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The Walking Dead Death Watch - Calculating the Odds of Who Died in the Finale

Combing for Clues for Negan's Victim

Apr 06, 2016
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You could almost hear the groans across America. After a half-season's worth of preparation for the arrival of Negan, the villain whose entrance we were promised would change the trajectory of the show's storyline forever, we got...a cliffhanger. Yes, we got to meet Negan, and he was everything we could have hoped. We got a stomach-churning monolog from a charismatic monster, playfully contemplating who he wanted to bludgeon to death with a barbwire-covered baseball bat. We saw blood dripping across the lens of a first-person perspective camera shot after Negan began to pummel his victim. We heard thwack after sickening thwack of a baseball bat crushing a skull. We got the death we were promised. But instead of tears, the whole season culminated in a question mark.

On Talking Dead, show creator Robert Kirkman promised that clues had been left to allow astute viewers to figure out the target's identity, and fans unleashed their forensic forces before the blood even dried. Within 24 hours, some had done analyses of the angle of the light during the murder scene in an attempt to deduce who would have been sitting in the victim's place. Others had developed the theory that if we could figure out through whose eyes we were seeing the earlier first-person shots that were scattered throughout the episode, we could assume that the final shot was also from the perspective of that same person. Still others speculated that the show's writers haven't yet decided on who will be leaving the cast's family portrait, and the death is being used as leverage in contract negotiations with the show's stars in case any of them want to hold out for a budget-breaking payday. In short, no one knows.

More than likely, the identify of Negan's victim will be revealed well before the season seven premiere, as the eagle-eyed fans that camp out around The Walking Dead set with binoculars will certainly be paying close attention to which cast member is conspicuously absent from filming. What follows is a best guess based on the available evidence.

Rick and Carl: It makes sense to group these two together, because 1) the writers are never going to kill off the show's central character or (potentially) the show's future central character, and 2) when Negan was giving his pre-beatdown speech, he instructed his followers to pluck out Carl's eye and feed it to his father if anyone stepped up to stop him from completing his attack. This would certainly seem to imply that neither Rick nor Carl is the intended target. Odds: 100 to 1

Rosita: She was given some solid character development throughout season six, but she didn't have a single line in the season finale, and there are zero signs pointing toward her death. It would be shocking, in the sense that it would be unexpected, for those reasons. But the pacing in the final scene, with the camera focusing on her very little, doesn't seem to make it likely that she is a serious candidate. Plus, she still has a dangling plotline with Abraham and his decision to jilt her for Sasha. It would be odd to leave that completely unresolved. Odds: 90 to 1

Michonne: Sure, she has taken on an even more central role in the storyline as Rick's love interest, which would seem to make her even more vulnerable in this scene. The impact of her death could hardly be greater for Rick and the rest of the show's characters. But, as with Rosita, there are few, if any, signs pointing to her being Negan's victim. She played no role in the season finale beyond appearing in the death lineup. She seems certain to assume a central place in future plotlines, so there's no real payoff to taking Michonne out of the story now. (That said, the fact that Danai Gurira, the actor who plays her, has an increasingly viable career as a playwright-with two shows currently on Broadway-could mean that she would be willing to take a step back from acting for a while.) Odds: 75 to 1

Sasha: After playing a rather small role in the events of season six, it wouldn't seem to make much sense to take Sasha out of the storyline at this point. Her death would certainly play a pivotal role in determining whether Abraham continues on his optimistic, let's-make-some-babies path, but it would seem odd to knock her out of that plot point before she has played a significant role in it. Odds: 60 to 1

Maggie: Would the writers want Negan's first scene to end with him bludgeoning to death an ailing pregnant woman with a barbwire-covered baseball bat? Would AMC allow it? Would you feel comfortable watching it as entertainment on a Sunday night?

Maggie had an eventful season six. She lost Glenn, found him, revealed her pregnancy, cut her hair, and now is having a medical emergency of some sort. Just as important, her negotiations with Hilltop head Gregory proved that she could be the sort of leader who would be strong in the face of opposition and capable of making difficult decisions in the best interests of her community. It seems like the writers are grooming her for something bigger than being Alexandria's town historian. It would make little sense to kill her off now. (No, I don't see her haircut as evidence that she was simultaneously filming a role for another show/movie during shooting for The Walking Dead, thereby indicating that Lauren Cohan already knew of her impending doom. That's empty speculation.) Odds: 50 to 1

Aaron: Here's where things start to get interesting. Aaron is a very unlikely choice, simply because he wasn't given much development time during season six, and he hasn't been terribly integral to any storylines. He has been on the periphery of virtually every main event, but he hasn't been driving those events. One assumes, as a result, that his death wouldn't register as all that shocking to the vast majority of Walking Dead viewers. He's loyal and likable, but we just haven't gotten to know him that well yet.

