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Six characters on The Walking Dead who deserved better

Contributed by
Dec 13, 2017

The Walking Dead has dominated TV screens for over seven years as the cornerstone of AMC’s current original programming. The post-apocalyptic zombie drama about a sheriff’s deputy named Rick Grimes and his ever-changing group of fellow survivors started as a comic by writer Robert Kirkman in 2003. Its ongoing popularity still rivals the live-action series, which is several arcs behind the comic timeline. The show has brought many of the comic’s iconic characters to life and kept several of the well-known story arcs. However, the addition of new characters and storyline deviations has allowed The Walking Dead to bring a fresh adventure to faithful comic readers as well as new audiences.

Eight seasons and 100+ episodes later, the show is still drawing millions of viewers to see what Rick and his crew will do to ensure their survival. Fans have met dozens of characters, and every one of them has had their not-so-brilliant moments, but there are a few characters who fell victim to dismal character development, problematic deaths, or met demises that simply didn’t make any sense. Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, but these are six Walking Dead characters who deserved better:

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T- Dog

Who was T-Dog? After 2.5 seasons on the show, it is still a mystery. T-Dog’s pre-apocalypse life as a church van driver wasn’t revealed until Glenn said it near his grave. T-Dog was a member of the original group of survivors from Atlanta and one of the first people Rick encountered on his quest to find his family. He was introduced in the second episode (“Guts”) as a physically strong, practical, and loyal character yet he felt like an outsider in the group as a Black man. In season two’s “Bloodletting,” T-Dog told the elder of the group Dale that they were viewed as the weakest links. The character also revealed his real name (Theodore Douglas) so quickly that most viewers missed it.

The character barely saw any action in season two amongst the Rick/Shane/Lori drama, Carl’s recovery, Glenn’s romance with Maggie, and Carol’s budding friendship with Daryl. Season three looked promising for T-Dog’s development as they gave him more dialogue. Unfortunately his most verbose moment came right before his death. After participating in a moral debate with Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon, T-Dog was bitten on the shoulder during a walker attack as he secured a gate. He later met a more gruesome demise when he ran inside the prison with Carol and was ripped apart by walkers so she could escape.

T-Dog’s death was problematic in several ways. First, it was the first of several sacrificial deaths by a person of color to save a White character and advance their plot. It was also unnecessary since there was only a couple of walkers between them and the gate. T-DOG AND CAROL COULD HAVE MADE IT THROUGH THE DAMN GATE. His death felt like a forced move by writers to get rid of him since they never cared about his character. Everyone can’t be a main character, but T-Dog was the only Atlanta survivor with no personal storyline. After his death, he still didn’t get the appreciation and recognition he deserved because he was overshadowed by Lori’s death in the same episode. The group moved on easily and replaced him with Oscar, yet another Black guy who had little development until he was also killed. This season, Rick ran back into an old member of the original group named Morales, and recapped who he had lost from the group. The two names he left out? Dale and T-Dog. Go figure.

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Andrea

Comic fans were looking forward to seeing Andrea’s story come to life. A skilled shooter and Rick’s right hand woman in the comics, the show decided to change her character for the worse in every way. Andrea was annoying and petulant from the moment she greeted Rick with a gun in his face, threating to shoot him despite not knowing how to work the safety. Losing her sister was supposed to be the catalyst toward her path as a confident warrior, but instead she became (understandably) suicidal and careless until she was separated from the group at the end of season two. The third season paired her with a new character – katana wielding Michonne. However, the women found themselves at odds over the villainous Governor, whom Andrea fell in love with despite his shady behavior. Her love for the Governor destroyed her friendship with Michonne and put her on the wrong side of a budding war between Woodbury and Rick’s group. After realizing the truth and finding Rick’s group, she chose to leave her friends again and return to Woodbury, where she was tied to a chair by The Governor and bitten by a walker. She had half a damn episode to try to free herself from the chair and she failed miserably. 

