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When The Walking Dead returns for Season 7, it will answer the question that everyone has had on their minds since Season 6 came to its brutal end: who did Negan kill? But many viewers and fans also have other inquiries bouncing around inside of their brains, and one very pertinent one involves the importance of death on The Walking Dead after six years of random tragedies big and small. Has the TV show reached the point where character deaths don't mean that much anymore?
First, we're going to take on the argument that death's impact on The Walking Dead has indeed dropped as time has passed, because of course it has. Even with more episodic installments per year than the comic book has issues, the TV show has a harder time of extracting the proper emotional reaction from its deaths. It's understandable, since illustrations are frozen in time and invite the imagination to fill in the blanks, and live-action TV usually fills in a lot of those blanks, often with some clunkiness involved.
The high volume of fatalities only increases the amount of blank-filling that gets done, which waters down how effective some of the more important ones are. If your favorite food is pizza, you're not going to enjoy it quite as much if you're eating pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Perhaps food analogies aren't advised here.) It makes complete sense that the unpredictability of a zombie outbreak necessitates more deaths than just those of super important characters, but perhaps The Walking Dead is guilty of being too faithful to the comic series in introducing such a large population of incidental characters.
It doesn't help things that The Walking Dead technically hasn't delivered a big jaw-droppingly powerful death in quite some time. I'd argue it's been since Beth's shocking demise back in Season 5's midseason finale, but I'd accept Tyreese's death, too, and that happened in the very next episode. It's not like there has been a dearth of killings, either, as we've since bid farewell to Noah, Reg, Pete, Deanna, Nicholas, Jessie, Sam and many more. And while it may not have affected non-comic readers much, Denise's death on the show was how Abraham died on the page, which cheapened an already unwarranted death.
Now to flip sides, and I easily admit it's not hard to argue that death's impact on The Walking Dead hasn't dropped at all as time as passed, because of course it hasn't. There is no specific point at which normal people get used to death happening, even if it's on a TV screen. Just because the show has filtered out a lot of tertiary characters from the comics, that doesn't mean longtime fans would be completely immune from feeling anything if one of the original survivors got snuffed. You can kill off a hundred Enids and Aidens and come nowhere near the impact that killing off Carol or Rick would create.
In fact, part of the reason why Negan's introduction was so ridiculously powerful in the comics - and perhaps on the TV show, as our future selves will be able to attest - was that we hadn't seen one of the earliest survivors die in quite a while. Having this new antagonist march his way into our familiar world and obliterate a beloved character was perhaps even more effective simply because the brain tricks itself into thinking it has been desensitized. And that's the best time for a baseball bat to come along and show that brain who's boss.
Though we know most of the main characters will make it through the Season 7 premiere physically unscathed, one or more of them are getting killed off, no question. If it's Rosita, an enjoyable but still second-tier survivor who first arrived in the back half of Season 4, that won't do much to counter The Walking Dead's effectiveness in the death department. But if it is indeed Glenn who joins the choir invisible, then we'll be saying goodbye to a character that we've known since the very second episode. And even though we had a trial run of that during his fatal fake-out - an incident that works as evidence against deaths remaining meaningful - losing Steven Yeun's Glenn forever would absolutely leave a mark on fans. What do you guys think?
The Walking Dead will return to show us just how important its Season 6 cliffhanger death is with a gamechanging Season 7 premiere on AMC on Sunday, October 23, at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see when all your other favorite shows are coming back to kill characters, check out our fall TV schedule.
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