Every TV or movie adaptation faces the same problem: How to create a fresh and surprising experience while staying true to the original source material. For Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead TV adaptation, the producers — first Frank Darabont, then Scott M. Gimple — handled those changes and surprises through a set of new and/or remixed characters.
Fan-favorite Daryl Dixon, for example, isn't part of the comic series, and the once-fierce, now-gone-soft Carol had a much shorter life span in the books. More than adding new life to the show, these original TV characters often serve as a means for the producers to reinvent the story, deliver huge plot twists and keep the series from being too predictable for book readers. (You all remember Glenn, right?)
Those two are just the most well-known of many instances where The Walking Dead reinvented itself with the help of characters who weren't originally supposed to be part of the action.
Mika And Lizzie Samuels
Carol became something of a mother-figure to Mika and Lizzie after their father died when the flu virus killed — and consequently turned — some people in the prison. Carol tried her best to help Lizzie understand that the undead were no longer real people, but Lizzie ended up murdering her sister Mika so that they could be together forever. Lizzie was just about to kill baby Judith next, when Carol told Lizzie to "look at the flowers" — creating one of the most iconic moments in Carol's trajectory on #TheWalkingDead. Carol's brave decision to put Lizzie down for the benefit of the group is what led Tyrese to eventually forgive Carol for killing his girlfriend back at the prison.
Lizzie and Mika were created by The Walking Dead's showrunner Scott M. Gimple, and there are parallels between Lizzie and comic book character Ben, care of whom Andrea and Dale take over after his parents die.
As a survivor in the Atlanta hospital Beth was forcibly taken to, Noah was pivotal in helping Daryl and Carol find Beth — after she got separated from Daryl in Season 4, Episode 12, titled "Still." Noah led Daryl to the hospital, went back with him to gather the rest of the Survivors, and told Rick and the gang how the people in the hospital operated. Later, Noah fell victim to Nicholas's selfishness and cowardice — kick-starting that whole Glenn and Nicholas dynamic.
The entire hospital plot was created as filler episodes for The Walking Dead Season 4, thus neither Noah nor anyone else who resided there existed in the comic books.
The Alexandrians weren't at all ready for the likes of #RickGrimes and his gang of Survivors, but some — e.g., Nicholas — would never be ready. Nicholas was part of the group who went on runs for Alexandria, but when Glenn, Noah, Tara and Eugene joined Nicholas's group, things went seriously sideways. Nicholas threw Noah at the walkers to save himself, and Glenn came at him like a wrecking ball afterward. Glenn made it his mission to reform Nicholas and show him there were better ways to survive, but it all went down the drain when they got cornered by walkers in an alley. Needless to say, this dumpster moment was another memorable one brought to us by a non-comic character.
There is a Nicholas in #RobertKirkman's comic books — and this character also starts off as a huge asshole — but unlike the TV counterpart, he manages to redeem himself by giving his life to save Rick.
Tara began her journey in The Walking Dead by helping the Governor break into the prison in Season 4. Quick to realize her mistake, Tara managed to go through the ensuing battle without shooting a single bullet — something that helped Glenn make the decision to trust her later on. In Alexandria, Tara was pivotal in helping Denise step up to her new role as a physician for the community when she pushed the fledgling doctor to try to save Holly.
This season in "Swear," Tara found a whole new community, Oceanside, that had also been broken and abused by Negan and his Saviors — which will probably come in handy when Rick decides to gang up on Negan later on.
Tara Chambler isn't in The Walking Dead comic books, but there is a Tara, after all. In the show, she was called Arat (one of the Saviors) and she's the one who shot Olivia in the midseason finale.
Enid is one of the cases of a character being created for The Walking Dead TV series from a combination of comic book personas. Enid has become the sum of comic book Sophia (Carol's late daughter on the show) and Lydia. Lydia is part of a new group in the books, and her mother is the next Big Bad after#Negan. She's also #CarlGrimes' love interest — which is where Lydia and Enid's stories entwine.
Enid and Carl have grown closer after Ron's demise, and they've recently sealed their relationship status with a kiss. Enid's other plot comes from Sophia who, after her mom dies in the comics, becomes Glenn and Maggie's adoptive daughter. Since Enid moved to the Hilltop Colony to be near Maggie — and even got Hershel's pocket watch as an heirloom — she's ready to be #Gleggie's big sister.
Without a doubt, Daryl is the biggest twist in The Walking Dead's transition from comic books to TV series. Created by Frank Darabont specifically for the show, Daryl has become increasingly important for the story and an absolute favorite with the fans — despite the fact that every time he interacts with big events, he's interfering with canon material.
Possibly one of the biggest knock-on effects caused by Daryl's interference is his initial connection to Dwight and Sherry in the episode "Always Accountable." Because of this, Dwight became a much more sympathetic character in the TV show than he was in the books. It's also because of this connection that Dr. Denise gets an arrow to the eye when she's lecturing Daryl by the railroad — since Dwight "wasn't even aiming for her."
And lest we forget, it was Daryl's outburst during the Saviors' lineup in the Season 7 premiere that led to Negan fulfilling his "no exceptions" promise. Although Glenn was originally Lucilled in the comics, that was a twist many weren't expecting to get on the show — especially since Negan had already killed Abraham.
For many people, watching a TV show or a movie adapted from another source means getting to see every little detail play out on the screen as they imagined while, say, reading a book; and that's just fine, as long as you're a diehard fan. But what happens when it all gets so predictable that all you need to do to know the ending is to read about it? Having plot changes and new characters brought into the story allows for just the right amount of flexibility so that fans might be at least a little surprised when they don't see what's coming.
And let's face it: That mixing and matching of characters, twisting and turning of details, and hitting us over the head with an unexpected baseball bat is what The Walking Dead does best!
The Walking Dead's second half of Season 7 returns to AMC on February 19, 2017. Will you be watching?