My case for who I think Negan killed on The Walking Dead
September 2, 2016
The last episode of The Walking Dead left all of us speechless. The internet is flooded with different theories of who was on the receiving end of Lucille's wrath, but I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to look at it from a story structure perspective, and use some key elements to decipher who the most likely victim will be. For assistance, I will be referring to three key story questions in Steven James' fantastic book, Story Trumps Structure. Read on, and see what you think! And by all means, tell me I'm wrong, tell me I'm right, or tell me your own spin on things, in either the comments, or by email, or on Twitter @reneenmeland:
As I eliminate potential candidates, I will put their name in red, basically because I can't figure out how to get a font that has a line through it. As I've mentioned before, I'm not the most technologically-educated person in the world, so elimination by colored font will have to do.
STORY PERSPECTIVE QUESTION ONE: What would this character naturally do in this situation?
For this question, we will be examining NEGAN himself. Now, I have not read the comics, and I realize we have only just now been introduced to this character, but from I can tell, there's not much he isn't capable of: his lunacy knows no bounds. However, we have to keep in mind that this man is a leader, and while he wants to punish our group, he still has to maintain the respect of his own followers. So, though he himself seems very capable of beating a sick, pregnant woman to death, doing so would not serve his second goal. There are certain things that stay sacred, apocalypse or not. So, because of this and this alone, I am guessing that MAGGIE is safe.
STORY PERSPECTIVE QUESTION TWO: How can I make things worse?
Since RICK is our protagonist, we have to assume this question refers to Rick himself, as well as referring to the audience. What is going to make things worse for RICK? The situation is already dire: he, as a leader, has lead his group into a situation where they are at the complete utter mercy of a maniac. Can't get much worse, right? Unless...
For RICK, of course, CARL would be the ultimate casualty. His love for his child is going to trump the feelings that he has for any of the other candidates. So this means we cannot eliminate CARL, at least not yet.
For the audience, I would conjecture that losing one of the original members of the cast would be the worst option. This question really asks, who would the audience hate to lose the most? As much as we love EUGENE, ABRAHAM, SASHA, ROSITA, AARON, and MICHONNE, we have spent the last six years with RICK, CARL, GLEN, and DARYL. Remember, we're going for emotional impact here. So, I am going to eliminate the first group from our list, and declare them safe.
Notice that I did not include ABRAHAM on that list. Referring to our first story question, I could see NEGAN wanting to eliminate the toughest male of our group, the military man, and the man who was eyeballing him during his speech, as a symbol of hey-all-I-just-took-out-your-brute-force-what-are-you-gonna-do-with-that kind of move. I also noticed during the episode that both ABRAHAM and CARL had their own side story lines going on, which was perhaps added for more emotional impact. So, ABRAHAM stays. For now...
STORY PERSPECTIVE QUESTION THREE: How can I end this in a way that is both unexpected yet inevitable?
We know how The Walking Dead loves to punch us in the gut. We've lost several characters we adore, some through zombie bites, others through self-sacrifice, and yet another when LORI chose her baby over herself. So keeping this in mind, GLEN, as a symbol for love conquering all, is definitely on the chopping block, especially since we thought we lost him earlier in the season. What could be more gut-wrenching than to have him returned to us, only to see him snatched away in such a brutal manner? He's definitely near the top of my list. But is this unexpected yet inevitable? Let's give that some more thought in a moment.
So who do we have left besides GLEN? DARYL, RICK, and CARL. RICK being the protagonist eliminates him from death, for now. Though anything can happen on this show, I'm going to have to assume they are going to keep him around for a little longer. So, onto DARYL. Though we all adore DARYL, my gut tells me it's not him. I wish I had a better reason behind it for you, but I don't. The only thing I can come up with is a gut feeling, and the thought that his death would have less impact than GLEN's or CARL's. So, I'm going to declare him and RICK safe.
We are now down to GLEN, ABRAHAM, and CARL, or for story-studying purposes, I will call the Lover, the Fighter, and the Child. Now, you may be asking, "Why is CARL even a candidate? There was a line in the episode that stated something along the lines of 'if anybody protests I'll cut the kid's other eye out and feed it to his father' so we know he's safe, right?" My argument is this: what if NEGAN meant it in the same way you mean it when you tell your spouse, "I'll kill you if you forget to take the garbage out again." You don't literally mean you will take their life if they don't put the trash in the can and take it to the curb, right? You say it (or something along those lines) to make a point. And besides, NEGAN is a sick, twisted S.O.B. Why wouldn't Carl be a candidate for his brand of punishment? Because NEGAN is too nice to kill the youngest member of the group? Doubtful. Therefore, CARL's still in.
ABRAHAM's death would definitely be a blow to the group, especially now that he's found happiness with Sasha. But is the Fighter's death unexpected? Not necessarily. When I watched the episode, it almost seemed to me as if ABRAHAM was trying to will NEGAN to pick him. He didn't say anything in words, but he bravely looked NEGAN right in the eyes, and stood tall even while on his knees. A hero move, for sure, but since he did it, and this is The Walking Dead, I'm thinking that means that it won't be him. Therefore, ABRAHAM and SASHA lovers, I declare your favorite redhead safe.
We're down to the wire now, people. This was a tough call. The Lover's death would almost, at least for the time being, be the death of love itself. GLEN and MAGGIE have been the staple of romance for the show, a glimmer of hope in a dismal world. But we all know what The Walking Dead likes to do with glimmers of hope: you can find them squashed on the bottom of Scott M. Gimple's shoe. So does that make his death unexpected (because we almost lost him already) yet inevitable (because he fits all the elements for Most Devastating Emotional Impact)? Yes.
CARL's death, though tragic, would have more of a devastating impact on RICK than on the audience. As an audience, we've seen him get shot twice, and lose an eye. Oh, and did I mention he had to shoot his mother? Though all these things are terrible, another story principle that James mentions in his book is that the more violence, the less impact. CARL has suffered so much already that I just don't think his death would hit the audience as hard as GLEN's. In this case, losing the Lover will hurt more than losing the Child. So, I hereby say the Child is safe.
As much as it pains me to say, in storytelling terms, I declare the death of the Lover. GLEN is the last one standing, and it is my assessment that he will be the one we lose during the first horrible moments of the Season Seven opener.
I hope I'm wrong. And this is The Walking Dead after all, so I probably am. There are many shows out there that I can figure out, and I end up knowing what will happen before I see it. Not here.