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In the past six seasons, The Walking Dead has delivered some emotionally jarring shocks and jaw-dropping moments, and perhaps the most unsettling remains Lizzie's death, a scene that is at the same time the show's most controversial and one of its most quotable. Killing off a child, even one guilty of murdering her own sister, is really touchy territory, and according to the episode's director Mike Satrazemis, he had to put a rule in place to stop the moment from becoming even more heartbreaking. Here's how he put it.
We got to this moment, and I [realized I didn't want to] shoot Lizzie falling down. It was crazy. Brighton [Sharbino] was like, 'Look, I want to die. I'm okay with it. I'm totally fine.' I was like, 'That's cool, but I don't even want to see you drop to the ground. I'm not really okay with it. I tried one shot [where you see her fall], but I only did it one time, and it was through [the point of view of] Tyreese, where they're just two little dots in the distance. That was the only time I ever had her fall over. It was one take, and it was just so heartbreaking.
The episode in question was "Grove," one that still serves as an important piece of Carol's tragic character development, giving her a chance to step up and do the right thing without a need for glory or recognition, the same as it went in the prison when she killed off the infected survivors. Still, the scene involves a young child getting shot in the back of the head, so no amount of narrative defense will numb that hard-edged truth, and we apparently have director Mike Satrazemis to thank for keeping that scene from being 10 times more depressing by refusing to show actress Brighton Sharbino's body falling to the ground. Strange to think of that as such a laudable decision, but it definitely applicable.
Lizzie was a little weirdo, but most kids would be in such trying times without much of a point of reference for normalcy, and she definitely wasn't the kind of character whose death could be easily relished by viewers. (See: Pete.) So, much admiration and back-patting goes to Satrazemis for conceiving and going through with the distanced P.O.V. set-up, but I know the world at large is happier to have not seen Lizzie's fatal tumble.
It turns out the scene probably couldn't have gotten too intense anyway, since TV standards are pretty high when it comes to children on screen. Here's how Mike Satrazemis explained to EW (for their Ultimate Guide to The Walking Dead release) the process that went into showing Mika's dead body after Lizzie stabbed her.
I had to get on the phone for an hour with standards and practices and go through what they thought could be aired. Even when you see Mika on the ground, that's not actually really the actress on the ground. That's a double, so at least I didn't have to dump blood on Kyla [Kenedy] while she was pretending to play dead. It was just another girl who was like, 'Oh yeah, cool,' and then lay down, and we put blood on her. But as far as what could air and what could not, I was told absolutely no way would we ever be able to see her wound in the same shot.
It's tough being a kid and a director in the post-apocalypse, but nobody's complaining that there aren't more child wounds seen on TV. The Walking Dead will kick off Season 7 with a murder (or several) of its own on Sunday, October 23, at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see what else is on the way, check out our fall TV schedule.