With the amount I write about it here in these volumes, it would seem that I watch a lot of television. I actually think I don’t watch all that much but the shows that I do watch I really get into. Here at #JPLMagazine I’ve written about Agents of SHIELD, Sons of Anarchy, and Heroes. I’m an avid Gotham watcher so that will soon be making its way into these pages (Mr. Freeze, Riddler now in working, riddling fashion, and Firefly, and Azrael soon to come!) and Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage are not far behind in my writing queue. I also have yet to write about a show that is a weekly fixture in my house, The Walking Dead. My wife, an avid and wide-ranging zombie fan, has been all about the show since its inception and I joined up not long after. It’s one of the best-written shows on television, especially for character development, and its on-and-off adherence to the graphic novel source material displays a rare breed of sophisticated loyalty (see also, Marvel Cinematic Universe). This week the show approaches the finale of its 6th season and though there are many plotlines and character struggles at play, there is one burning question on every fan’s mind after last Sunday’s penultimate episode. What lies ahead is only my theory but it does contain SPOILERS, both for those not caught up on the show and those who are unaware what happens in the comics. Given that #SpoilersAreHydra and #OnlyWolvesSpreadSpoilers (I just made that one up, thank you), I will save all deets for after the jump but what do YOU think? Will harm befall a central and beloved character in The Walking Dead season finale?? READ ON…
Fans of the comics and we members of the #NerdHerd who have read up on them have been awaiting the imminent demise of a certain fan favorite character for a couple seasons now. When the show did its ‘Is Glenn dead?’ episode near the beginning of the sixth season, those fans instantly recognized it as a nod to the character’s deceased status in the source material. Too much uncertainty surrounded that incident for true viewers to believe Glenn really was gone, though, and we thought perhaps that was as far as his perils would go, a monumental fake-out. That is until the name “Negan” was first uttered and one of the comic’s most explicit and enduing images sprung to mind. After several episodes battling the Saviors, in next week’s finale our group will finally meet Negan and his vicious spiked bat named Lucille. That graphic image I just mentioned is, of course, the brutal braining of dear young Glenn at the hands of Negan (and Lucille).
One of the most stylish touches to the show is the frequency with which they faithfully recreate images from the graphic novel. Assembled below are a few examples where great artistic attention is paid to bring the image from the page to the screen.
Given the show’s proclivity for such shots, I’d be hard-pressed to believe they won’t be recreating Negan’s baseball bat execution. I predict that in the finale we see the event, harsh and glaring, with all the savagery of Rick ripping out a Marauder’s throat with his teeth. There’s one key aspect to my prediction, though, one that I don’t think I’m alone in fearing, one that will change The Walking Dead forever:
Daryl Dixon will be the one to get his brains beaten in by Negan.
I know, heavy shit. Let that sink in for a moment.
There has already been heavy speculation that Norman Reedus would be departing the show after this season. His growing body of recent movie work indicates the normal pattern of an actor whose star is rising due to a popular series. As a character, Daryl’s story arc seems to have little place to go. He continues to straddle the rebel/sergeant-at-arms line but he honestly seems lost since the group’s settling of Alexandria. He is also one of the few main characters created for the show so there is no source precedent for his story or its end. With last week’s final shot (double entendre), it was somewhat vague, though fairly certain and then later confirmed on Talking Dead, that Daryl has definitely been shot but the extent of his injuries remain unknown. My prediction is that he was shot in the shoulder or some other non-life threatening place (“you’ll be fine”), wounding him enough to be unable to escape, then to be used as bait for a deal that will ultimately go south and end with his skull in a rather pulp-like state. Eenie-meenie-miney-moe.
I also think it’s highly possible that Negan claims a second victim from among our pack of noble warriors. Last week’s focus on Carol and her legacy, in both the badass Savior slaughter and in the discussion between Rick and Morgan, seems the proper setup for a final send-off. There was also much attention paid to each of the various relationships at play (Richonne, Sashbraham, Glaggie) which should be met with suspicion by the savvy Walking Dead fan – no one gets to be happy in the zombie apocalypse. Hell, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if Negan brained both Daryl and Glenn and smiled while TWD-nation shit their collective pants. One thing is for near-certain: someone is going to die and it’s going to be gory.
So what would the death of The Walking Dead’s beloved backwater bowman contribute to his individual story arc? Daryl’s story, like that of many of our characters is one of family, who and what that means and what we do to protect it. Much of his story early in the show revolves around his relationship with his brother, whether in collaboration with or in defense of Merle. They are tragically separated and then rejoined, only to have Daryl finally put down Merle once he had turned. Over time the brother role was filled by a surrogate sister in Carol, a more apt description of their relationship I think than the budding romance many were awaiting. Daryl’s story also elucidates the man-beast struggle running through its characters, in the reverse manner of Rick’s. While Rick is constantly undergoing the transformation from agent of what’s right and orderly to the beastly monster that is often necessary in these extreme conditions, Daryl is the wild dog gaining a home, resistant to trust, learning to be loved. It is seen in his final exchange with Glenn last week, urging him to return to the safety and strength of the group, not to run off into the wild on his solo mission of vengeance.
“It’s only going to go wrong out here,” he says, and Daryl knows, hesitating where he is normally decisive. A man who many have said seems like he found his true self in the zombie apocalypse, he’s constantly pulled between the values of domestication and animal instincts, group strength vs cut-throat self-preservation. In many ways he represents that balance, acting as the unofficial arbiter of justice in a world where “there is no right, only the wrong that doesn’t bring you down.” He is the ever watchful eye, ever vigilant and ready to strike, but lacking an urge for wrath or destruction. If the show does decide to bring the hammer down (read: spiked baseball bat) on their rugged fan favorite, the reading would seem to be that it is in this struggle between man and beast that even the most resolute among us can be lost.