So yes, we have a cliff-hanger. That hated TV plot device used for over a century to get viewers to return to a series after a natural break. As a fan of the show I was gutted but the fact I’m writing this blog post shows how effective they are at creating talking points.
[Spoiler Alert – if you have not get watched to the end of Season 6 of the The Walking Dead – please stop reading now!]
[Spoiler Promise – this article contains no spoilers from The Walking Dead comics set later than Season 6 of The Walking Dead TV show]
So our newest super villain Negan brutally crushes the skull of one of our beloved survivors. Those achingly painfully sound effects surely confirming that the said skull now more resembles a mushy pea. But who did he kill? Well I think common sense allows us to vastly narrow the field. After that we can make an educated guess as to who the writers have in mind.
First let’s remove some names from the list. In the past The Walking Dead had a reputation for killing key characters with little or no warning. Those days however are long gone. These characters are 100% safe, you can safely bet your life savings on that.
You don’t kill off your heroic lead character after 6 seasons in an off-screen death. I cannot think of one show in the history of television where the lead character was killed off unexpectedly off-screen mid-way through the show’s run. If there was some issue with the actor, then I’m sure we would have heard about it. Charlie Sheen for example was removed from 2 ½ Men but his off screen issues were widely reported in the press. Andrew Lincoln has no such issues, and has just given the performance of his life in this season finale. Not going to happen.
Additionally, Negan kills someone to make a point. To prove his brutality so to speak. He still wants the remaining group to stay together however. He wants them to continue ‘as normal’ and pay a ‘tax’ of half of whatever goods they have or produce. Killing the leader is likely to splinter the group into two or three smaller groups, which would make his objective far harder to achieve. Behind one strong leader, a group is much easier to extract resources from.
Chance of Death: 0%
Negan stated that should anyone stop him, then his men were to cut out Carl’s remaining eye and feed it to Rick. This points strongly to Carl not being the one getting his head bashed in. Negan’s men would have a hard time getting his remaining eye out of his head which would most likely be a mushy mess after even the first swing of Lucille.
Secondly Negan knows that Rick is the leader, and that Carl is Rick’s son. Negan wants Rick to accept his conditions and go through with the deal. Killing his son in front of him would most likely turn Rick into the psychopath that we saw at the end of season 4 when the biker group ambushed them. If Carl is dead, then Rick most likely turns into a suicidal maniac wanting to get revenge on Negan. He does not become a docile provider willing to give up half his stuff each week.
Finally, Carl is a child, and I cannot for one moment see them running a storyline in an entertainment show where a young helpless child gets beaten to death by a thuggish stranger. Not going to happen.
Chance of Death: 0%
For the simple fact that they could not have Negan killing a woman by smashing her over the head with a baseball bat. Even in today’s world of equality, I can’t see the TV network being happy with a large man brutally beating to death a helpless woman. Nobody would find that entertaining.
For this reason, you can remove all the female characters from the list of possibilities.
Chance of Death: 0%
For starters she has a massive unresolved storyline. Killing her without revealing what was behind the pains she felt in the previous episode would be a new low for The Walking Dead. I’m confidently saying that they’re not that idiotic.
Additionally, you have the same reasoning as with Michonne. Not to mention the fact she is carrying a baby. Not going to happen.
Chance of Death: 0%
With Maggie’s new hairstyle Rosita is the only ‘pretty girl’ left. As much as they might deny it, these networks have unwritten quotas for the quantities of certain types of characters. There is room for one beauty in the same way that there is room for one muscle man (in Abraham), one science nerd (Eugene), one baby (Judith), etc. I don’t count Sasha in this category simply because they haven’t presented her in that way. If you think this is nonsense, look at Rosita’s first scenes, then tell me I’m talking rubbish.
Add the fact she’s also a woman means she is entirely safe from Lucille.
Chance of Death: 0%
I am frustrated with what they have done with Sasha this season. Other than flirting with Abraham and being a bit moody she has done absolutely nothing. Ironically, going by the history of The Walking Dead this means she’s unlikely to be killed off right now. (They have a history of building up a character and giving them airtime before killing them. Eugene fits that bill currently.)
