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Forums » Other TV Shows » Walking Dead: Character Development through Story Arcs

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  • Fluids
    Community Member
    335 Posts

    Walking Dead: Character Development through Story Arcs Link to this post

    This thread is for discussion on story arcs and characterization within the Walking Dead TV Show.
    This can be any character from any episode or any arc that has been in the TV show so far.
    Let's discuss anything you want. What arcs worked? What arcs failed?
    We can talk about child actors, anything you want on characters. How did they work or fail?
    What really interests me with this show is how story arcs contribute (or not) to characterization.

    Here's the first topic: Lizzie

    A great discussion was started in the comment section of the S4E14 review regarding
    the development of Lizzie Samuel's character.


    "My complaint is more about how the writers seem
    to be asking the audience to do part of their job.
    Is anyone watching TWD from Lizzie's apparent perspective?
    Shouldn't they try to bridge the gap between us and her?"


    My thoughts on this:

    I agree that yes, that would come in the writing. BTW: I am not one of the show writers, just a fan of the show like all of you

    A bit of background:

    To provide some context to this discussion, Lizzie’s mental condition story arc has been building up slowly since the beginning of the fourth season to give it the impact and weight it brought.
    There’s consistency here. You can even see this mental state through:

    1. Lizzie naming walkers (S4E1, ’30 Days’.)
    2. Lizzie running off crying because Nick the walker was killed (S4E2, ‘Infected’.)
    3. Lizzie beckons the Henry walker like a dog on a prison gangway (S4E5, ‘Internment’.)
    4. Her slaughter of baby rabbits and near smothering of Judith (S4E, ‘Inmates’.)

    Then of course there’s the rats and animal dissection that is documented here:


    I look at those events as creating what I call a 'gradual arc'.
    I have seen writers on different shows use this technique where gradually the bread crumb actions form clues which become more obvious as time passes.

    It creates intrigue and speculation until at last the arc is fully there and needs to be dealt with.

    This has to be done carefully because if you reveal too much and don't do anything with it for a while viewer's memories go stale. Here's some examples
    of stuff that I thought may have been brought up too early if the intent was to reintroduce them:

    Example #1:

    What immediately comes to mind is Morgan. I felt a little vague when they unmasked him in S3E12 'Clear.' I had to go back and rewatch S1E1 and S1E2 of TWD to fully appreciate the efforts in 'Clear.' The walkie talkie worked as a prop, however again even to get its impact I had to rewatch S1E2.

    Example #2:

    The Morales Family. A group of survivors we last saw in the first season that set off west for Birmingham, Alabama. To Robin's point, if they were for instance at Terminus when Rick's group arrives will anyone ever remember them (amongst us viewers)? We would have to go back to S1E5 to remember who they were because it's been that long. Rick BTW gave Morales a radio as well. I don't recall him trying to reach out to Morales like he did with Morgan in the early season one episodes.


    What happens the moment you show Lizzy is behind all the rodents at the prison and that she's

    What do you lose?

    Well...You definitely would lose the suspicions that something was really wrong with her however you couldn't quite put your finger on it.

    You also lose the possibility that there was a plan in place to sabotage the prison from within by drawing walkers to the fence with rats to help bring the fence down.

    What do you gain?

    Allowing us to know Lizzie was behind those things much earlier (and not the rest of our characters) would have created dramatic irony.

    It would have also better established the theory that Lizzie was the one behind Karen and David's killings.

    It certainly would have made better any suspicions Tyreese had about the dissections he found
    more palpable (before the prison battle.)

    Perhaps they thought that's been done enough already or maybe they never thought of that.
    Full List of Dead Threads on The TV Critic:
    Other Dead Threads on the TV Critic:

    Walking Dead: All About Daryl:
    Walking Dead: Bob Stookey
    Walking Dead: Character Development through Story Arcs:
    Walking Dead: A Cup of Joe:
    Walking Dead: Daryl's Dilemma:
    Walking Dead: The Funeral Home:
    Walking Dead: Greene Family Thread is Waning
    Walking Dead: Luke, Molly and the Black Shoe:
    Walking Dead: On Frank Darabont:
    Walking Dead: Psycho Lizzie:
    Walking Dead: Rhetorical Questions you have posed to yourself you would like to share with everyone (comments?)
    Walking Dead: Robin Reads the Walking Dead:
    Walking Dead: Season Five Speculation
    Walking Dead: Season Four Final Episode 'A' Speculation:
    Walking Dead: Show Axioms:
    Walking Dead: The Silver Spoon:
    Walking Dead: Terminus eh?:
    Walking Dead: The Walking Dead Vs. Breaking Bad:
    Walking Dead: The Train Tunnel Scene (deconstructed):
    Walking Dead: Walking Dead Novels:
    Walking Dead: Walking Dead Spinoff News:
    Walking Dead: What is the Walking Dead to you?
    Walking Dead: Wimpy Walkers:
    Walking Dead: Writers of all the episodes with our ratings

  • Matt E.
    Community Member
    9 Posts

    Re: Walking Dead: Character Development through Story Arcs Link to this post

    I figured you weren't a writer for the show, but I do appreciate your efforts on this site. To enthusiastically discuss television is, I've been told, the whole reason exists...

