This post contains spoilers from The Walking Dead Season 8, episode 7, “Time for After.”
Comic fans got one hell of an unnecessary scare on the latest episode of The Walking Dead.
It really looked like fan favorite Daryl Dixon was about to find himself in a situation horrifyingly reminiscent of an infamous character death in the book.
In Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels, just like in the show, a group of people head to the Sanctuary to attack Negan and his Saviors once it’s surrounded by walkers. A character named Holly drives a truck into the Saviors’ base and is injured in the process.
Afterwards, Holly is taken prisoner and suffers almost the same fate as Sasha did in the Season 7 finale — she is killed and taken back to Alexandria where she’s revealed as a walker.
So as Daryl had an emotional conversation with Michonne about how the risk of dying to ensure the defeat of the Saviors was worth it for him, some alarms surely started going off in the minds of comic fans. And as he began to roll the truck into the Sanctuary, those warnings probably got louder.
That is, until he dropped a cinder block on the gas pedal and did a barrel roll out of the moving vehicle.
Because of course this show isn’t going to kill Daryl freaking Dixon. We should all feel silly for even thinking it’s a possibility.
As much as the producers like to say that no one is safe, we know that isn’t true. The show doesn’t have the guts to make a move like that. Not anymore.
Maybe they once did. Maybe in the days of Shane and Dale and Sophia, we weren’t sure how far The Walking Dead was willing to go, but it hasn’t been that way for years. Even killing Glenn wasn’t nearly as bold as they thought it was, since so many fans had read that series of events in issue 100 of the comic. (Yes, the double-kill was a surprise, but the characters we lost really weren’t. The comic version of Abraham died before Negan even showed up.)
Back in the day, those deaths were — for the most part — earned. Even if they killed your favorite character, you’d come back and watch next week’s episode because you simply needed to know what would happen next. Because the show was good.
This season, however, is not good.
Despite the fact that it’s based on an excellent comic storyline, the episodes have been lackluster and meandering. Sticking a major character death in the middle of all the stop-and-go, time-jumping nonsense would be so jarring that people would inevitably rage-quit the show.
If they killed Michonne or Maggie or Rick in the next episode, it would be inexcusable. Because they haven’t earned the right to do that with the quality of the story or laid the emotional groundwork in between all the location-hopping. But Daryl? That’d be egregious.
Norman Reedus’ character is so beloved, many fans own “If Daryl dies, we riot” t-shirts. If showrunners were to kill him, they’d have to have a damn good reason for people to stick around afterwards. And that just doesn’t exist right now.
Fans are sick of the death fake-outs in general. (Looking at you, moment when Glenn hid under the dumpster and definitely didn’t die even though we mourned him for like three weeks.) And even if many fans didn’t pick up on the comics reference at play in this episode, it’s not the only time Daryl has been in “peril.”
So let’s all stop kidding ourselves. The Walking Dead showrunners don’t have solid ground to kill Daryl Dixon, and they should quit pretending they do. Otherwise they may have a whole different kind of riot on their hands — one in the form of crumbling ratings.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.