We covered some of the more profound changes made from The Walking Dead's jump from page to screen in our exploration of season one, and these are as profound as ever in season 2. Here, Shane is still alive on Hershel’s farm, Andrea is developing into an asskicker at Shane’s knee, Daryl becomes a vital member of the group, T-Dog is a fan favorite, and Carol is beginning to harbor feelings for Daryl. There is no Tyreese yet, and the whole thing has a different pacing as most of the season is spent on Hershel’s farm while the comic presents it as a riveting stop over. So with season 2 of AMC's The Walking Dead in mind, let’s take a look at how the show adapted the comic.
Tyreese and Carol
In the comic, Carol is a younger woman who has domestic skills but not much else to offer the group. In the show, she starts out as an abused woman, a shrinking violet afraid of her own shadow. A former kept housewife who was a burden to the group more than anything else, particularly when her daughter Sophia disappears prior to the arrival at Hershel’s farm. In fact, most of the drama and plot momentum in season two happens because of Sophia’s disappearance. No one can forget when zombie Sophia steps out of Hershel’s barn; it was one of the most agonizing moments of the season, so some will be surprised to learn that none of that happens in the book.
Instead, Carol’s main purpose is to shack up with Tyreese, providing another romantic dynamic in the group. In fact, Tyreese getting together with Carol is what propels Glenn into the arms of Maggie, who, along with the rest of Hershel’s kin, gets introduced in volume two. There is an extra dynamic in Tyreese’s group of his daughter, Julie and Chris, always going off together to make sweet, sweet love...much to Tyreese’s dismay. He admonishes his daughter, warning her that getting pregnant could be a disaster, but he is revealed to be something of a hypocrite, as he is seen physically interlocked with Carol many times. Despite all the drama, Tyreese takes the Daryl role in the book, a confident fighter with a fierce loyalty towards Rick.
The show takes viewers from the destroyed CDC at the end of season 1 right to the group foraging in the wilderness, Carl getting shot, and everyone ending up on Hershel’s farm. However, the comic has a major stopping point: the domestic, suburban paradise of Wiltshire Estates. Wiltshire Estates is an oasis, a palatial gated community that promises a life away from the road and a sense of stability for the group.
The Wiltshire sequence is one of writer Robert Kirkman’s most effective examples of reader manipulation, as, upon their arrival, the group is truly happy for the first time. Even Donna is happy, finally accepting the relationship between Dale and Andrea and not making with the bitter snark all the time. There is a sense of community and hope until Rick sees the fateful words scrawled on a wall, “All Dead Do Not Enter.” The first sudden and shocking death occurs just three panels later as Donna gets her face bitten off by a walker. Wiltshire Estates took the edge off the group, it made them soft, and when Donna gets her skin ripped off, it reminds readers that the days of comfort, of clean sheets, and private rooms, and luxuries are over, Donna was the tragic reminder of seeking comforts over survival. While Wiltshire Estates DID appear on the show as a brief stopover while the gang looked for Sophia, the story surrounding it remains a terrifying and brutal experience only lived by comic fans.
The death of Donna signaled the death of a normal woman, not a pretty woman, not even a particularly nice woman, but a woman who had a family and dreams and did not deserve to have her face torn into by an infected monster. Following her death, Allen turns into a symbol for every man that lost his wife during the fall of society. He loses all will to live and only goes through the motions of life to care for his twin sons. His loss leads to a tremendous conflict with Andrea who tries to push him to work through the grief for his children, Allen develops a seething hatred for Andrea who he does not think has any right to tell him about grief, despite the loss of her sister in volume one. He becomes an understandingly bitter man, and is hard to rely on during a crisis situation. The show uses Carol and the loss of Sophia as the grieving character in season 2, but her rage towards her loss never reached the ferocity of Allen, nor did the show have a fascinating study of a man torn in half by his fatherly duties and his rage at a world that took everything from him.
Otis is Skinny!
Ah, Otis. In the book, he is still stupid, still shot Carl, but he’s skinny. I guess if Shane was alive and they did the hospital sequence like they did in the show, a skinny Otis might have escaped the walkers, but there is no Shane in the comic so Otis is just skinny and stupid. That’s it really...but he does serve the plot by shooting Carl and providing the inciting event to get the group to Hershel’s farm, though.
Sophia living provides many structural differences in the plot, but her presence alters many characters as well. Carol is not freed from the shackles of domesticity so does not become the same free spirit she becomes in the show, Carl has a companion and someone to interact with and care for, and the whole groups seems less like the group of warriors fans are familiar with from the show and more like refugees compelled to find a safe haven because of the presence of Sophia, Carl, and the twins.
Season 2 took a little guff for lingering on Hershel’s place much longer than the comic series. Much longer. When the survivors arrive on the farm, they experience their first prolonged contact with a large group of survivors. Carl is shot and pronounced fit in the span of two pages and Sophia is safely with Carol, both events were the impetus of most of season 2’s dramatic tension. There is no soul searching reflection on Carl’s mortality, no crushing discussions of responsibility towards the next generation, or the morality of bringing a child into this new world.
Hershel is still cast in the role of the biblical Job as he loses many members of his family when the barn opens, but it happens in a shorter time frame. At first he blames Rick for his loss, but he shows a gentle and understanding nature as he allows Glenn to stay on the farm when the others are forced to leave. The loss of the farm serves the same theme as the loss of Wiltshire Estates. There is no oasis in this new world, just places filled with conflict and chaos. The climax of the television version is much more explosive, as zombies descend on the farm forcing the group to make a harrowing escape. Andrea gets left behind, Shane and Rick have their final confrontation, and the remaining survivors including Hershel and his two remaining daughters are left homeless and defeated. Rick becomes their sole leader and the season ends with the group forced to eke out a living off the land.
In the comic, Rick and company are asked to leave the farm, Glenn stays behind, and the group is forced to forage until they find the prison. So the results are the same, but the execution is different with the comic taking the route of a simmering conflict and a quiet parting of ways before the next chapter. This is a fascinating study in the difference in structure between film and print, as the show needs to end with the proverbial bang but the book’s only worry is to get the cast to the next setting. Of course, with Andrea safe with the group in the comic, the arrival of Michonne happens much differently, but more on that next time...