Add to that she’s also a woman, so you can safely remove her from the list.
Chance of Death: 0%
The above 6 characters are 100% safe in my opinion. Next come two characters that I believe to be probably safe, but I certainly cannot rule then out.
I am including Aaron on this list rather than further down because all talk for the last 6 months both officially and unofficially (though I admit I don’t have quotes from official sources), was that there was going to be a ‘major character death’.
Aaron is not a major character. He does not fit this profile. Everything so far has painted Negan as the biggest villain of the series to date. To have him kill Aaron then let the others go would be weak television, with minimal emotional impact. The scene that has been talked about for years would be remembered in TV history as the death of an irrelevant character. The Walking Dead writers have made some terrible plot decisions of late, but even they I’m presuming wouldn’t let this opportunity go to waste.
Important Caveat: However, there is one logical way that it might in-fact be Aaron. That would be if they decided the ‘major character death’ could in fact be in episode 1 of season 7. Negan kills Aaron first, then one of the main characters breaks free and charges at Negan in an attempt to kill him. They are restrained, then Negan proceeds to smash their head in as well. This would give the show both a valuable cliff-hanger, plus the emotional impact of a major character death on-screen to kick-start season 7.
If I were the writers, I would probably do this. Yes, the viewers will be annoyed for the first moments of season 7, but then you immediately get them engrossed once more by the shock death of say Glenn.
Chance of Death: 10%
Ever since Negan’s arrival was confirmed last November people have been discussing who would likely be ‘Lucilled’. A name never too far from the top of the list was Daryl. In recent times Daryl appears to be more consumed with his attempts to kill Dwight than in protecting himself. He blames himself for the death of Denise, as he let Dwight go, who proceeded to steal his cross-bow and then kill her with it.
Daryl is also arguably the least connected of the survivors. Two seasons ago he had time with Beth, then time with Carol, but he never seems to fully connect with another character.
However, Daryl is by all accounts a massive fan favourite. This may not have been the writers’ plan back in season one, but certainly now he is quite probably the main reason a certain percentage of viewers watch the show. To kill him off would leave a giant hole in the cast.
You can add to this the fact Norman Reedus has another project with Walking Dead TV network AMC, with him driving around on a motorbike, suggesting that he is on good terms with his employers. AMC know Reedus is extremely valuable as Daryl, and it makes no commercial sense whatsoever to lose him as a character. If I was commenting on a novel, or perhaps a movie, then Daryl’s death would be logical. However, the fact it’s a TV show that has no problems with ridiculous cliff-hangers such as the Glenn dumpster truck farce simply to keep up ratings and ensure the paid advertisers are happy, suggests that commercial realities certainly do affect the plot.
For this reason, I think it’s unlikely to be Daryl, although the foreshadowing early in season 6 (when he was on the ground with the bike helmet) leaves me to accept that it is possible.
Chance of Death: 15%
So now we are left with 3 characters, who for me are the only likely candidates if they go for one death during the scene. If my caveat above turns out to be true, then the character killed at the start of season 7 episode 1 would come from the list below.
Negan’s desired outcome is that Rick’s group fall into line and accept a system whereby half or more of all their property is ‘taxed’ by Negan, who then provides some assumed protection in exchange for this extraction of resources. This would be a workable scheme in a hypothetical zombie apocalypse and potentially advantageous for both sides. Negan is a pragmatist and all evidence suggests that his regime appears to be large and successful. I make that assumption based on the fact his men seem unquestionably loyal, and he himself appears at ease and confident.
So why then would he kill Abraham? Well, he wishes to weaken Rick’s group’s fighting power without affecting their ability to produce goods. To kill a leading fighter both terrifies those who relied on him for direct protection in the past (Rosita, Eugene) and also weakens the fighting force of the group and thus the power that Rick can wield.
Abraham made-up with Eugene in the episode, has had extra airtime of late, and has made plans for the future with Sasha. In Walking Dead land these are prime indicators that a character is extremely vulnerable. You only have to look at Denise a couple of episodes ago to see the same pattern.
If the writers wanted a way to kill a major character, but leave the Glenn/Maggie dynamic in the show, then Abraham is the obvious choice.
