I waited until the finale to write this post, despite drafting most of it after this season’s Twice As Far, in which we saw Tara’s girlfriend and genuinely interesting secondary character, Denise, take an arrow through the head. I waited because I wanted to give the last two episodes, and the writers of the show, a chance to make this death worth something more than just another tally on the body count list.
They failed. So hard.
Don’t get me wrong now. I still love this show. It’s one of my favorite things. But I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t have its flaws and that one of them is properly showcasing the few queer characters it has. I mentioned before that I felt this way (https://midnightmoviegay.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/is-the-walking-dead-misusing-its-gay-characters/) but I held back on my gut feeling and allowed for a chance of “organic growth”. But nothing has changed since then. Nothing good has come from or for the show’s 4 (possibly soon to be 5) queer characters.
Let’s start with Aaron and Eric. “Aaron and who?” you may ask. No worries, I expected that kind of response. Eric, despite being Aaron’s partner, was last seen hobbling through walkers with the rest of the group in No Way Out. No dialogue, no memorable walker kills. Aaron meanwhile has been reduced to nothing more than filler dialogue, seemingly just remind us that he’s even alive.
Tara and Denise make up the second couple and, undoubtedly thanks to Tara having been on the show long enough, they’ve had more screen time this past season than Aaron and Eric. But it too was all just apparently just useless filler as Denise was murdered two episodes ago and we haven’t yet gotten a reaction from the woman who loved her. No sadness. No outrage. Hell… not even an appearance. So… why?
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m definitely not against the deaths of characters. It’s essential in this type of world. It’s needed. But there’s no reason the showrunners can’t develop their doomed characters to a reasonable level before offing them, and there’s absolutely no need to kill them off when there’s no payoff from the rest of the cast. Alanna Masterson, the actress who plays Tara, had a baby last year which more than likely impacted her shooting schedule and accounts for her being absent these past few episodes. But if that’s the case, then it proves even further that Denise’s death was premature and without payoff. Why not just wait until Tara could be properly present to grieve and rage? Why do it when the character is not even present on the show? And why do it to one of the few queer characters the show has?
And this is all the more irritating when you take into consideration that romantic relationships have really grown this season… with the straight characters. We’ve got the newly formed Richonne. We’ve got Glenn and Maggie fighting to bring life into this undead world. We’ve even got all-around badass Abraham questioning his own passions and paternity potential, with a hurt Rosita and stunned Sasha orbiting around him. Hell, even Carl made some headway this season with Enid, who pops in and out of the show so much that I often forget about her existing.
So why was the show seemingly afraid to do more with the two queer couples it had? Why have we gotten no further with them, and why is it now impossible to go further with one of them now that Denise is dead?
Now, I don’t believe the show is a victim of homophobia or anything like that. Especially considering the higher ups recently threatened to leave Georgia, their filming base, after the state was set to enact a “religious liberty bill” that would have allowed discriminatory practices. (That bill, after much blow-back, is now apparently set to be vetoed.) If anything, I think the show is a victim of ignorance and pacing. I truly don’t believe that the showrunners understand how their portrayal of their few queer characters are coming across, despite their intentions to do their best with them.
All this said, I’m still hopeful for the next season. I’m hopeful Aaron and Eric will be featured more, and that Tara will continue to grow as a character. I’m also expecting and highly anticipating Jesus’s sexuality to come out somehow. If none of this happens though, rest assured you can expect part three of this notion, and please let me know how you feel when it comes to this; Does The Walking Dead Have a Problem With It’s Queer Characters?