Warning: spoilers aplenty for the Season 6 premiere of The Walking Dead ahead.
One of the most highly anticipated shows returning this fall was undoubtedly AMC’s The Walking Dead. The mothership series hadn’t ended on the biggest cliffhanger that the show had ever seen in its five seasons, but Morgan’s appearance in Alexandria in time to see Rick execute an abusive husband was a hell of a hook for the sixth. The Season 5 finale featured the deaths of a couple of named characters, but those who did die had practically been wearing red shirts of impending narrative doom from the beginning. The Season 6 premiere – entitled “First Time Again” - certainly had no problems taking someone out, as Alexandria unfriendly Carter was stabbed off toward that great poorly-fortified suburban neighborhood in the sky.
In an interview with TVLine, showrunner Scott Gimple had this to say about the decision to kill off Carter that surprised plenty of fans:
“That was [kind of] the point. Hopefully, it was nice to feel potential extinguished. We don’t want death to feel like something to tick off on a box, so, that way when he’s killed the audience feels some sort of loss, even if it’s just story loss. We [also] want the impact felt of what Rick is doing and what Morgan feels for what Rick did.”
Killing off Carter was a pretty good “Gotcha!” in the Season 6 premiere. Played by the recognizable Ethan Embry and featured prominently in the season trailer, Carter was given story points and even a moral stance that seemed designed to foil Rick for a decent chunk of the season. Even Rick’s prediction to Morgan that Carter would be dead sooner or later due to unpreparedness for the world of the zombie apocalypse felt more like foreshadowing for an upcoming episode or midseason finale than the end of the premiere.
While Carter probably did not endear himself to many fans who have stuck around for five seasons and become appropriately bloodthirsty, the character was compelling in that he did have some good points about the risks of Rick’s plan to lure a herd of Walkers away from Alexandria. Beneath the nerves and naivete, Carter was a guy to keep around in the zombie apocalypse.
Of course, the show allowing a zombie to gnaw on Carter’s face served a purpose to the story beyond giving Rick an excuse to stab him in the head. Michonne and Morgan showing up to the scene in time to see Rick put a clearly still-conscious Carter down posed an interesting question to the audience as well as the characters: how far can somebody go for the greater good before they are too far gone?
In any case, Rick’s assist in Carter’s death should allow for a juxtaposition between Morgan’s philosophy that all life is precious and Rick’s point of view that only the fittest among the Alexandrians can possibly survive the day that the zombie apocalypse shows up at their door.
The Walking Dead airs on Sunday nights on AMC.