lori and Judith don't die together. That's the trick of 'The Walking Dead' - You never know. It's kind of sad that nobody is safe, but we've already shown that in the first half of the season."
In the comics, Lori survived up until the final conflict before being shot in the back whilst attempting to flee, falling forwards and crushing baby Judith with the weight of her lifeless body. In the TV show, Lori died in childbirth and Carol took over the task of nursing Judith. With Nicotero's description of Judith's fate coming across as rather ominous, could we see a repeat of Lori's tragic death from the comics, with Carol in her place?
Perhaps, or perhaps not. According to executive producer David Alpert:
"It's going to surprise you, no doubt about it. We do some things that are a little bit different than in the comic. If you've read the comic, you don't want to do the same thing. We're going to do something that's going to surprise and shock you while rewarding the fact that if you read the comic, you're going to recognize all the milestones that were built into it."
Gale Anne Hurd, another executive producer on the show, also echoed Alpert's warning that the finale will shock fans of the show and the comics alike. It sounds like they've got a particularly powerful moment up their sleeves:
"I think there will be a couple of collective gasps in those episodes. There's no way to predict what's happening. With this level of cast, even when there's action, it's all character-based, so you're really invested. We were doing music the other day and even though I knew what was coming, I still gasped."
In most TV shows, the audience feels a sense of security in the fact that the writers need to preserve the status quo to a degree, meaning that there are certain characters who can be relied upon to survive no matter what gets thrown at them. The team behind The Walking Dead, however, have proven themselves to be as merciless as the post-apocalyptic world that they write, and no character - major or minor, young or old, good or bad, sick or strong, male or female - is safe.
Somewhat ironically, despite the fact that they get slain by the dozen, the only characters who are more or less safeguarded against elimination are the walking dead themselves; you can't have a zombie show without zombies.
Let's look on the bright side, though. With the finale threatening to thin the ranks of the show's cast, there is at least one new character from the comics who will step in before the end of this season to fill a gap. Also, while the writers' willingness to stray from the comics means that some characters that fans thought were safe might not survive, there's also a chance that characters who met an untimely end in issue 48 of the comic series might live to see another season. When asked if the Governor might make an appearance in season 4, Hurd replied mysteriously, "Do I want to keep David Morrissey? Yes! Do we? I can't tell you."
With The Walking Dead's equivalent of The Hunger Games approaching, which character would you most like to sponsor for survival, and who are you willing to sacrifice to the rising body count?
The Walking Dead season 3 finale airs Sunday, March 31st, 2013 @9pm on AMC.