The following article contains spoilers for seasons 1-5 of The Walking Dead. If you haven’t watched these then you likely won’t be inclined to read this post, and this disclaimer is little more than an annoyance. If you are a fan of Walking Dead and have not caught up to the present then do not continue reading this article. Instead, open your (or your friend’s) Netflix account and watch the the rest of what you haven’t seen. Thank you.
We are two episodes in to season six of The Walking Dead. The first two episodes have been typical of the series, with a slow-ish start but an obvious build-up to something bigger. Since season one, this has been the formula. With a few exceptions it has worked pretty well, and I see no reason why this season won’t continue to build up to some big confrontation by the mid-season break which will leave us thinking the group is doomed, only for them to overcome their trials during the second half of the season and be left at the end with the next dire crisis. If you’re a TWD fan you likely aren’t even so much concerned about the over-arching story. This is a show with no discernible ending or resolution that could produce a satisfying conclusion. This show is about the characters and fans’ attachments to those characters. Like any popular show, TWD has been able to develop characters so that fans either love them or hate them. This type of attachment drives ratings and conversation, both of which TWD has dominated for the better part of six years.
As season six approached I began thinking more about the end game for this show and that led me to reminisce about where it started in season one. I looked back to season one and realized something interesting, the remaining season one cast has made it two full consecutive seasons without a death. Since Andrea’s death at the end of season three, the remaining season one group has remain unscathed. The survivors include: Rick, Carl, Morgan, Carol, Glenn, and Daryl. There have been several intriguing deaths in the last couple of years, but the lack of big name deaths caused me to wonder if we might see one of these five die this season. In seasons two and three there were a lot of significant season one character deaths, but after that purge the originals have been safe. There are plenty of other characters who have developed fan followings which would certainly cause a ripple if they died. Maggie, Abraham, Michonne, are among those who would be noticeably absent if they “bit” the dust. The powers that be may very well preserve their upper echelon heroes so they can die another day. The more I think about it and the more I examine the various arcs of the characters, I believe that at least one will go this season. Here are the death odds for the remaining original cast members:
Carl Grimes 500-1
Carl can be very annoying, especially when he wears that stupid hat. He was involved in the deaths of my two favorite characters from the show, Dale and Shane, and he has all the obnoxious tendencies of a teenager now. That said, in a show where children are clearly not off limits, Carl is off limits. First and foremost, if he dies then Rick dies too. If there is a TWD gambling site where you can gamble on who will die, then you parlay the heck out of Rick and Carl if you feel like that’s your play. The Rick connection makes Carl the safest bet. Without Carl, Rick would be lost and the show isn’t ready to lose Rick just yet. Which leads me to the next odds.
Rick Grimes 499-1
Throughout the series Rick has repeatedly lost, found, and remade himself. His character arc looks like a bored tenth grader with a compass in geometry class. Do kids still use compasses in geometry class? Is there still a geometry class? I digress. What makes Rick’s odds slightly better to die than Carl is that Carl can survive without Rick. Carl already lost his mom and Rick has been so close to the brink of insanity that Carl has effectively lost him at times too. What protects Rick though is that he is still the ultimate leader and face of the show. Daryl is the most popular, but Rick is still the glue. If and when his time comes to leave the show it will be because the show is heading into a different direction, and there’s been no indication to that happening as of yet.
Glenn Rhee 250-1
Back in August I had the opportunity to speak with Ming Chen (Comic Book Men) at FandomFest in Louisville. We had a lengthy spoiler-filled conversation about TWD and the translation from comic book to show. Glenn’s arc was one we discussed as having been a fairly true representation from page to screen. I got nothing from him when I asked if he knew of any big surprises coming this season, he may not even know himself, but he was hopeful that Glenn would make it through the season. Glenn also has a strong attachment to Maggie which provides him a layer of protection as well. Those considerations cause me to put him as the safest behind Rick and Carl; however, all of that changes if/when Lucille makes her tv debut.
Daryl Dixon 100-1
Daryl would be the dark horse to bet on. Daryl is arguably (though if you are inclined to argue it, you’re wrong) the most popular character on the show. Next to Carol his story arc has been the most fully developed in terms of where he started to where he is. Daryl started out as the peon brother to Merle who was full of hate and self-loathing. Throughout the series he has become a leader of the series and his touching relationships with Beth and Carol have shown that he has a sensitive side counter to his rough exterior. This final scene between Daryl and Merle was one of the saddest from the series. The writers continue to keep Daryl relevant but he has more or less stopped developing. In Alexandria he will continue to be the semi-lone wolf who does the tough jobs for the group, but the legend of Daryl has grown beyond the reality of Daryl. It may be time to cement his legacy in a glorious sacrifice which results in his death and create huge shockwaves in TWD universe.
Morgan Jones 40-1
I loved season one of TWD. Although Morgan was only a small part of the first season, he was a big enough part that fans have been clamoring for his return and reunion with Rick since then. To have them finally back together has been good. Like many things in life though, the reality hasn’t been as great as the fantasy. Part of my desire to see Rick and Morgan reunited was because I thought it would reestablish some of that season one magic and stabilize Rick a bit. The fact of the matter is that both characters are drastically different now than they were then, and I tip my hat to the writers for creating the unease and awkwardness that exists between Rick and Morgan. Having said that, the awkwardness has already begun to thaw a bit and the two are becoming friends again. What makes Morgan vulnerable though is that he doesn’t have the same established roots as the rest and his presence hasn’t caused the change I thought it would. If Morgan continues to exist more on the periphery then the more likely he is to end up on the chopping block.
Carol Peletier 10-1
No character has come farther over the course of the series than Carol. In season one she was timid and meek. She seemed very likely to die at some point in the first season because she could not take care of herself. Throughout the series her husband and daughter died, she has murdered people, and she has killed a kid. She has settled back in to a faux version of her season one self while in Alexandria and seems on the cusp of losing it. Like Daryl, her arc has probably exhausted itself to this point and the only thing left for her will be to do something which will get her killed. She has a fan following but nothing like that of Rick, Glenn, or Daryl. I’d even go so far as to say that fans as a whole would be more upset at a Morgan death than a Carol one. The only real protection she has is her relationship with Daryl, but even they have become somewhat more distant since settling in Alexandria. For a show that seems to pride itself on not protecting its characters, if one of the originals is going to go, Carol seems to be the choice.
So who do you think is the most vulnerable season one cast member? Sound off in the comments below.