There's also the additional fact that there has been very little foreshadowing of the sort that the writers usually provide before a character's death. If Aaron really was going to be on the receiving end of Lucille, wouldn't the writers have included at least one final scene with Aaron saying goodbye to his boyfriend, just to reinforce what was at stake? On the other hand, the writers have gotten very stingy with killing off even slightly-less-than-central characters, so eliminating Aaron would be a way to provide a scene that proves Negan's brutality without having to sacrifice a character who is essential to future plots. But if the point of the scene is to establish the idea that Negan is the new King Baddie by focusing the collective ire of The Walking Dead fanbase, the sacrificial lamb will probably need to be someone other than Aaron. Odds: 30 to 1

Daryl: It's conspiracy time. Though I don't think Daryl was Negan's victim for reasons I'll explain in a minute, you can pretty easily connect the dots on why the writers (and particularly AMC) would have incentives to kill him off in a cliffhanger. Given all the "If Daryl dies, we riot" stuff, the writers must know that ending Daryl's story in the season finale would result in a certain portion of the Walking Dead audience throwing up their hands and saying, "That's it! I'm done with this show." When October rolls around, the theory goes, those viewers wouldn't tune in at all. They don't care to participate in a post-Daryl universe.

But killing Daryl in a cliffhanger guarantees that those same viewers will at least turn up to see who has won the unlucky lottery, and once they see that their beloved bowman has drawn the short straw, they might be more likely to stick around and see how the group reacts to (and avenges) his death. They've got some skin in the game at that point, and even if they're angry about Daryl's demise they at least won't have six months to stew on it. The cliffhanger death gives the writers a chance to hook those viewers and get them to keep watching.

This theory has its own problems, of course. For one, if the writers are so scared of alienating viewers through Daryl's death, why even bother with killing him in the first place? Additionally, if Daryl is the eventual victim, why have Dwight shoot him in the shoulder during the previous week's episode? Just to make him look wan and vulnerable in the murder lineup? Shooting him in the shoulder makes no sense if it isn't tied to a future plotline. Unless...

The only thing that gives me pause in dismissing Daryl's death outright is the fact that throughout the episode we are given a number of first-person perspective shots that appear to be from Daryl's point-of-view as he's locked in whatever room he, Glenn, Michonne, and Rosita are kept in before being trotted out in front of Negan. Just as this was the perspective earlier in the season when Daryl was passing in and out of consciousness after Dwight whacked him across the head and captured him, these fleeting scenes seem to portray Daryl struggling to awake to his surroundings following the trauma of being shot. I can't think of another instance where this first-person perspective has been used in this way, and both times it has been Daryl.

As we now know, the reason we don't know the identity of the victim is because it's a first-person perspective shot. Could all of those earlier shots have been foreshadowing for this one? Probably not, but there's enough here to give you pause. (This could also be a subtle reference to the much-debated series finale of The Sopranos, which many see as having used similar shifts in perspective to point viewers toward a particular conclusion.) Odds: 25 to 1

Eugene:

Man, was the foreshadowing thick throughout the episode, so much so that it's hard not to see it all as a too-obvious headfake. No doubt, Eugene has been on the redemption arc all season, going from the afraid-of-his-own-shadow goof who didn't know how to properly swing a machete to a fearless ponytailed badass who volunteers for suicide missions. He's a still a bit incompetent, as evidenced by the fact that the two occasions on which he is left alone he is almost immediately captured and hogtied, but he is no longer lacking confidence, at least.

But, still, that foreshadowing. When someone is needed to drive the motorhome as a diversionary tactic to trick The Saviors into missing the group's on-foot attack, he steps up. Apparently sensing his impending death, he hands off his plans for bullet manufacturing to Rick, who gives him some heartfelt thanks and expresses his appreciation for Eugene's contributions to the group. Then, in one of the most genuinely moving scenes in the show's history, he and Abraham share a tearful embrace and fully reconcile the relationship that was broken when Eugene's zombie virus cure was revealed as a lie. Few characters have gotten such a beautiful sendoff.

