Spoilers for The Walking Dead below, obviously.
Premieres are big episodes for most TV shows, and they tend to be particularly game-changing on AMC’s The Walking Dead. The midseason premiere of Season 6 was something of a bloodbath as three characters were killed in immediate succession. The entire Anderson clan biting the dust and taking Carl’s eye with them was as big a “Holy crap!” moment as The Walking Dead has ever delivered. As it happens, however, star Andrew Lincoln had a very different reaction to the family's rapid exit.
When I read the script, I just laughed. Sam gets killed, Jessie gets bit, Ron takes a shot at me and ends up shooting my son’s eye out and then Michonne stabs him. Are you kidding me?! It was bananas! We could have done that scene over four episodes! It was an awful day.
It may have been an awful day for Andrew Lincoln and the cast, but it made for an awesome night to viewers. Lincoln’s mirthful reaction to the most memorable scene the midseason premiere, which he shared in an interview with AMC, does make a lot of sense. If any moment called for an extreme reaction, it would be the Andersons all being sent off to that great suburban sanctuary in the sky in one fell swoop. Some of us yelled, some of us gasped, and some of us wanted to rewind right away to see if what happened had really happened. Andrew Lincoln laughed.
In hindsight, the scene is funny in a sort of macabre way. The situation escalated awfully quickly. Sam had closed out the midseason finale chattering away in the middle of a zombie horde, so he was likely to die sooner rather than later in the second half of the season. Rick’s first post-Lori love interest dying and nearly taking Carl with her was something of a surprise, but it was Michonne skewering teenage Ron that really pushed the scene over the edge. Carl losing his eye might have felt like overkill if it hadn’t managed to bring the berserker out in Rick. From the moment that Sam started to freak out to the moment that Carl turned around with a chunk of his face blown off, I don’t think I breathed enough to laugh a la Andrew Lincoln.
Of course, if I had been a comic reader, I likely wouldn’t have been so shocked at the gruesome turn of events. According to comic canon, Jessie was marked for death from her first appearance, and Carl’s eye has just been waiting to be shot out. The Walking Dead sticking with the source material in this case was pretty brave, and the show may be all the more exciting for it moving forward.
Besides, was anybody aside from Rick even particularly attached to any of the Andersons? With Rick and Daryl getting ready to head out on an adventure together, Carl needing to learn to live with only one eye, and the villain Negan waiting in the wings to come wreak havoc on our merry band of survivors, the lukewarm romance between Rick and Jessie was probably just going to drag the plot down. Even Andrew Lincoln might not have been able to laugh in that case.
The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.