The Walking Dead deaths — how Buffy actress Emma Caulfield deals with them
Following The 100‘s third season finale on The CW last spring, Emma Caulfield penned a love letter for EW about the post-apocalyptic show. An alum of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she is no stranger to intense fan bases and her own passion for the show was an interesting read for both fans of the show and newcomers alike. We at EW loved it so much, we asked her to write a recurring TV diary for the 2016-2017 TV season; she’ll use this space to talk about what she’s loving, hating, or tolerating. Although she’s not always going to write about post-apocalpytic shows (we think!), here she writes about The Walking Dead‘s season 7 premiere, which aired Sunday night…
If you don’t want to know anything about The Walking Dead thus far, please stop reading. This whole article is spoiler heavy. Go hug your dog instead or something.
Fans of the show, continue reading in 3, 2, 1……..
The Walking Dead is life. No matter what I say next, be it positive or negative, the above statement is a truism.
I hate you, The Walking Dead. Do you hear me? I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. You’re dead to me…… Sigh, I love you, The Walking Dead. Never leave me okay? You’re just… I’m just… I can’t.. Gah!!! (Insert angry/devastated/exhausted/hearts/applause emojis.) As my emotions or emojis make clear, I’m in the most toxic love affair of my life with this show. It began exactly six years ago, when it blew up the world as well as mine, and instantly became part of the zeitgeist. Though highly ambitious in scope, it felt intimate, personal. I got the feeling while watching the pilot, that no one involved with the show believed it would become a ratings juggernaut. Popular, sure, cause who doesn’t love a good scare at Halloween? But the life it quickly took on was something very exciting and different. The Walking Dead was this raw, passionate, terrifying beast that rode into town on a majestic horse it would hungrily eat later. (Sidebar: No more animal deaths. Kill a day player, not another horse. Please.)
As any fan of the show will tell you, people you love, sorry, characters — not people, because it’s all pretend right?! It’s all pretend! Sigh. What was I saying? Right — CHARACTERS you love die on the reg here. I mean that’s built into the damn title, and yet every time a character’s dies, I’m always surprised. Good job, writers! I hate you! I don’t. I love you! Gah! (More conflicting emojis.)
During the first season, I referred to most of the characters by nicknames. For example, Dale was “Sanka,” Daryl was “Hot Hick,” Glenn was “Pizza Boy,” Shane was “Sexy Beast.” Rick was always Rick; Carl was always annoying; Carol was “That woman from The Mist“; Andrea was “Amanda from The Mist.” (Now that I think of it Dale was also in The Mist. Coincidence?!!) I don’t think I had a nickname for Lori. If I did, it was probably “Bugs,” cause she bugged. Get your own damn tampons! It’s clear now, that assigning nicknames was a defensive mechanism. My heart wouldn’t break if I didn’t use their names! I’m one step ahead of you writers! Good plan, Emma! But like young teens in love, someone is bound to get pregnant right? Wait, that’s a bad analogy. What I mean is, when Sanka eventually became a walker’s dinner, my heart broke. My plan failed. Dumb plan, Emma!
Like the characters in The Walking Dead world itself, I had little time to properly deal with Sanka Dale’s death. Hell continued to break loose and it was time to move on and worry about the next inevitable death. And so many have died.
Like Shane, who turned out to be right about a whole lot of stuff. Yeah I know, Rick — Shane slept with Lori and could be Judith’s baby daddy, but he was talking sense fool! (I miss you Shane! You’re great as The Punisher! Jon, sorry — Jon Bernthal, you’re great as The Punisher!)
Like Lori, who bugged until the moment she gave birth to baby Judith. I cried with Rick when you died, Lori, but only because Carl had to put you down, thus solidifying the death of his brief childhood. WHO WRITES THIS TORTURE PORN?
Like Little Sophia. Carol’s missing baby girl… Carol’s reason for continuing. Her walker body put down in front of her own mother’s face. Cruel! I need more death to distract me!
