'The Walking Dead' had a huge opportunity to take a big swing on Sunday's episode and it chickened out

Gene Page/AMCWere you surprised by the way Sunday’s ‘The Walking Dead’ ended?

  • Warning: There are massive spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead” season nine, episode 15, “The Calm Before.”
  • In an extended episode, “The Walking Dead” brought a big moment from the comics to life.
  • During King Ezekiel’s fair, Alpha kidnaps and kills 10 characters. Their heads get displayed on pikes for Daryl, Michonne, and more to find.
  • Fans expected AMC’s show to deliver “Game of Thrones”-sized deaths. Some even referred to it as “TWD’s” Red Wedding episode.
  • But when the actual deaths were finally revealed, they were a bit underwhelming. Other than three characters, most of them were background or recurring characters with little-to-no screentime.

Sunday’s “The Walking Dead” finally brought a huge comic moment to life.

After the introduction of the Whisperers on last November’s mid-season finale, comic fans have been waiting to see if and when Alpha may infiltrate King Ezekiel’s fair, pluck a number of unsuspecting fairgoers, behead them, and put their heads on pikes for display.

Sunday’s “The Walking Dead” appeared to check off all of those boxes, making viewers feel fear and dread up until the big reveal thanks to a few clever misdirects that may have thrown off comic fans. But was the reveal at the episode’s end everything you hoped for? Probably not.

Though “The Walking Dead” killed off 10 characters in one fell swoop, you may have been left underwhelmed by all but three reveals. Let’s discuss.

Expectations: Is this going to be an episode like “The Rains of Castamere” from “Game of Thrones”?

Usually, big deaths don’t occur on AMC’s zombie drama until a finale, so this moment may have caught some viewers off guard.

Fans were getting so pumped for Sunday’s episode that some started comparing it to an iconic “Game of Thrones” episode. Many were referring to it as “The Walking Dead’s” “Red Wedding” episode by tweeting #RedFair.

The Red Wedding is perhaps one of the most shocking events on HBO’s third season of “Game of Thrones.” A number of big characters are ruthlessly murdered. It’s not just fans making that comparison.

The “Walking Dead” comic account tweeted out an image from “Game of Thrones,” hinting a Red Wedding-like episode was to come.

Who “The Walking Dead” chose to kill off and how it strayed from the comic

As the faces of the undead were shown one by one, fans quickly learned the show swapped its comic deaths for others. Instead of King Ezekiel and Rosita, the episodes big deaths were Henry, Tara, and Enid along with seven other recurring and background characters.

Here are the characters killed off on the show in order of their reveal: Ozzy, Alek, D.J., Frankie, Tammy Rose, Rodney, Addy, Enid, Tara, and Henry.

Here are the characters who were killed off in the comic: Olivia, Josh, Doctor Carson, Tammy Rose, Luke, Erin, Ken, Amber, Larry, Oscar, Rosita, and King Ezekiel.

The problem with who was killed: Who WERE most of those people?

Twd 915 pikesJackson Lee Davis/AMCIt was like someone stuck a bunch of B-level, recurring, and background characters names in a hat and plucked all but Henry’s out. (Henry was clearly the sure bet to kill after stealing Alpha’s daughter.)

Other than Henry, most of Sunday’s deaths have little-to-no build up, feel random, and frankly, don’t feel earned.

Also, you may have wondered who some of these people were. Clearly “The Walking Dead” wanted viewers to feel something for each of these deaths, but aside from Henry, Tara, and Enid – these aren’t deaths people are going to cry over. I cried harder over Daryl holding Carol back from seeing her son’s head on a pike than for just about anyone in that lineup. (Except Enid.)

I actually had to pause and slowly unpause the review screener I received because I had no idea who the first two-to-three deaths were initially, and I cover this show week to week. I was also asked by someone else who is very in tune with “TWD” world who the name of the second person in the pike lineup was. (We learn very briefly on the episode his name is Alek and that he was one of the Highwaymen.)

Were you confused over who most of those people were on the pikes?

Let’s walk through these deaths in their order of appearance and see how well you actually know them.

The first two were the Highwaymen, who were just introduced two episodes ago. Unless you Googled them or were really paying attention, you most likely missed their names are Ozzy and Alek.

Twd 915 highwaymenJackson Lee Davis/AMCAlek and Ozzy tried to swoop in and save everyone. Instead, they became Whisperer victims.

Then, we have former Saviour D.J. You may remember him as that one really attractive Saviour who worked for Negan with really white teeth. He’s actually credited on seven of this season’s other episodes, but you may not remember seeing much of him because he wasn’t front and center when there are about two dozen other cast members.

