Some people died in the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead.
**Spoilers ahead, but the episode kinda sucked so whatever**
One of those people was a small person. A child. This child was not, in fact, the first annoying kid The Walking Dead has brutally offed. This episode provided somewhat of an emotional release for viewers who’ve been feeling anxious about the walker herd that threatened Alexandria for much of the season’s first half and then continued to roam the area after Rick’s failed plan to extinguish them. Before they all perished in a fire lake in one of the show’s worst melodramatic sequences, and we witnessed the deaths of two characters: the emotionally fragile Sam and his mom Jessie.
Recall that at the end of the midseason finale, Sam (to our delight) screamed out “mom” while the gang was trying to escape a throng of walkers; it seemed like he was angling to get everyone eaten.
Picking up where that finale left off, Sam is still unable to contain his emotions and false bravery, which led to his eventual death in this episode. The frustration of caring for a child (and thus the contextualized brutality against kids), it’s been proven, is amplified in a scenario where kids are guaranteed far less protection or promise of life—even the warrior Carl, who gets his eye shot out amidst the attempted breakout. The execution of Sam’s and Jessie’s death was ultimately unsatisfying (I also found the episode’s opening scene showdown nauseating). But Sam had to go.
The show’s producers agree there’s no point in sugarcoating a kid’s vulnerability and it’s something the show has never been cautious about, as executive producer Greg Nicotero told The Hollywood Reporter:
“When we’re crafting the stories, it’s more about characters vs. how old they are. The comic doesn’t pull any punches, and one of the things that’s important for us is that we honor that spirit by continuing to do things that are unexpected. With Sam, the minute he walks out of the house in midseason finale you wonder if this kid will make it. He’s trying to convince Jessie that he can do it and her cardinal mistake is she plays into her weakness for him. There’s a moment when he could have gone with Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) back to the church, but the minute he says, ‘No mom, I can do this,’ he seals his own fate.”
Robert Kirkman adds:
“Carl losing his eye, and what that does for Rick and how that changes things for Carl — that’s a big part of the series. As shocking and as startling as it was in the comic, seeing the motion of it and the way we were able to pull that off makes it even more startling of a moment. These are the things that make our viewers invested in the show. The fact that anything can happen and the fact that these startling things do happen to these characters we love.”
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Image via AMC