Andrea took her own life with Rick’s gun as Michonne sat by her side in a scene which would have been sadder if she hadn’t been so willfully ignorant all season long. Her premature departure and storyline infuriated fans of the comics because the character was such a central part to the future story. She was never given the room to develop and redeem herself in her alternate storyline. In reality, she could have joined back with Rick’s group and survived the prison war. But, the choice to dump Andrea was due to behind the scenes debacles.  Actress Laurie Holden revealed she had an eight year contract, but was told by then showrunner Glen Mazzaro about Andrea’s death before she got the finale script. Mazzaro’s decision was a point of contention with Robert Kirkman and he soon left the show. Richonne is an incredible couple, but there was still room for Andrea to have a redemptive arc and be an integral part of the story.

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Sasha

Like T-Dog, Sasha was another character created specifically for the show. The firefighter from Florida was introduced to the prison group along with her brother Tyreese. After briefly living at Woodbury, Sasha used her common sense and joined Rick’s group as a trusted member of the prison’s council. She was a skilled markswoman and decidedly pragmatic – a stark contrast to her optimistic brother. But, Sasha was continuously subjected to pain and strife throughout her arc. She and Glenn were the sole survivors of a deadly illness at the prison. Then, she lost her boyfriend Bob just as she was beginning to shed her hard exterior. Bob’s death was shortly followed by Tyreese’s death, which sent the character into emotional turmoil. She suffered from PTSD but soon found solace in a new relationship with fellow survivor Abraham Ford as well as her friendship with Maggie, who had also suffered several losses in a short period of time. Last season, her bad luck in love continued when Abraham got his head smashed by a barbed wire baseball bat. Sasha deserved more of everything - happiness, smiles, and screen time as one of the most relatable people in the group.

Abraham’s loss caused a downward spiral, leading her to go on a rogue suicide mission to kill Negan with Rosita. She let Rosita escape and allowed herself to be captured. Sasha decided to take a lethal drug and sacrifice herself in an attempt to kill Negan as a walker. Fans assumed the character would die soon because Sonequa Martin-Green was preparing for her lead role on Star Trek: Discovery, but the actress said the decision to kill Sasha was made before she was offered her latest role. So, she really didn’t have to die at all.

Walker Sasha didn’t kill Negan, but her death gave Rick’s group a chance to fire the first shots of war. And, fans got several poignant scenes of Sasha during her final moments as she listened to Donny Hathaway’s ever-relevant “Someday We’ll All Be Free.” But, it was unrealistic for Sasha to go along with such an idiotic plan and actually think she would take Negan out as a walker. It would have made more sense for Rosita to sacrifice herself because she had lost Abraham twice (to Sasha and death) and she hadn’t developed any close relationships with other members of the group. Rosita’s actions had been hinting toward suicide all season, yet Sasha was the one who had to die. It was a sobering reminder of how Black women in real life are usually the ones who have to put themselves on the front line and sacrifice for the freedom others, even when they never find true freedom themselves. It would have been excellent to see Sasha and Maggie work together leaders at the Hilltop after their respective losses. Sasha would have also been a great asset in the current war. RIP Sasha.

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Heath

What the hell happened to this guy? Heath was a major character in the comics, but he barely made an imprint on the show. Rick and the crew met Heath at Alexandria, where he was a supply runner. He was great at clearing walkers and a team player who defended his fellow Alexandrians but naïve about the true horrors of life beyond Alexandria’s safe zone. He’s given very little dialogue but when he does it’s filled with wonderful wit and sarcasm, which could have added so much to the show if his character was more prominent. He was typically used as a filler or background character to help with missions.

In season seven, Heath went on a ridiculously long supply run with Tara and vanished after a walker herd encounter. Strangely, neither Tara nor anyone else in Alexandria mentioned his name again. The showrunner says we haven’t seen the last of Heath, so maybe he will come back one day. But, how will they explain his random absence? Will anyone really care after so many have been lost in All Out War? Like Andrea, Heath’s TV storyline didn’t have to follow to comics to a tee, but his character could have been more developed and useful in the absence of Abraham and Glenn. Despite being at Alexandria for an extended amount of time, the only Alexandrian who has truly been accepted into Rick’s sacred clan is Aaron - the man who introduced them into the community. Maybe we will see Heath, who was viewed as a valuable asset to Alexandria, become a vital member of Rick’s group.

