After all the dark and sordid moments that have gone down on The Walking Dead over the course of its first ten seasons, nothing the show does at this point should really shock me in terms of its depravity. However, one former recurring Walking Dead actor recently threw cold water on my assumptions by revealing the show's nutso original plans for killing off Emily Kinney's Beth Greene.
Walking Dead vet Lew Temple, who played the short-lived fan-favorite Axel, dropped by the Talk Suffer to Me podcast to talk about the show and his sports talents. It was there where he revealed the Walking Dead's showrunner and producers at the time were aiming to not only give Axel a bigger storyline, but they were going to kill off Beth two seasons earlier than the character actually got murdered. Here's how Temple put it:
There were some episodes that were written where I do take Beth out into the woods and slaughter her. And so we didn't get to any of those. That was why I kept buttoned up, he was gonna come undone and be totally Henry Rollins tattooed. The whole thing about being a drug addict was all a facade, the thing about the squirt gun and pistol is all bullshit.
For those who need a quick refresher, Axel was part of the prison crew in Season 3. He wasn't a drug dealer as he'd told the others, but had actually been arrested for armed robbery after holding up a store using a water pistol. But it sounds like the writers had script-tested several situations where Axel would prove himself to be something much more sinister than a gun-fearing softie.
How awesome would it have been to see Axel reveal his Max Cady-esque tats just before going all movie monster on someone. To be sure, it would have been awful for The Walking Dead to kill off Beth before Emily Kinney had really hit her development stride in Seasons 4 and 5. But the way she did get taken out of the story at the hospital was pretty blah, and it received a sizable backlash from viewers, so getting slaughtered by a secret serial killer might have been a more memorable way to bow out.
During the podcast interview, Lew Temple also said that the writers had added moments where Axel was meant to abuse Carol in that same storyline stretch, which would have definitely riled the fanbase up against the actor's favor. But alas, none of it came to be, with Axel unfortunately getting taken out during an attack by The Governor. Here's Temple recalling that switcheroo.
I mean, just these really dark things that the writers were talking about. And then all of a sudden, it's like, 'Oh, we painted ourselves in the corner, the Governor is showing up and he's gotta draw blood or he'll be impotent. He's gotta draw first blood. And it's looking like you're gonna get the short straw.'
To Lew Temple's credit, his final scene with Carol is his best, and to see him get shot in the head just as he's in the midst of a warm conversation was as heartbreaking a death as it got for supporting characters. Now, I still think it would have been more interesting and nuanced had that moment happened without anyone realizing that Axel was actually a serial killer. Especially if someone would have discovered Beth's body (or that of another victim) later, which would set about a wave of fear and panic that Axel couldn't even relish.
The Walking Dead wasn't just pulling that serial killer plot line out of the air, of course. It sounds very much like the writers were going to give Axel some of the story beats of Thomas Richards, who was also part of the prison crew in the source material. Thomas was a mostly quite individual whose deadly, decapitation-friendly motivations were soon revealed. Though he wasn't a major character, Thomas was one of the first times that Rick's group encountered an all-too-human threat, although there were many more of those to come, both in the comic and on the TV show.
Though The Walking Dead wrapped up Season 10 earlier this year, the show has yet to deliver its official season finale, which was in the midst of being finalized when production had to shut down. In the meantime, you can stream the first nine seasons on Netflix.