The Walking Dead season 9 wiped out many fan favorites across its 16 episodes, from Rick Grimes and Maggie Rhee exiting the show in the first half of the season to the bloodshed of the Whisperers’ attack on the Kingdom’s fair in the run’s penultimate installment. The grim reaper was pretty indiscriminate in TWD land this year, then, but many fans have taken umbrage with the fact that the season saw the deaths of two of the series’ LGBT characters.
First, Jesus was murdered by a Whisperer in the midseason finale. Seven episodes later, Tara was then revealed to be one of Alpha’s victims, with her head gruesomely displayed on a pike for her friends to discover. That basically just leaves Aaron, Magna and Yumiko as the only gay characters still standing. And nobody wants to see another example of the troubling “bury your gays” trope.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, though, showrunner Angela Kang defended the season against the controversy. In a well-worded response, the writer/producer explained that the writers room’s aim is to populate the show with characters from as many “historically underrepresented groups” as possible. As such, anyone they kill off will end up being part of these groups.
“It’s like the discussion we have about any character. For season nine, in our writers’ room itself, the LGBTQ perspective has been represented very strongly throughout the years, and this year was no exception,”
“Our cast of series regulars, as well as many major recurring characters, the majority of the people are from historically underrepresented groups. They’re often from two or three of those groups at one time. Any one death on this show will always hit somebody who will feel, ‘There’s not enough of me represented on screen.’ At the same time, when so many of us come from these underrepresented groups too, we don’t want to engage in tokenism.
“We want every single person to have the same full story that anyone would have. Taking death off the table for any group for any reason limits the types of stories we can tell for them, as well as our casting abilities. We have a really unique perspective as a room because of our own status as outsiders, for the most part.”
Tara’s death, in particular, hit fans hard as they didn’t expect her to go when she did. A different batch of characters meet this grisly fate in the comics but, as always, the TV series decided to shake things up just to keep viewers on their toes and sobbing uncontrollably.
For Tara fans, killing her off felt needless and a snub at those who wanted more LGBT representation on the series. At least Kang’s words suggest there’ll likely be more gay characters coming to The Walking Dead in time, though whether fans will take to them as much as Jesus and Tara, we’ll have to see when season 10 airs this fall.