That's pretty much a complete character arc for Eugene, neatly tied up in a bow, if the writers wanted to treat it as such. But there are just as many reasons to keep him around. Along with Abraham, he is just about the show's only source for silly one-liners and comic relief. He's also the only mad scientist type on the show, and his skillset doesn't seem to duplicate those of anyone else. Plus, if the writers were going to go for the emotional gut punch of killing his character, they'd never have the show's fans more primed for that reaction than if they offed him at the end of this episode. Making viewers wait six months for that momentand trusting that the emotional residue of those fleeting scenes will persistmakes no sense. Odds: 10 to 1

Abraham:

Other than Eugene, no character has gone through more development over the course of season six than Abraham. We've seen him go from being the man-on-a-mission human G.I. Joe of seasons four and five to a newly reflective character who wants nothing more than to start a new family with Sasha. This is quite a development; he's no longer running from the grief of not being able to protect his wife and children. He's no longer trying to justify his existence by doggedly pursuing a save-the-world plot. He has something better to live for (at Rosita's expense, it turns out).

But there was a sense of finality in the ways he has gone about his character transformation, a feeling of tying together loose ends. His conversation with Sasha about seeing the wisdom in Glenn and Maggie deciding to have a baby is one such moment, and it seems designed to make it even more tragic when Abraham passes. His emotional embrace of Eugene brings a satisfactory end to their tumultuous storyline, as well.

Even so, there are good reasons to believe that Abraham doesn't die at Negan's hand. Spoiler alert: Robert Kirkman has said in interviews that he regrets killing off Abraham in the comic (with the arrow-through-the-eye death that Denise received in season six), because it removed him from future plotlines where he could have been central to the story. Those plotlines have not yet occurred in the TV show, so it wouldn't make much sense to kill him off now if that's true. Additionally, he's the most widely-quoted character on the show, and he's just now being elevated to the status of a truly central player. Yes, that would make his death sting even more, but that could be said even more about... Odds: 3 to 1

Glenn: After the epic (some would say "shark-jumping") fake out that was Glenn's non-death earlier in season six, it seems that his plot armor is so thick that Negan's baseball bat would instantly shatter into splinters if it made contact with a single hair on Glenn's skull. But if the foreshadowing of Eugene's impending death makes it less likely that he's actually the victim, the opposite could be true of Glenn. Again and again, we've seen him wiggle away from a near-certain demise, and because of this he makes the perfect candidate for delivering a truly devastating death scene.

As plot devices go, few would set more future storylines in motion than Glenn's murder. If Glenn is gone, you now have Maggie (likely dealing with a miscarriage) going through the death of both her husband and her unborn child. If Maggie really is being groomed to take over a larger leadership role, it also makes more sense to have her do so alone. Obviously, the only way this can happen is if Glenn is gone.

The foreshadowing was there, if you're willing to read between the lines. There was that PG-13 shower scene with him and Maggie, a moment that serves little purpose other than to establish again the strength of their bond and to remind viewers of what's at risk every time one of them ventures outside of Alexandria's walls. There was the scene in the Saviors' outpost where Glenn, having just killed a living person for the first time, noticed a series of Polaroids on the wall of victims with their heads bashed in. There was even a scene with Glenn holding a baseball bat.

Spoiler alert: There's also the fact that in the comic book, when this exact scene is portrayed, Glenn is the victim. The reason that event is seen as perhaps the most iconic panel in the history of the graphic novel is because of how beloved Glenn is as a character and because of the implications his death had for future plotlines. It's hard to imagine how Kirkman's original story proceeds without significant retooling if Glenn manages to slip away one more time.

But, as comic readers also know, very few characters on the TV show are given the same death as their source material counterparts. Why would the writers depart from that tradition here? Complicating things even further, Kirkman openly joked about having an upcoming character named Negan "beat Glenn's brains out" with a baseball bat during his appearance on (Talking Dead host) Chris Hardwick's At Midnight comedy show in early 2015. Would Kirkman essentially blow the biggest cliffhanger in the history of the show for the sake of a joke? On the other hand, knowing his propensity for playfully teasing the worst fears of the show's fans, he might take great pleasure in the fact that he was daring enough to tell them what he was going to do, then sat back and watched them react in horror when he actually did it. Odds: 2 to 1

Whatever the case, we've got six months to think about it.



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Walking Dead Season 7
October 13th 2016
9:26am

In the first installment of walking dead season 7, Glenn and Abraham will die. Later, it would be very interesting to see how Rick and his team members will react?

Negan is a bad guy!

I’m waiting for the walking dead season 7 premiere!