The Walking Dead writer-producer Scott Gimple says deliberation about whether to kill Carol (Melissa McBride) got "pretty far down the line" when scripting the show's third season, where T-Dog (IronE Singleton) dies rescuing Carol from a zombie attack. In season 3 episode "Killer Within," the group's prison base comes under siege from walkers when prisoner Andrew (Markice Moore) retaliates after he's chased out and left to die by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). A zombie-bitten T-Dog dies when he's devoured by walkers while protecting Carol, who is presumed dead until she's found alive by Daryl (Norman Reedus) two episodes later in "Hounded."
"There was some investigation going on about killing Carol. It got pretty far down the line and I was pretty hardcore against that," former supervising producer Gimple told Looper. "Because I saw her journey of going from somebody under her ex-husband's thumb to being a warrior. It just looked like the most amazing journey for our character to have and having worked with Melissa McBride up to that point, it was like, 'Oh, well, she could do that. She can do anything.'"
The Walking Dead chief content officer also reflected on the fakeout that left Carol's fate in limbo until she turned up alive in "Hounded," one of the earliest episodes penned by Gimple.
"Man, I would love to look up some of the old emails or something like that because it was like, what if people thought she was dead, but she lived? At that point, that was a surprise as well, people were dying and dying," he said. "It was what the show was getting a lot of noise for at that point. And it seemed even early on switching that up, but really it was more about seeing that character go through that journey because she had started out as so passive and a victim. And to see her become one of the strongest people in the story seemed exciting to me as a writer."
In a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lincoln told McBride that it was their co-star Sarah Wayne Callies — whose character, Lori Grimes, dies in childbirth in "Killer Within" — told the producers that killing Carol would be a "terrible mistake."
Gimple wouldn't assume the showrunner position until season 4. His predecessor, then-showrunner Glen Mazzara, phoned McBride to tell her The Walking Dead was killing off Carol before plans changed.
"Yes, in the first half of the season I did tell Melissa McBride that Carol was going to be killed off. I told her that, and then we came up with a better plan that was that if T-Dog had saved her, if T-Dog sacrificed his life we felt that that sacrifice was only worthwhile if Carol lived," Mazzara told TWD News in 2012. "But we didn't want to reveal that Carol was alive at the end of that episode because we were really going with the devastation of Lori's death. And we were just embracing the mournful aspect of that last scene where Rick breaks down and we did not want to undercut it with the positive of 'Oh, here is Carol.'"
Carol and Daryl, who both appeared for the first time in the third episode of the show's premiere season, are now the only original cast members still on The Walking Dead. Both actors will star in an untitled spinoff created by Gimple and showrunner Angela Kang, which will take the characters on the road when it premieres on AMC in 2023.
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. The Walking Dead returns with new episodes early 2021 on AMC.