In 2012, in the early Season 3 episode of The Walking Dead, “The Killer Within,” a crowd of walkers are lured into the prison, and chaos erupts. T-Dog is bitten by an invading walker, and while Carol initially tries to help him deal with the bite, T-Dog eventually sacrifices himself to save Carol’s life in the melee. Later in the episode, Lori dies when her natural childbirth goes badly, and she has to be cut open to save her baby.
That’s the episode we all saw air on AMC. But that’s not how the episode was originally envisioned. Killing off T-Dog was a last-minute decision. It was Carol who was supposed to die, along with Lori, in that episode, and the writers only switched it up after Melissa McBride lobbied them heavily to spare her character.
That was the single best decision anyone has ever made on The Walking Dead, and it’s not just because of what Carol has contributed to the series since Season 3. It’s what they spared that character from in the comics storyline.
If the series had chosen to use Carol’s comics storyline, not only would she have died in the prison, but she would’ve developed a relationship with Tyreese, which would’ve fallen apart under a cloud of jealousy after Tyreese hooked up with Michonne. Afterwards, Carol would’ve not only attempted to sleep with Rick, she would’ve made a play to get Rick and Lori to welcome her into a three-way sexual relationship.
It was Rick and Lori’s rejection of an open relationship that essentially drove Carol to kill herself, allowing a zombie to bite her. She would’ve died in Tyreese’s arms, and Andrea would’ve killed her zombified character.
Given what we know about Carol now, how terrible would that have been?
More importantly is what we would have lost. Without Carol, the sickness plotline in the prison loses some of its power because it wouldn’t have resulted in Carol’s banishment by Rick.
Without Carol, there’s probably no heartbreaking Lizzie Samuels plotline (had they kept T-Dog instead, can you imagine him asking Lizzie to “smell the flowers” before putting a bullet into the back of her head?)
Without Carol, there’s probably not a huge rescue made on Terminus because Carol wouldn’t have existed to save them.
Without Carol, we would’ve also lost that powerful reunion scene.
Without Carol, who poses as den mother in Alexandria? Who defends Rick? Who brings Pete a casserole? T-Dog? I don’t think so!
The point is, Carol was supposed to die both in the comics and in the television series. Keeping Carol around has changed the entire dynamic of the series. She altered storylines for the better. She created some of the best plotlines of the series so far. She’s one of, if not the most beloved character on The Walking Dead. No one else could’ve fulfilled that role. No one else could’ve truly represented how much The Walking Dead universe can change a person because there never would’ve been the transformation from a meek victim of domestic violence into a cunning, badass who turned the tables on the abuser.
Without Carol, The Walking Dead is a different series, and it’s one that’s not nearly as good as it is. That’s why Carol should never die. It forces the writers to alter and improve those comics storylines. Because they are made to add new storylines to support the series’ most dynamic character. Because every scene is improved with a little bit of Melissa McBride.
Ain’t that right, sunshine?