Twd 907 dj saviourGene Page/AMCD.J. was the Saviour with the whitest teeth.

We have seen Frankie once on season nine and that was very briefly on last Sunday’s episode, “Scars.” She was one of Negan’s many former wives who became friends with Eugene during his time at the Sanctuary.

Twd 811 eugene frankieGene Page/AMCFrankie was one of Negan’s many wives who Eugene befriended during his time at the Sanctuary.

Tammy Rose was the mother who lost her child on the season nine premiere and always had something to complain to Tara or Jesus about. Her death was the only one on Sunday’s episode that actually occurred in the comics. So this one felt right. It also made sense on the show for her to get a pike death since Alpha spied her with the stolen Whisperer baby. As a mother who was trying to get back her own missing daughter, that probably didn’t fly with her.

Twd 902 tammy roseJackson Lee Davis/AMCTammy Rose was voted as one of the characters people wanted to see killed off the show in a recent poll conducted by INSIDER.

No one cared about the teens Rodney and Addy, sorry. The two were a part of a meddlesome group of Hilltop teens who tried to get Henry to drink and made fun of him before leaving him for dead in a pit with a walker. Addy was actually the one person in the group who was nice to Henry, but we never spent enough time with either of these characters for them to feel three dimensional. She had a minor crush on Henry that went unrequited.

Twd 913 addy rodneyJace Downs/AMCDo you really even remember Addy and Rodney?

Enid’s death actually felt like the first real surprise on the pikes, and the one that felt most shocking. On the show since season five, we’ve watched Enid lose her family and her original love, Carl. She was just getting things together as a doctor and was starting off a new relationship with Alden.

Twd 915 enid aldenGene Page/AMCEnid’s death was one of the few that hit us in the feels.

Tara’s death was also a slight shock. Up until her very reveal, the show does a good job of misdirecting the viewer to believe Rosita was getting her comic death. With Maggie MIA and Jesus dead, it looked like Tara was going to take over as leader of the Hilltop community.

Tara TWD 909Gene Page/AMCWere you expecting to see Tara get Rosita’s comic death?

Henry was the final face revealed on the pikes, but it felt like the most obvious one to be up there. Henry is the reason Alpha went after anyone in the first place because he convinced her daughter, Lydia, there was more to life than being a Whisperer. Alpha didn’t like that and Lydia’s boyfriend had to go.

Twd 915 lydia henryJackson Lee Davis/AMCAlpha didn’t like Lydia getting mixed up with Henry.

It felt like Alpha dropped the ball a bit here. If she really is as heartless as the show makes her come off, why didn’t she kill both Henry and King Ezekiel? We certainly know she has no problem killing husbands. She killed her own!

Alpha twd 915Gene Page/AMCYou’re telling me a woman who was clever enough to eavesdrop during the fair to learn Michonne’s name couldn’t pick up on which characters were really important and mattered to others?

Alpha’s ruthless. She had a great plan. I’m just questioning her execution a bit. Tammy Rose? I get it. She took that Whisperer baby. Overall, Alpha probably should have spent some more time at the fair to gather intel on which characters people actually cared about.

Why these deaths felt pointless: The season’s focus hasn’t been on the majority of them outside of Henry

Twd 912 matt lintz henryGene Page/AMCIn swapping out the comic deaths, ‘The Walking Dead’ killed off a bunch of characters fans don’t even care for that much outside of a few.

New showrunner Angela Kang has done such a great job of refocusing the show on its A-level stars and their interactions – Michonne, Daryl, Carol, King Ezekiel, Judith, Negan, Father Gabriel, Rosita, Siddiq, and now Alpha and Beta, while also balancing the introduction of another group of five (Magna, Yumiko, Luke, Connie, and Kelly). However, in the process, some of these other characters, who were killed on Sunday’s episode, like Tara, have kind of fallen by the wayside.

Twd 915 fairGene Page/AMCThat’s A LOT of main characters. And none of them died.

Tara’s big thing this season was holding a grudge against Michonne for protecting the life of her unborn child from feral children and running the Hilltop while Jesus died and Maggie went somewhere unannounced. Katelyn Nacon, who plays Enid, told INSIDER her character’s storyline kind of just fell into the background on the back half of season nine as she was shoehorned into another relationship.


Read more: ‘The Walking Dead’s’ Katelyn Nacon was ‘bummed out’ her character was pushed into another love interest role

In the end, when the big deaths were revealed, none of them felt truly impactful except for maybe Enid, who I truly thought was the most shocking since her character has lived by the motto “Just Survive Somehow.” She has never come across as a character who is going to get easily lured away or kidnapped. It seemed more likely her new beau, Alden (Callan McAuliffe), or at the very least, someone from Magna’s group was going to get the pike.