    Anyways, as far as Lizzie's arc of insane behavior, knowing what she has done in season 4 doesn't do anything to help me empathize with the character. Let me put it this way: When Rick banished Carol, one could construct a list like yours for Lizzie, showing how he came to feel the need to send Carol away. Whether you agree that it was justified or not, you can see WHY he did it and understand his thinking. Lizzie never gets that exposition, she just is said to be "messed up", and while a viewer certainly can fill in their own blanks, that seems to me to be counterintuitive to the reason I watch TV. Tell us the whole story!

  • Fluids
    Community Member
    335 Posts

    Re: Walking Dead: Character Development through Story Arcs Link to this post


    Here are some ways we could feel more for Lizzie and give us a more complete story:

    Establish some behavior where Lizzie can only conclude the dangerous and evilness in this world comes from humans not zombies and that being a zombie is better than being a human.

    1. Show human(s) act sadistically towards a walker or group of walkers.

    S4E1, Lizzie was caught naming walkers at the fence line while the others were trying to thin the ranks of the walkers to prevent them from breaking in the prison. This lead to a discussion about what walkers are between the children.

    This would have been a great opportunity for someone like Carl to pull what Shane did to Hershel in S2E7 when he shot walker Louise Bush eight times in the chest, by taunting Lizzie, ‘if they were human would I be able to do this?' Then you could have Carl also verbally insult walker Nick while cutting off the legs or arms rendering him docile (like Michonne's lover and friend became after she did similar things to them.)

    They could show how distraught this left Lizzie and then show her later feeding the docile walker Nick that night when no one was around. This is where she could talk aloud to herself about how much she cared for walker Nick and treats him like a friend and bonds with him. (This could be shot with us looking through Zombie Nick’s eyes as Lizzie feeds us.)

    This would make his killing the next day and her reaction of devastation more convincing.

    2. Show humans acting inhumanly towards Lizzie.

    Have someone close to Lizzie (that she really trusted and looked up to) abuse her in a way that could be construed by her as being inhumane or just mean. This poor treatment by people would make relating to walkers easier and more satisfying to her.

    I would say the most immediate person you could use was her father Ryan.

    It appeared Lizzie was close to her father considering she cried a little after Carol had to kill him due to being bitten by the zombies. There could be scenes showing how she really didn’t like her father or harbored a deep emotional ambivalence towards him. This could be sourced from earlier scenes where we see Lizzie’s father be verbally and emotional abusive to his daughter (kind of like Ed Peletier was to Carol.)
    That would also drive a little girl into a place where she had no one else to turn to but the walkers.
    This would also help Lizzie bond better with Carol later on after her father dies (since they would have both weathered abusive relationships from people in their families.) A way to really make this example work is to have Ryan come back as a walker after being abusive and have Lizzie feed him and then have Carol kill him.

    3. Use a very large empty pill container for Lizzie to hold the mice she feeds to the Walkers.
    You can have no one see this container or know about it except Ryan Peletier and Lizzie.
    Carol could find this empty container after Lizzie’s execution, and she would break down and cry as they show the label on the bottle to be Clozapine to be taken once daily by Lizzie Samuels with no expiration date for the prescription. This would sort of confirm better that Lizzie had a condition and it was preexisting. Ryan didn't have the opportunity to tell Carol while he was dying. The tragic death of Mika and also Lizzie could have been avoided simply if they found medication.

    4. What better walker would there be for Lizzie to bond with than her Mother? Have a flashback for Lizzie where her mother was killed by a walker and becomes a walker. They could have her mother appear more docile as a walker than she did before she was bitten. Lizzie's mom could also be shown to be verbal abusive to Lizzie and show us that Mika was her favorite. Perhaps Ryan also cut off her arms so she couldn't harm the girls. Lizzie could feed her mother mice and eventually be killed by her father which leads her to hate her father and then also humans so it drives her to identify with her mother through the walkers.


    I think you are absolutely right about having a lack of empathy with Lizzie. For me, this was covered up by having us feel for Lizzie through Carol having to put down a deranged child when we should have also been feeling for Lizzie ourselves. This only worked for me emotionally because I have children. The writers shouldn't expect all viewers will have children and be able to put themselves in Carol's position to see what it would feel like if they had to execute their own child (in a way Lizzie was a surrogate daughter.) This leaves those viewers with an emotional void altogether.

    This kind of goes back to everyone's criticism (mine included) of Season 3 with the lack of characterization.

    It appears there's some of this left still in Season 4 despite better use of dialog and story arcs to further characterization. Lizzie and Mika would have worked better as characters if there was more scenes written with their parents to show what kind of people they all were. Otherwise when Lizzie does freakish things there's no context for those things to stand out nor do they contribute as effectively in the gradual process of demonstrating how twisted Lizzie's mind has become.

    If you don't have things like that in place than killing off characters doesn't have the emotional impact it could have on us for the characters killed or the characters left to deal with the loss.

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