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Glenn

Glenn instantly won fans hearts when he saved Rick in the first episode. The former pizza delivery boy turned supply run guru was resourceful, compassionate, and often daring to a fault, leading the group to use him as the go-to person in dangerous situations. His storyline quickly came to the forefront during the farm arc when he met his future wife Maggie Greene. Their romance was unlikely yet endearing but it didn’t detract from the action. He was also quickly established as a moral compass in the group who avoided murdering other human beings, even in dangerous situations. As the only Korean-American in the ensemble cast, Glenn eschewed stereotypes and brought another level of diversity to the apocalypse.

But, as Daryl’s popularity began to rise in season three, Glenn soon became more sidelined despite being the one who saved his ass in the first place. His story began to revolve around his relationship with Maggie instead of his usefulness as a member of the group. Actor Steven Yeun addressed Glenn’s legacy on the show, saying the character never got his fair due. He was often treated more like supporting character instead of a member of the main character. Season six featured a fakeout death scene that ended with him miraculously surviving under a dumpster for several episodes. It was supposed to create mystery, shock, and speculation but it felt like a cheap way to temporarily ditch the character. 

After he finally broke his no-kill streak and took out some of Negan’s men, Glenn was brutally murdered by the villain in front of the group. The only reason he died was because Daryl couldn’t control his emotions after Negan killed Abraham. Yes, he was the one who got the “Lucille death” in the comics, but if they were going to take him out, then why not do it the same way? His death solely as a result of Daryl’s actions made it much less symbolic of Negan’s wrath as well as catalyst for Rick to seek vengeance (because he was not his right hand man in the TV show). It cheapened his demise to something for shock value and a plot device to advance Daryl’s character arc more than Maggie’s development. Again, another person of color dying to advance a White character’s development. Maggie had already begun to find her stride as a confident leader after being former Alexandria leader Deanna Munroe’s right hand woman. She would have still went to Hilltop and wanted to fight for a better world for her child. Honestly, Rick nor most of the fandom really understood the magnitude of Glenn’s contributions to the group until his death. Because ya don’t know what ya got til it’s gone.

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Tyreese

As a Black man in Rick’s apocalypse crew, Tyreese faired better in terms of having more screen time. Like Glenn, Tyreese was another moral compass but would kill when necessary. He had a bigger comic impact, but was often sidelined in favor of the Daryl/Rick duo. Tyreese’s physical strength was an asset in a pinch and his initial optimism could brighten the most depressing day. He got a chance to be alongside Carol and the ill-fated sisters Lizzie and Mika in “The Grove” – one of the best episodes of The Walking Dead. But, this episode was more about Carol’s journey toward becoming a ruthless badass than Tyreese’s development. His forgiveness of Carol after killing his sick girlfriend is far too rushed and could have been a moment to truly display his emotions.

In “No Sanctuary,” he almost left Judith to be killed by a psychopath and failed to kill the man. This man later attacked Sasha’s boyfriend Bob and ate his leg. Tyreese’s mistake and guilt haunts him until he dies. He was in Noah’s house looking at a picture and magically didn’t hear nor suspect a walker coming up behind him. He was bitten on the arm and, instead of going outside the house, he laid on the floor hallucinating for an extended time while Noah took forever to get help. Then, he gets bitten by yet another walker during his confused state and feeds it the same arm to protect himself. The rest of the group was relatively close, yet Michonne wasn’t able to get there and sever his arm in time to prevent him bleeding out. It was a sudden, sad, and shocking death to make way for Noah to be the “new Black dude” in the group.

The Walking Dead is currently taking a winter break from All-Out War, but as the show continues on, hopefully there will be more meaningful character development and demises. Which characters would you include on your “deserved better” list? Let us know in the comments below!