Read on at your own risk! There are major spoilers ahead for the midseason premiere of Season 6 of The Walking Dead.

It’s a general rule that no character is ever 100% safe from being killed off on The Walking Dead, and so getting attached to any one in particular is heartbreak waiting to happen. Surprisingly, some of the most graphic deaths in the six seasons so far have been those of children. According to executive producer Greg Nicotero, there’s a very good reason why The Walking Dead doesn’t seem to care all that much about killing off kids.
When we’re crafting the stories, it’s more about characters vs. how old they are. The comic doesn’t pull any punches, and one of the things that’s important for us is that we honor that spirit by continuing to do things that are unexpected.

Greg Nicotero’s explanation to The Hollywood Reporter makes a lot of sense as far as why kids seem to bite the dust about as often as zombies bite nameless extras. Zombies aren’t exactly particular about who it is they chomp, so the show really does need to be equal opportunity about who lives and who dies.

Nicotero happened to direct the midseason premiere, so it’s no surprise that he’d be asked to explain the show’s policy about killing kids. One child was eaten by zombies when he had a mid-horde meltdown, and another child was skewered with a katana when he aimed a gun at Rick. Carl survived the encounter, but not without losing an eye to a stray shot. The only named kids to survive the episode unscathed were Enid and baby Judith.

Of course, the midseason premiere was not the first bloodbath for the youngsters of The Walking Dead. The show has come a long way since the zombified Sophia shambling out of a barn was the biggest shocker of the series. In fact, some of the most creative kills of the series have been to kids. Who can forget the zombie oozing up from the mud to kill Meghan or Lizzie murdering Mika?

Despite Nicotero’s explanation about sticking with spirit of the source material, The Walking Dead has had a history of picking and choosing which gruesome elements of the comics to adapt for television with regard to kids. In the comics, Sophia survived long after her television counterpart died, and baby Judith died in Lori’s arms not too longer after her birth. The show toying with the book canon has allowed even readers to be surprised from time to time, even when an episode plays out a scenario nearly identical to one from the comics.

All in all, it’s not always easy to watch kids die on The Walking Dead, but natural selection at work is one of the most realistic aspects of the show. Sam and Ron certainly weren’t the fittest to survive in the world of the zombie apocalypse, but I’m glad that we’ll get to see Carl adapt and live on at least a little bit longer on The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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