Like Hershel! I love you Hershel. I still feel the loss of you. Sweet, moral compass Hershel, killed by the MOST annoying villain ever, The Governor. You eye-patch wearing psychopath. Why would Andrea fall for you? Speaking of worst…
Like Andrea. I really liked her character and I loved her friendship with Michonne. Then she started making one bad decision after another (see above), and I wished a walker would eat her. I got my wish. Still a fan of Laurie Holden though. (We share an ex boyfriend. COINCIDENCE?!!) Back to deaths.
Like Beth! Sweet Beth. Your death made Maggie and Daryl really sad, which made your death even sadder.
Like Tyreese! He-couldn’t-kill-a-fly Tyreese. Hindsight is 20/20 Tyreese. Sadly in your case, six feet under. Not cool!
Like T-Dog! Damn, I liked you, T-dog.
Like Deanna! Visionary. Vision is scary.
Like Noah! Your face was eaten off IN FRONT OF GLENN!
Like Denise! Jessie! Otis! Merle! I almost forgot about you Merle. You died just as you became someone to root for. Same with Nicholas actually. Great job writers. I hate you!
With so much carnage and heartbreak over the past six years, you would think I would stop watching. Like Jack says to Ennis, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” But he couldn’t and Ennis died by a bunch of crazy human animals. That brings me to Sunday’s season 7 opener, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.” I’ve been dreading this episode for months. Since the introduction of Negan, his bat Lucille, and his band of Savior followers, at the end of season 6, anxiety has made a home in my subconscious. I’ve dreamed weekly about the brutality facing my beloved heroes. I thought about not watching it, but as I’ve said, I’m an emotional wreck and in love with a gay cowboy. I also chose to write about it for this piece, so really I’ve brought the house down on me, all by myself.
After watching it, I’m emotionally and physically where I knew I would be. I am destroyed. Present time, I am totally ruined. I am without words. I will find them, however, because I have a job to do. I will find them for the wonderful Abraham. Abraham, a character I liked immediately. That’s usually a bad sign for me. The more I connect, the worse the loss. Defiant, even after the first brutal strike from Lucille, Abraham was able to die with honor. He locked his “seen it all” eyes with Negan’s, spit blood, mentioned his balls, all before succumbing to the remaining fatal blows. It was gruesome, painful, poetic. “Suck my nuts,” indeed, writers. And then there is my most beloved Glenn…….. I just…. I can’t…. it’s just…. (find the words, Emma….)
I don’t read The Walking Dead comics. I know little about the fate of my fictional family. However, Glenn’s death in the comics was so iconic, that it was impossible to avoid the spoiler. But the show has verged from the comic world enough that I hoped Glenn would make it out alive. In my dreams he had. There, I was able to save everyone and destroy Negan before he could do any harm. But those were dreams and the worst has happened.
Glenn was a favorite from the very beginning and somewhere along the way, he became my everything. Glenn has always been the soul of the show. He represented what the new world could be, no matter how bleak. Glenn was always there to remind the rest of the characters, and us, of our humanity. I used to say, “Kill anyone but Glenn. Glenn and Maggie. Never them. Especially Glenn, but never them.” Every fan has their, “kill so and so, and I’m out.” I’ve said those words myself, many times over. And now that it’s happened, I find myself in a familiar place. Do I continue watching this show that has affected me in a clearly unhealthy way? Should I get some therapy maybe?
“Who does this Glenn person remind you of?” I can hear my therapist ask. Then I would say, “Well, he is very sweet like my father who loves pizza. Is that it Dr. Burke? Is Glenn my dad?? I did ask him to buy my tampons once and he is Korean-American!” Then she says, “Emma, your father isn’t Korean. He a third-generation German-American from Minnesota. And maybe you should start coming twice a week?” (Insert frustrated, sad, happy, curious emojis here.)
Like Glenn and like my dad, I’m not a quitter. I have to see this through. I believe there is hope for my fictional family because there is still love among them. Glenn’s last words were “Maggie, I’ll find you” — and they will find a way out together. The Walking Dead is life. Some may be on borrowed time, some more than others. But, really, aren’t we all?
(Dr. Burke, I believe I just had a breakthough.)