The Walking Confusion: Tyreese vs. Bonus Shane, Daryl and T-Dog
Editor’s Spoiler Note: While B.D. was mostly spoiler-free, if for some reason you haven’t ventured at all into the Walking Dead-verse and wish to do so, steer clear of this as some major plot details are covered (unavoidably so).
I recently engaged in a buffet of The Walking Dead universe. Over the month of July and early August, I consumed both seasons of the TV show as well as all 101 (released to-date) comics. Everyone who is a fan of the show has heard of the various differences between the two, and these seem to be hotly debated. I feel it is a basic agreement that while both are set in the same universe, they are both separate stories that have a similar feel to them. I am a fan of both stories, and actually do appreciate the differences and the surprises that can bring. This is very different than the Game of Thrones experience, which Widge has already commented on. With Game of Thrones sticking to the same basic story as the books, few surprises come up. If you’ve read the book, you knew about the major death in Season 1, for example. In The Walking Dead, however, if you read the comics first, you have been waiting two whole seasons for Shane’s death. This is just one example of the difference in the adaptations. This thought of Shane really got me thinking about why they chose to keep him alive for so long in the TV series. As I journeyed into that rabbit hole, I thought it has something to do with the omission of Tyreese in the series. Let me explain.
If you have not read the comic, I will attempt to not spoil anything that could be on the show one day. Tyreese enters in the seventh issue, and joins up with Rick and the gang. He was previously an NFL linebacker, and is portrayed as very strong and physically intimidating. He was a big asset immediately, performing various physical duties around the camp. The first major character development happens at the Wiltshire Estates, a segment hasn’t been in the TV show yet. Through a variety of circumstances, Carol begins to take a liking to Tyreese, and they share a room together. This relationship continues to build throughout the Farm (which is a minimal storyline in the comic) and into the Prison segment. I won’t go into more details in order to remain spoiler-free, but this brings up my first conclusion. Tyreese isn’t in the TV show to make room for Daryl’s character development.
Daryl is a big fan favorite, and I admit I really enjoy him as well. I am a big Norman Reedus fan and loved The Boondock Saints, so perhaps I am biased, but I think he is doing a great job developing this complex character. Most people know that through 101 books, Daryl is yet to appear in the comics. I honestly don’t think he ever will be, as he is one of the elements that is unique to the show (along with Merleâ€¦my opinion is yet to be determined on him). Through Season 2, we see Daryl start to develop some compassion toward Carol, fueled primarily toward his search for Sophia. There is an obvious budding relationship, and perhaps more as Carol seems to be pushing Daryl to take control of the group as the season ends. If Tyreese was in the TV show, it would eliminate Carol’s availability, and thus make it much harder to show the complexities of Daryl. He would not nearly be as interesting a character, and certainly not be as beloved by the fans if he were simply the mercenary. For those that have read the comic, I am wondering if the Daryl/Carol story line will play out the way the Tyreese/Carol story line did in the Prison.
While Daryl does do a lot of the fighting and hunting, this is another role that Tyreese plays in the comic. What he does primarily, however, is serve as Rick’s second in command. He is constantly going off with Rick on every quest, and is shown as an extremely tough guy (a particular scene in the prison gymnasium comes to mind). Through all of this, there is a constant tension between Rick and Tyreese over leadership decisions, and several “whose is biggest” contests. One instance is in the Prison story where Rick is upset at Tyreese about a particular issue, and they end up having a huge brawl that leaves them exhausted, injured and upset at each other. Soon after this, however, Rick and some others go missing and Tyreese forgets his anger and is leading the search like their previous fight never happened. There are also several scenes where Carl is opening up to Tyreese about various things he has done, and Tyreese attempts to help guide him to the appropriate responses. Does any of this seem familiar? It is almost exactly the character development Shane has in the TV show. From the point he “should” have died, to the point he actually does die, Shane is playing the role of Tyreese. The only difference to me is the tension relating to Shane wanting Lori and Carl as his own. Shane and Rick always go off on quests, they fight about decisions, they had a huge brawl, Shane mentors Carl, and Shane always goes and looks for Rick when he disappears. So this is my second conclusion: Tyreese isn’t in the TV series because they wanted Shane to hang around longer.
Jon Bernthal is a fantastic actor and portrays Shane very well. Because of the level of acting between Bernthal and Reedus, I have to wonder if they were written in to keep this level of acting talent around. Maybe in the original casting call, the producers weren’t satisfied with the actors auditioning for the character of Tyreese, so they altered the story in order to better utilize their bigger name actors. That is just a guess, but it makes sense to me. Of course, there needed to be changes with the Farm taking up all of season 2 of the TV series versus just three primary comics. The Sophia story line was added to develop Daryl/Carol, as well as the overarching plot of Season 2 being the tension between Rick and Shane. If Daryl didn’t exist, and Shane was dead back in the second episode, and they were replaced with Tyreese, it would have been difficult to stretch out the Farm this long. Maybe they would have gone to the Wiltshire Estates, who knows. AMC also ordered double the episodes but cut the budget, so remaining in one place the whole season could have been attributed to the lack of funds.
So after reviewing these thoughts, it led me to one other question: Who the FSM is T-Dog? T-Dog?? Really? Why can’t he go by his real name? He does nothing. He is an absolute throwaway character. He is often only in an episode for a minute or two, with little to no dialogue. How he has survived this long is a mystery to me, but here is my final conclusion: T-Dog is NOT Tyreese, but is a Tyreese “place holder.” I shall explain.
In the early episodes, you had the racism storyline with Daryl/Merle/T-Dog. Well, in order to have this storyline, you were going to need racial diversity. If this had come in the form of the much more badass Tyreese, there may not even have been a Daryl/Merle to initiate it. Also, if it had come in the form of Tyreese, I think it is pretty well established that the storyline would have ended not with Merle being free of the burden of a hand, but with full-on zombie Merle and Daryl. Tyreese would have destroyed both of them with his trusty hammer. A weaker character was needed, hence T-Dog. I can’t think of one thing T-Dog has done that contributed to my enjoyment of the show. However, he hangs around when other characters have died MUCH sooner than in the comic. So what is the logic behind this?
My theory from these three conclusions is that Tyreese will appear in the show eventually. He is a major character in the comic, and in my opinion is the biggest thing missing from the TV show adaptation. I propose when it is time to introduce Tyreese, we will see Daryl make a major power play fueled by Carol in some fashion. T-Dog will be cursing Daryl’s sudden but inevitable betrayal, try to do something about it for the first time in the show, and be killed. Thus opening the door for Tyreese to show up in some fashion, save Rick’s group from Daryl and become second in command. Daryl’s character can then develop into a major antagonist, which would make for very interesting viewing in my opinion. Maybe this will happen in Season 3, taking the place of some of the Prison/Town related events that we as comic readers are wondering “how in the world are they going to show THAT on TV?”