The centrepiece of AMC's impressive back-catalogue is undoubtedly zombie romp The Walking Dead. Now in ts fifth year, the show regularly attracts viewing figures of over 10 million, flourishing in the 18-49 viewership. What keeps us hooked is all the drama of your standardised serial, following the lives of your average American Joe in a zombie apocalypse - you have the ex-cop, the tough guy, the abused housewife (more on her later), and a more diverse cast than Heroes.
Everyone has their favourite character, whether it be hard man Daryl, or katana swinging Michonne, but as show-runner Scott Gimple often reveals, no one is safe! Producer and special effects guru Greg Nicotero recently revealed that way back in Season three it was mild mannered Carol Peletier who was supposed to bite the undead dust during episode four, "Killer Within". There was a last minute decision to swap Carol's demise for T-Dog (you can relive his heroic death below). At a loose end of what to do with her character what came next was a relief of writing genius. Over the next three years we have been treated to a rich and colourful journey that Carol has embarked on. But what would we have missed if TWD had gone through with their plans and killed everyone's favourite Martha Stewart from Alexandria?
First encountered in S1E3 "Tell It to the Frogs", Carol and her daughter Sophia are survivors of the apocalypse, victims of her husband's abusive behaviour. Her comic book counterpart remains a non entity of the series and only makes it to issue 43 before committing zombie suicide. Originally remaining a background character, it looked as if Melissa McBride's television Carol was destined for a similar fate. She was only slightly brought to the forefront of Season two when her daughter vanishes on the Atlanta highway - in a rather drawn out storyline the group hunt for Sophia, eventually finding her zombified corpse roaming around Hershel Greene's barn. With the Season two (snore) saga of "Is Sophia dead?" finally over Carol was allowed to grow. With no husband, and now no daughter, she is finally free of the shackles of the old society. McBride herself has noted the transformation of Carol too:
The world will change you -you have to adapt or die
The writers first decision to make Carol the *new* Carol came during the sickness outbreak of Season four. Killing and burning the corpses of Karen and David it looked like Carol would meet the sticky end of a violent Tyreese for her crimes, but was once again spared. Group leader Rick discovered Carol's actions and dished a dose of her own medicine (for the good of the group), banishing her.
Whilst relatively brief, her extradition from the group is when we most see Carol grow. Whether or not we will ever see what happened to Carol during that time is unlikely, but it would be interesting to see what really happened to her out there. Whatever it was, she took a strong dose of Michonne pills; returning a bloodthirsty warrior woman intent on saving her former friends from the perils of cannibal camp, Terminus. Carol even managed to reconcile with Tyreese after killing his girlfriend and developed her own family unit with children Lizzie and Mika, as well as Rick's baby Judith.
Carol's quest for 'doing the right thing' is most apparent during the latter half of Season four. Before Carol is the bad-ass wolf hunter of Season six she was still foremost a mother- a fact she will never let you forget. The biggest change is during the 'Red Wedding' episode of The Walking Dead- S4E14 "The Grove". Here Carol turns from protective mother to logical leader. As psychotic Omen child Lizzie kills her own sister, Carol is forced to murder her to protect Tyreese and baby Judith in the style of Of Mice and Men. Following "The Grove" McBride reflected on her character's decision to kill Lizzie:
There was that time [in "The Grove"] that I felt the most spent. As an actor it's exhilarating in a weird way—a torturous way. I love it.
Meanwhile the Hollywood Reporter called the episode "one of the most gut wrenching", easily ranking as one of, if not the, most memorable episodes. Even Nicotero himself said that her cried during McBride's performance during "The Grove" - bet he is glad he didn't kill her off now.
Integration back into the group wasn't easy for Carol, but her reformed self is a figurehead of the group - acting quickly and without remorse, even more so than leader Rick Grimes. Now donning a dress, Carol slips easily into the relative peace of the Alexandria safe zone, even sparking rumours of a Carol/ Daryl romance (Caryl). The residents of Alexandria still look to her as a mother hen, fortunately this Carol is pretty much dead by now and what we are left with is a more streamlined version. Whilst she can offer you advice on what spices to use, Carol should by no means be underestimated.
Continuing the theme of Martha Stewart, Carol is a Bree Van de Kamp of the Waking Dead world. During the eight seasons of Desperate Housewives, just like Carol, we saw Marcia Cross' character develop a full story arc. As we have seen with Carol, Bree went from under the thumb wife to calculating killer. Admittedly Bree wasn't one for decapitation, but she was just as handy with a handgun.
So what is next for Carol? When we left her she was locking heads with new arrival Morgan. A ying to his yang, Morgan's approach to not killing people is proving to be an issue for contest with Carol. The two were trapped in a basement with a dangerous prisoner and chances are not all three will be coming out of Season six alive. Doubtful that TWD would kill Carol just yet, but stranger things have happened. The 'Caryl' issue is one many of us still hope to see resolved. Norman Reedus remains tight lipped on the sexuality of his character Daryl, with the internet proving rife with homosexual theories on his intention. What is known is that a Carol and Daryl romance would make them one of the most formidable couples to grace our screens.
The Walking Dead has always categorised its characters, and simply put you have three zones:
'Safe Zone' characters (Rick) - highly unlikely to be killed.
'Green Zone' characters (Michonne, Daryl) - deaths again remains unlikely, but would cause a great stir.
'Red Zone' characters (Deanna, Sam) - those who are new or bring little to the show.
Just like Star Trek's 'red shirts', the 'Red Zone' characters are the cannon fodder which keeps TWD ticking. Since her Season four transformation Carol has slowly moved out of the 'Red Zone' and firmly placed herself in the 'Green Zone.' Whether Carol lives for another one or one hundred episodes, chances are her body count will continue to rise. In the eight episodes (so far) of Season six she has notched up eight kills. With an impressive ratio of a kill per episode this is a vast increase from her one kill of Season one and zero from Season 2. The question still remains, who will be the next one to fall into Carol's line of sight?
What do you think of Carol's transformation? Sound off below.