How Will Denise’s Death Affect Tara Going Forward?

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With so much focus on the deaths of Glenn and Abraham this season on The Walking Dead, it’s easy to forget there was another recent death among the Alexandrians. Denise, the group’s de facto doctor, was shot and killed by Dwight last season. (Although he later revealed he had missed, as Daryl was his intended target.)

For most of us, Denise’s death is old news at this point. But Tara and Heath left on an extended supply run just before it happened. So when Tara returned to Alexandria at the end of a recent episode, she had every expectation that her girlfriend Denise would be waiting for her.

The Bearer of Bad News

Alanna Masterson as Tara on AMCs The Walking Dead
Image Credit: AMC

When Eugene greets her at the gate, he can’t keep his composure together enough to even tell her what’s happened.

“At this point, she knows Eugene so well that she doesn’t really have to ask to know what’s going on,” says Alanna Masterson, who plays Tara. “And she’s so excited to get back. She’s finally gotten back, and she’s so excited to see Eugene, and she just sees it from a mile away.

That’s why she pulls the sunglasses off, because she just can’t believe it and can’t understand. And I actually like the way that it was written, how [showrunner Scott M. Gimple] did it. Instead of the audience having to relive Denise’s death, and Glenn’s death, and Abraham’s death through dialogue with someone explaining to me, I like that there’s no explanation, and I like that it was just a crushing moment, but just with a look.”

Some have criticized the decision to reveal Denise’s death to Tara in a montage. After all, the death of a lesbian character was a controversial development to begin with. While it’s possible to interpret the show as “glossing over” Denise’s death, the more likely explanation is that we’ve already had multiple scenes of death and grieving this season.

Do the Right Thing

In the midst of Tara’s grief, Rosita approaches her and asks if she encountered anyone outside that can help. We already know Rosita is hiding the community’s only gun and is working on a secret plan. But Tara holds to her promise and doesn’t tell Rosita about Oceanside.

But could the pain of Denise’s loss cause her to change her mind?

“Tara is obviously super devastated, but I think that Denise, of all people, would’ve told her to protect the innocent,” says Masterson. “I really believe that Denise would’ve said, “Do the right thing.”

So I think that she’s channeling Denise — and even Glenn, really. I’m not just going to give up these innocent people, and their home, and their guns, because as far as she knows, they don’t quite need them. Obviously, what’s happening with the Saviors is horrible, and they do need guns, but I think she is hoping that they’ll find some other ones so that she doesn’t have to give up this group.”

That’s easy to say now. As things worsen and perhaps more innocent people die, the need for help from Oceanside and their guns are going to become more apparent. Even Denise would surely realize that sometimes doing “the right thing” means making a hard and difficult choice.

What are your thoughts about the way The Walking Dead handled Tara’s discovery of Denise’s death?


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