You can argue that the show handled misdirects really well and that they just didn’t want to do what people were expecting from the comics. The episode certainly plants some seeds. While Alpha’s at the fair she lays her eyes on Eugene and Rosita. She even has an ominous conversation with Ezekiel. You were practically expecting to see one, if not all of them on pikes by the episode’s end.

Twd 915 samantha morton ezekiel alphaJackson Lee Davis/AMCHow worried for Ezekiel were you during this scene?

Up until the big reveal at the episode’s end, I was starting to get a bit nervous. Was the “Walking Dead” going to kill off King Ezekiel and Rosita, a pregnant woman? Maybe AMC was going to change things up and kill off Eugene or Father Gabriel. Gabriel’s comic death from the Whisperer war has been hinted at twice on the show already. And then they weren’t. And that’s fine. But if you’re not going to have the comic deaths on the show then add in a few more big characters who have been getting a lot of screen time. That’s who people are going to get really upset over.

INSIDER recently conducted a poll asking 788 self-proclaimed “Walking Dead” fans which characters they would be devastated to see killed off the show. No fans voted they would be most upset if Alpha, Earl, Tammy Rose, Cyndie, or Yumiko were killed off the series. Henry, Tara, and Tammy Rose were voted among the top characters fans wanted to see die the most in our poll.

I cried more for Carol’s reaction to learning her son was killed than I did for any one individual person on those pikes. I don’t think that’s the reaction AMC and the “Walking Dead” crew probably wants fans to have.

Who should have been killed: One of the A-listers.

King ezekielGene Page/AMCWill ‘The Walking Dead’ regret not killing off Khary Payton’s character if he winds up leaving next season?

It seemed like the show wanted to shake up what happens in the comics, something it’s done in the past, but if AMC was trying to make a big “Game of Thrones” statement, it should have killed off a lead or a fan favourite. Maybe both. King Ezekiel would have been the obvious choice, not only because this is his big comic death, but also because there have been reports that next season may be his last.

Danai Gurira is also supposed to leave the show next season,as reported by INSIDER.

The problem with killing off one of the show’s big stars: “The Walking Dead” is running out of them

Daryl michonne rick walking dead season 901Jackson Lee Davis/AMCAndrew Lincoln (right) left the show this season and Danai Gurira is set to leave next season.

The main reason we probably didn’t see one of the main characters go? They’re becoming far and few. AMC probably knows viewers keep tuning in for Daryl, Carol, Michonne, Negan, and Ezekiel before any of the other characters. The show has already been dipping in the ratings. Yes, the show has had some better ratings week to week recently, thanks to some very strong episodes, including “Scars,” but the trend season over season has been downward.

Maybe if Maggie, Heath, Jesus, and more didn’t leave the show for other opportunities, they would have been pretty good pike candidates. (Not that I would have wanted to see any of these characters piked.)

Also, where was Aaron (Ross Marquand)? He has barely appeared on this season and easily would have made for a shocking pike death. Father Gabriel could have been another viable candidate. Do we really need all three men who are in love with Rosita still alive to help her raise her child?

Even the actors were surprised the deaths weren’t larger.

Rosita ezekiel twdGene Page/AMC, composite by Kirsten Acuna/INSIDERKatelyn Nacon told INSIDER Christian Serratos and Khary Payton thought they may be getting killed off the show.

During a phone interview Friday, Katelyn Nacon told INSIDER she thought there were going to be more big actors audiences were familiar with on the pikes.

“Honestly, I was surprised that it wasn’t anymore series regulars other than me and Alanna [Masterson],” Katelyn Nacon told INSIDER of her reaction to learning of the characters killed on Sunday’s episode.

“When we first discussed it in the beginning of the season, it had sounded like there was going to be a lot of big people with their heads on pikes, but I was honestly kind of surprised that it was just me and her out of all the series regulars. I thought there was going to be more,” said Nacon.

And it wasn’t just Nacon who was surprised. The actress, who has played Enid on the show since season five told INSIDER Khary Payton, who plays Ezekiel, and Christian Serratos, who plays Rosita, thought they were also going to receive their comic deaths.

“Even Khary [Payton] and Christian [Serratos], they thought that it was going to be them up until the episode came out for all of us to read,” said Nacon. “They kind of really went the entire year, too, just wondering whether they were going to die or not until they actually got the episode and saw it wasn’t them.”

What did you think of Sunday’s big reveal? Were you shocked by the amount of characters killed off and upset or did you feel underwhelmed and let down by the iconic comic moment come to life?

You can follow along with our “Walking Dead” coverage here.

Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Father Gabriel outlived his comic death. It has been hinted at twice on the show.

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