[SERIOUS HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD! Seriously. Stop here if you haven’t watched the episode.]
I’m inspired by the Camus quote Gretchen used in her recent essay about Game of Thrones:
…I have little regard for art that aims to shock because it is unable to convince.
I put the readmore so early because I want to dive immediately into my reason for exhaustion. Once again, The Walking Dead has pointlessly killed a female character. Once again they gave a male character’s death to a female character. Once again, television has killed off a lesbian character shortly after a serious relationship is established between her and her girlfriend. This death has an added bonus of being a chubby lesbian, and we all know how rare positive fat characters on television are, especially when their weight isn’t used as a punchline.
I don’t even want to bother with an episode recap, but here’s a brief one:
Dr. Denise, Rosita, and Daryl leave Alexandria to find an apothecary Denise saw as she left DC back at the start of the apocalypse. Rosita and Daryl constantly tell Denise she’s not ready to go out, but she insists. They find the place. They collect a bunch of drugs. Apparently the place’s owner drowned her young son because he was being too loud and drawing walkers.
They take the railroad tracks back, even though earlier Daryl insisted he wasn’t “takin’ no tracks.” Denise risks life and limb to fetch a cooler from a walker-inhabited car, but she manages to kill the walker before it bites her. She then yells at Daryl and Rosita, telling them how strong they are, and how stupid it is to be afraid all the time. She says she should have told Tara she loved her, but she was too afraid.
Mid-tirade, an arrow flies from the woods and spears through Denise’s eye. She keeps talking a few moments before she falls to the ground.
It’s an ambush, too many Saviors for the group to fight. They’ve captured Eugene (I’m not getting into his storyline; I’m too angry) and threaten to kill all three of them if they don’t let the Saviors into Alexandria.
Anyway, our group gets out of the pickle. Eugene is shot, but he’s fine. Abraham and Sasha hook up, which. Gross. She can do so much better; I really hate Abraham. It looks like Carol might be leaving Alexandria, but WHO KNOWS! Daryl is upset because the guy who killed Denise is the guy he could have killed earlier in the season.
Oh good. Another lady dies for Daryl’s manpain! My favorite reason!
Denise’s death played out the same way Abraham’s did in the comics. So not only are we insulted with yet another lesbian character dying horribly, the show adds insult to injury by giving her a male character’s death, and then ten seconds later that same male character gets a new girlfriend.
I thought it was gonna be Tara, y’all. Hell, I guess it still might! I knew the show was going to do this. I hoped they wouldn’t! But I knew they would. Lexa’s death on The 100 (a show I don’t even watch) was so infuriating partly because it happens so often. Now, once again, The Walking Dead has played to this lowest common denominator BS and killed a lesbian. The group’s only doctor, they’ll say: that’s why they did it! To create a mini-crisis for the group!
How many eye roll images can I squeeze into this review? Let’s find out.
I can’t imagine Denise’s death will create the same outcry Lexa’s did, just because the fandoms are so different. TWD is largely a dudebro fandom, but for those of us who don’t fall into that particular demographic, this death is especially hard. Not only is Merritt Weaver a great actress, but the character herself mattered.
Yes, she was the group’s only doctor. She was also a character you don’t see that often: intelligent, but unsure of herself. Brave, but completely unaware of her own bravery. Kind, but not soft. Gay! Fat! Some serious anxiety issues! Not defined by either her sexuality or her weight! Hell, she even wore glasses.
Obviously this was filmed well before Lexa’s death episode, and by that point it was too late to go back and change it, but I do hope Scott Gimple and co. had a good, hard think about this decision after that particular backlash. I hope they understand just what it means to gay people watching this show to see someone who actually sort of reminds them of themselves…and then have to watch that character die the stupidest, most pointless, most meaningless death in the world.
According to this post by tumbler user commanderoswald, Dr. Denise is the eighth gay woman to die on tv in 2016. As she points out, citing figures from GLAAD’s 2015 “Where Are We on TV?”,
In 2015 there were only 35 fictional wlw characters on television and 80 days into 2016 they’ve killed 8 of them.
A list of all 8 can be found here. Wow. What a fun, fun trend.
The worst part, for me, is getting texts from my friends saying things like “I sobbed through the entire end of the episode” and “I have never related to a character more than Denise” and “Can I have something nice? Can I have one character on one tv show?” Or, the worst:
I’m so tired of this…I’m tired of being told I’m going to die young in a tragic and shocking way. I’m tired of not seeing myself on tv. I’m tired of watching myself die.
Representation matters, and so does how those characters are treated. Stop. Killing. Gay. Characters. Stop putting characters like Denise and Lexa in emotionally vulnerable situations so that their deaths are that much more ~shocking. It’s not art. It’s not good storytelling. It’s not fair.
Episode Grade: if I ignore the NONSENSE, it was actually a decent episode. B, probably. Nonsense included, F MINUS times infinity.
Images courtesy of AMC