Comic VS. Show: The Walking Dead
In order to realize the author's vision, this article contains spoilers.
You have been warned.
Creative license can be as much a freedom as it can be a shackle. When working with a piece of existing media, deviating from the source material can be praised or condemned by fans, and presents a slew of complications. The reasons for such changes get a little complicated, and one of the shows with its own batch of complicated choices would be AMC’s The Walking Dead. Few shows have caused such outrage or praise when it came to the directors changing the flow of a show by sparing one character, or by letting another fall to the hungry jaws of a zombie mob. To show these changes, below I’ll be listing out the various differences that changed the overall story arc that occured from the TV show that differed from the comics. I chose the following due to the impact they have on the seasons that follow them, in some cases the fates of certain characters actually belonging to others, and in no particular order.
Watching Abraham bite the dust gripped audiences by the bravery Michael Cudlitz’s character portrayed when big bad Negan took him out in bloody fashion. As the first victim of infamous bat Lucille at Negan’s hands, Abraham died ready, willing, and believing his death would keep his friends safe. As a willing sacrifice to Negan to restore order, fans mourned the loss of our gun toting badass, but were disappointed they had to say goodbye so soon. His death originally came at the hands of Dwight, wherein Issue #98 he was shot in the back of the head with an arrow. Many may remember this death role being filled in by Denise, the surgeon of Alexandria since Season Six.
Denise takes the fatal blow in the show that belonged to Abraham in the comics. While on a supply run with Daryl and Rosita, and wanting to show that she is capable of holding her own Denise and the scouting group are ambushed by Dwight and a few Saviors. Now here’s where the creative license the directors use get a little hard to follow, as character deaths branch off in odd directions from their comic book counterparts. To start, the Denise of the comics dies from being bitten by Holly in issue #121. The reason we should be interested is that is Holly dies in a very familiar way to another character in the comics. In issue #121, Holly is released to Rick outside the walls of Alexandria by Negan, which is fairly familiar to the scene between Rick and Negan at the end of Season 7. Instead of a body in a coffin, Negan has Holly’s head covered with a burlap sack, then gives her to Denise to be taken back inside Alexandria, thereby breaching the walls with an undead Rick believes to be his living love interest. More importantly, instead of Holly being released back to Rick, it is Sasha who is the undead that throws the scene into chaos.
In summary of this cray death mixup, Denise takes Abraham’s death, Abraham shares in Glenn’s death, while Denise was supposed to be killed by Holly, and Sasha took Holly’s death. Yeah, it’s every bit as confusing for the average fan as it is for this writer.
Actress Sonequa Martin-Green had announced in March of 2017 that her end on Walking Dead was soon approaching, and fans saw the death coming ever since Sasha raided the Saviors main compound to kill Negan. She is captured, and the intent of Negan to use her as leverage against her friends is clear. To avoid this fate, she begs Eugene for a way out; to die before Negan can use her against her friends at Alexandria. Eugene mournfully agrees to help her, providing her a pill that will end her life. Sasha takes the sleeping pill and falls into a fatal sleep inside the coffin. Thus Sasha effectively ended her life and started her change into a walker, igniting the spark of war for any holdouts in Alexandria, and turning herself into the ultimate Trojan horse against Negan. It seem to be a habit for the people closest to Rick to become weapons against Negan, even at the cost of their lives.
As an example of good still prevalent in the world, Carl spent his last days doing what his father and Negan would always envy and admire; helping people to survive. Carl went out one night to rescue new Walking Dead character Siddiq, and amid the grenade raid by Negan and the ensuing chaos, Carl is bit. In one of the more gut punching moments on the show, the young kid we got to see grow up embraces his death with grace and dignity, not showing any regret or anger to anyone. This could be the hardest turn from the source material, since we know Carl is currently alive and well with his father in Alexandria in the comics.
Daryl is a bit of a mystery at this point. Played by fan favorite Norman Reedus, the character has been around since the first season of the show, and has become as much of a stable of the series as Rick Grimes. This could be the longest running divergency from the comics, since Daryl remains alive to this day with no signs of stopping. Fans may have had a hand in keeping the TV only character going; the popular phrase “If Daryl Dies, We Riot” was shouted by eager supporters of Reedus’s character in protest of any situation where the character’s life was in danger. Until Season 9 premieres later this fall, we can only assume Daryl is going to keep kicking until the shows end (whenever that may be).
The first season dropped a few bombshells on us, such as Lori having an affair with Shane or the first use of zombie guts as camouflage to walk amongst the walkers. But the entirety of the CDC episodes did not happen in the comics. In these episodes Rick discovers from a dying Dr. Edwin Jenner (played by Noah Emmerich) that all of humanity is now carrying the walker virus and in any death, including natural causes, a corpse will reanimate and crave the flesh of the living. But savvy comic fans will know that this did not happen in the comics, but was included into the show in order to explain the virus in more detail, and provide a more dower tone for the world of walkers.
At long last the reckoning between Dwight and Daryl takes place in the season finale. Although as stated above, this confrontation is never meant to take place since Daryl does not exist in the comics, but such as it stands, we must abide the change in plot to accommodate the fan favorite crossbow wielding biker. Dwight is very humbled and ready to accept any punishment that Daryl sees fitting, but instead of dealing a death blow, Dwight throws him a set of keys and tells him to leave, never to return. This will disappoint fans of the comics since we know Dwight actually sticks around, becoming a reliable ally of Rick and the rest of the known communities, even asked by Rick to lead the remaining Saviors in Negan’s place. The possibility remains that Dwight will pull a Morgan and remain in the WD universe, simply off on his own to find Sherry and reconcile his past.
In the final standoff between the remaining saviors and the resilient communities rallied against Negan, Eugene reveals that his loyalties truly lie with Rick. The shootout on a grassy hill turns from expected bloodbath to violent misfire; it turns out Eugene had been making all the bullets in the Saviors weapons as Negan asked him to. Eugene also is known for making bullets for the allied communities during the All Out War arc in the comics. What made all the difference was that Eugene rigged all the bullets he had been making for Negan to misfire, destroying the Saviors firearms and rendering them injured and unarmed as well. This scene was absent in the comics, but a creative fix all for the lack of slugfest between Rick and Negan that brings an end to the war.
This is a minor issue, but it does bear some mention. In the latter part of All Out War, Rick was shot in the leg by Dwight with an arrow during one of the last fights with the Saviors and Hilltop, which was meant to cement Dwight’s loyalty or Rick (he shot Rick with a clean arrow, while the rest of the Saviors were using zombie gut-covered weapons as a form of biological warfare). This never took place in the show, instead a nighttime battle with Rick helping to fend off Saviors from overrunning Hilltop. There was also the knock down brawl between Rick and Negan under the tree, which also takes place on Hilltop in the comics, where Negan (post throat slash) breaks Rick’s leg before losing too much blood to continue the fight. In a rare show of mercy against Negan, Rick chooses to have Negan saved over his leg.
Did we miss any major changes between comic and show? Let us know @verticalslice_ on Twitter.