Chance of Death: 20%
It’s widely known that Glenn is the one who gets beaten to death in this scene in the comic book series. Given that recent seasons have been fairly faithful to the source material you immediately get a solid case for it being Glenn.
However, Glenn already nearly died twice in the season, firstly during the absurd dumpster truck zombie scene with Nicholas, then secondly when he was surrounded by zombies on returning to Alexandria with Enid. Now perhaps they are suggesting that Death gets ‘third time lucky’ with Glenn and finally takes him away. More likely in my opinion is that they tested the water so to speak with Glenn’s “death” earlier in season 6 to see fan reaction, then have perhaps decided that he’s too valuable to be killed off.
To explain this point slightly better. I think if they were happy for Glenn to die, then he would have been killed on-screen by Negan, replicating the comic exactly, with Maggie’s reaction right after creating a staggeringly emotional TV moment that nobody would forget. The fact we didn’t see this, makes me think they are leaning towards keeping him on the show.
Think of the death of Lori, and how we saw Rick’s reaction right after. That was golden TV, and one of the key moments of the series. Glenn dying in front of Maggie would be arguably 10x more powerful, as Lori wasn’t exactly a fan favourite. It would instantly become one of the all-time most memorable Walking Dead sequences. Would they really give that up for a cheap cliff-hanger? When someone like Eugene can be used instead. Not in my opinion.
Finally, I think that with Maggie in theory still pregnant, you have the opportunity there for a ‘happy couple with baby’ on the show, which offers a lot in the way of potential storylines. Plus, the potential need for baby milk formula, diapers/nappies etc. gives them plenty of excuses to send Glenn scavenging. Add to that the fact the couple got together on the show, and you have an incredibly valuable character connection which would be gone in an instant if Glenn was now dead.
My assumption is that they aren’t fully decided who Negan killed, but they are moving away from the possibility of it being Glenn.
Chance of Death: 25%
I have Eugene down as the most likely victim due to the way his character has evolved in recent weeks. Any Walking Dead fan will tell you how time and time again a character’s death is preceded by consistent additional airtime. I will give you a few examples. Beth, Tyreese, Nicholas, Merle, Lizzie, Dale, Denise. I could go on.
Eugene started off as ‘the saviour’, he was after all the one who got them to go north, towards Washington. When he revealed he was lying all along about that his character went into a rut, and did very little for a long time. Then just recently he’s become this dynamic warrior who is making plans for a bullet factory.
However, his character arc now feels complete. He made-up with Abraham, he gave Rick the plans for the bullet factory, he even offered himself as the RV driver to give the others a chance to evade the Saviours and get Maggie to the Hilltop. He has no potential love interest, nor does it appear that his brains will be needed beyond the bullet factory.
The fact he was the reason they headed to Alexandria/Washington is enough to qualify him as a ‘major character’. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he was killed in the finale, with perhaps another major character going at the start of season 7.
[Update: Check out the theory in the comments about Eugene being a mole – at first it sounds elaborate, but then you realise it would instantly make the whole of the finale make a lot more sense. Then of course Negan, who had a deal with the previously confident looking Eugene, flips it on it’s head, kills him, and thus wipes out all evidence that he was the mole whose work lead Rick’s group right into Negan’s trap. To complete the setup, Enid is also working for the Saviours, and poisoned Maggie while cutting her hair, thus making the whole trip necessary in the first place. Enid wanted to go on the trip to ensure she was free of Alexandria just in case her cover was blown.]
Chance of Death: 30%
So there you have it, I think the writers are still not 100% decided who Negan killed, but for me it will most likely end up being Eugene. It would make a lot of sense if it was Glenn, but they would give up the possibility of an epic on-screen death later in the show. Eugene however, can die now, be the ‘major character death’ and nothing too valuable is lost from the franchise.
Finally, I think after following the comics relatively faithfully in recent times, it almost seems inevitable that they will decide to switch something important to keep us guessing. Follow the comics 100% and the element of surprise for hardcore fans disappears.
Either way, we’ll find out in October 2016. Please leave a comment if you think I’ve missed out something obvious.