My Walking Dead recap: Twists from Sunday leave me worried for the show's characters of color
Much as I have become a dedicated fanboy of AMC's zombie-riffic action thriller The Walking Dead, last night's episode made me want to call a serious audible -- centered on some spoiler-filled feelings about two major plot twists delivered last night.
(In other words, if you didn't see the episode, go watch it and then come back here)
My ire comes courtesy of the decision to kill off the show's most negligible supporting character, Theodore Douglas - known to fans as T-Dog.
I only know his full name because I looked it up on the Walking Dead wiki; producers have done so little with this character, played by Atlanta native IronE Singleton, that even regular viewers of the show have no idea of his history or how he came to side with the hardy band of human survivors led by Andrew Lincoln's stalwart southern sheriff Rick Grimes.
Too often, T-Dog was a plot device rather than a person. Need someone to prove Merle Dixon is a murderous, dangrous racist? Have him beat down linebacker-sized black guy T-Dog. Need someone to get injured and endanger the survivors by lapsing into delirium? T-Dog's your man.
Want somebody to be really good at dragging together zombie corpses and burning them after all the eye-catching action is done? Where's that T-Dog guy?
Appearing on the live analysis show Talking Dead last night, Singleton was just grateful fans spoke up for his character, thanking producers for letting the guy have a noble death -- sacrificing himself by tackling a pack of zombies to try saving the second most-useless character on the show, long-suffering formner mom and ex-abused wife, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride).
At times it is a relief when characters such as T-Dog and Carol shuffle off the series. Clearly, producers never quite figured out what to do with either of them -- giving T-Dog about as little to do as any regular castmember on the show, and throwing Carol at pathologically closed-down survivalist Darryl Dixon, in an attempted love connection so awkward, the actors seemed to be apologizing for it in their performances.
T-Dog was a longtime thorn for me and my black nerd friends who watch the show. As the only black character on the show for quite a while -- which was odd, considering the group was wandering around Atlanta, Ga., a town known for its diverse collection of black folks -- T-Dog's invisibility was a shorthand for our own, which we dissected in long email chats and fanboy phone calls to each other. (When T-Dog was finally killed, one of my teenage daughters turned to me and said, "I'm surprised the black guy lasted this long.")
In truth, Walking Dead's producers may have traded one empty character of color for two others with more promise. Danai Gurira's Michonne appears headed for a major showdown with The Governor, ruler of the buttoned down human outpost Woodbury; though her character's tight-lipped attitude has prevented viewers from learning as much about the character as readers of the graphic novels knew by now.
(Producers have done a great job evolving Korean American character Glenn, played by Steven Yeun, from a borderline stereotypical gofer supporting character into a real three-dimensional guy.)
And the decision by African American convict Oscar (Vincent Ward) to shoot his former cellmate Andrew, saving Grimes' life in the process, likely means he'll earn his way into the survivors' group as a new member. Already, from the speech he gave when Grimes nearly killed him last week, we've learned more about his life than we knew about T-Dog.
Which brings us to the second big twist -- one which didn't surprise readers of the graphic novel -- the death of Lori Grimes during childbirth.
This removes another character whose actions often didn't make much sense.
One minute she's urging her husband to kill the best friend she slept with, the next minute she's leading that best friend to believe she still has feelings for him, then she gets upset with her husband after he kills the best friend in self-defense -- all the while constantly losing track of her 12-year-old son during a zombie apocalypse.
A newborn baby, a dead wife and son who killed her. Looks like Grimes has his hands full; and producers finally have a cast filled with the kind of possiblities they've been angling towards since the show's start.