(Spoiler alert: Don’t read this if you haven’t seen Sunday’s “Walking Dead.”
Sunday’s “Walking Dead,” the zombie drama’s darkest episode yet, ended with Carol killing a child. She deemed young Lizzie too dangerous to live after she killed her little sister and almost baby Judith, too.
It was a big moment for “The Walking Dead,” because you never see heroes — or even antiheroes — make a premeditated choice to kill children. In this case, Carol decided it was for the greater good. Lizzie needed to die to make sure she wouldn’t kill again.
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Except she didn’t need to die. The show killed Lizzie because it was dramatic, not because it made sense. So this felt like yet another big moment this season that the show didn’t earn.
The episode, written by showrunner Scott Gimple, was one of the ones that aspires to make “The Walking Dead” about more than who dies next: It was about the difficulty of making ethical choices among violence and scarcity. Times have gotten so dark, the show suggested, that sometimes survivors must kill children to survive.
In a non-zombie world, a young child who killed another child would get treatment — not be taken outside and shot like a dog. Especially if the child killed after suffering endless, constant trauma.
There don’t seem to be any child psychologists wandering the post-apocalyptic countryside. But does that mean Carol and Tyreese had no other options?
The Governor was able to live alongside his daughter for months or years, even after she turned into a zombie. And Michonne is able to drag zombies behind her as she traverses the woods. Tyreese seems to manage with an infant on his back at all times.
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But Carol, a ruthless killer, and Tyreese, who looks like a linebacker, couldn’t have kept Lizzie away from knives?
Maybe they would have had to tie her up when they slept. Maybe she would have had to be kept in chains, like Michonne’s zombies. What a horrible, wretched spectacle that would have been.
But not as bad as shooting her in the head.
The episode was well-acted. The actress who played Lizzie, Brighton Shapiro, had a terribly sad and convincing breakdown before she died. It recalled the moment in the original “Last House on the Left” when a girl walks into swampy water, knowing she is going to die. It was painful to watch.
Melissa McBride, who plays Carol, was also at her best. The scene were she confessed to the prison killings was outstanding. And she made us believe Carol saw no other way but to kill Lizzie, too.
Lots of kids have died on “The Walking Dead,” from Bicycle Girl to Carol’s daughter Sophia. This death was different because it wasn’t zombies doing the killing: It was a sentient adult who thought about it first.
I’m not objecting to the death on moral grounds. If Lizzie’s death really would have saved others, it was justified.
But I do object on story grounds. The deck was stacked absurdly against Lizzie: She tortured rats, fed them to zombies, and wanted to watch her little sister turn because she saw no difference between walkers and the living.
In a way, she was too empathetic. Walkers, after all, aren’t evil: They’re just people who had the misfortune of dying. Lizzie was the rare character who allowed herself to even consider that. At least at first, Herschel did, too.
But rather than really explore if Lizzie was too good or too bad, the show copped out by positioning things as if Carol had just one choice. The fact that Tyreese took Carol’s side propped up the notion that there was no other way.
Maybe the real reason Lizzie and Mika had to die was because their characters were dull from the start, inserted into the story just to show us how far Carol would go.
It’s true, they were annoying. But that was also the writers’ fault.