The Walking Dead kills characters all the time. While the series has shied away recently from killing “major” characters, it is still just as bloody as ever with the secondary characters. In “Twice as Far” another Walking Dead survivor fell in the zombie apocalypse, though their death arrived through human hands. Even though it is important for The Walking Dead to keep the threat level high on the show with shocking and gruesome deaths, the major death in “Twice as Far” seems way too far and a huge mistake.
Denise Didn’t Need to Die
There are so many levels as to why Denise’s death is personally aggravating. It doesn’t even need to be mentioned that she is a part of a disturbing TV trend of killing one member of a lesbian couple. This very unfortunate TV trope has come to light lately surrounding the frequent killing off of one member of a happy lesbian couple by tragic and shocking means. This is a problem, but Denise’s death goes way beyond becoming another statistic in this weird and unfortunate trope. There was just no reason for Denise to die, regardless of her sexuality.
Denise’s death adds almost nothing to the story. She was killed by Dwight in his return to The Walking Dead but no one was asking to see Dwight again. Dwight was gross in his initial appearance and stole Daryl’s famous crossbow. Dwight’s return to The Walking Dead means less than nothing. Even if Dwight is a member of the Saviors now, killing Denise does nothing to add to that overall conflict. It’s not as if tension wasn’t already high. Rick led a group, which massacred a group of sleeping Saviors and Carol burned a few alive. The conflict is already on in a big way. Denise’s death doesn’t need to happen to make things personal.
If anything Denise’s death and “Twice as Far” undid a lot of good that the show had done with the Saviors in the previous two episodes. In “Not Tomorrow Yet” and “The Same Boat” The Walking Dead had established the Saviors as actual human beings. They were no different, better or worse, than Rick’s group. They were survivors who had done hard and despicable things to survive but they still survived.
In “Twice as Far” with Dwight shooting Denise through the head with an arrow as her back was turned and being an overall sneering psychopath, The Walking Dead takes us right back into cartoon villain territory. Dwight was stupid evil, not at all threatening, and just plain stupid. Dwight’s heavily armed group was taken out by three people and Eugene bit Dwight’s private parts. There was no kind of threat or emotion to the scene because the entire group was a group of bumbling evil idiots. The fight was not interesting to watch or tense. Abraham, Rosita, and Daryl had no trouble killing the more numerous and presumably more prepared Saviors. If Denise’s death was supposed to make the Saviors and/or Dwight seem threatening The Walking Dead completely failed on that front.
The Last (Interesting) Alexandrian Falls
Denise had a very important role in The Walking Dead that went beyond her occupation as a doctor or her sexuality. Denise, quite simply, was the Alexandrian with the most presence, most backstory, and biggest interest. There are other Alexandrians that The Walking Dead likes to pretend are important but we all know it’s a lie. There’s Spencer, Aaron, and Heath but none of them are particularly interesting. They are glorified extras with very few distinguishing traits. Denise was a step above and therefore kind of a proxy for the entire community.
The sheer fact that Denise had a recognizable personality and face in Alexandria made her special. She was one of the few Alexandrian residents that The Walking Dead had bothered to establish outside of a couple of lines. Now, all that work seems useless or more disturbingly was done in an effort to make the audience care before they killed her.
With Denise gone, it is so hard to care about the remaining Alexandrians because The Walking Dead seems to care so little for them. If Denise, one of their most developed Alexandrians, can die a harsh and meaningless death then there is no reason to care about any of the others. They will be nothing more than cannon fodder or zombie chow in the upcoming fight between the Saviors and the Alexandrians. While some might see it as a relief that they can focus their attention back on Rick’s group, it is personally disappointing.
The Carol Conundrum
The weirdest thing about Denise’s death though is how it all falls back on Carol. It shouldn’t really be surprising that Denise’s death is more about Daryl and Carol than it is about Denise. The Walking Dead didn’t even show, for an instant, the reaction of Tara, Denise’s beloved girlfriend to the news. So while it’s not strange that The Walking Dead focused more on the known characters with Carol and Daryl, it is more confusing how deeply the death affected Carol.
Carol leaving Alexandria at the end of “Twice as Far” is probably a whole other issue. While it does make logical sense that Carol’s sins would be catching up to her, The Walking Dead really hasn’t sold the audience on the emotions of Carol’s decision. The change in Carol from ruthless zombie killer to the guilty soft-hearted mother has been both too abrupt and too much off-screen. It is just bizarre that it is Denise’s death that is the impetus for Carol’s departure from Alexandria. In essence, the point of Denise’s death seems to be to get Carol to leave the community but that doesn’t make sense.
While Denise was the most present Alexandrian, The Walking Dead never established a relationship between Carol and Denise. It would make far more sense if Carol had just left the community after the events of “The Same Boat.” Denise dying shouldn’t figure into it at all. Yet it is after Carol buries Denise with Daryl that she decides this death is the final straw and she needs to leave. If Denise’s death wasn’t already unnecessary violent, the effect it has on Carol and her story makes it feel increasingly useless.
But what do you think? Was Denise’s death necessary? How do you feel about the way it happened?
The Walking Dead season 6 airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.
(Images courtesy of AMC)