Written by: Mack Moyer
Dear The Walking Dead, please ax the baby.
Yes, Judith needs to go. With all due respect to the lovely actresses who portray Rick’s kid, TWD’s next order of business must be to kill off the baby.
Now hold on, I’m not a heartless bastard. I have nothing against babies in real life, screaming little shits that they are. Judith Grimes is a fictional character. We have all, at one time or another, rooted for a fictional character to die.
Me, I want Judith to go. I want her to go more than I wanted the Governor or Hershel to go, what with his annoying moralistic jibber jabber.
I don’t want Judith to be walker meat out of malice, you understand. She needs to go for the benefit of the narrative respectability of a show that often teeters on the fine line between “awesome” and “boring piece of crap.”
Here’s why the baby needs to go.
Babies aren’t characters – Babies, in real life and in fiction, are limited to what they can accomplish. They have the ability to look cute, cry and poop. They can do little else without adult intervention, up to and including eating, playing or killing zombies.
The worst characters are the ones that don’t do anything. Sansa Stark might be beautiful, but she doesn’t do much other than take abuse. Judith Grimes is even worse. She just sits there, bogging down other characters.
Carl might be the most annoying character in the show, but at least he’s a character. He can do things. Even in TWD’s most painfully boring moments – the endless scenes of everyone sitting around and arguing – Carl can voice an opinion.
TWD’s second season, easily its worst, had us rolling our eyes watching everyone yell “Sophia!?” for thirteen fucking hours. But Sophia ran away! She did something! And at the end of the season Rick got to shoot her, something that will probably never happen with Judith (though I can always hope).
Not only is Judith incapable of doing anything on her own, other characters, by the nature of television, are unable to do anything remotely interesting to her other than dote over her or get super sad when they think she’s dead (which she never is).
In the bulk of fiction, televised or otherwise, it’s rare to see a baby that’s actually a character. Say what you will about the artistic merits of Look Who’s Talking, but damn it, that little guy was doing shit.
So if Judith isn’t a character, what is she? Easy…
Babies are props – Or, at best, MacGuffins. Judith’s only function is to have other characters react to her. She’s a cheap plot motivator. You don’t even need tiny actresses to portray her. TWD could replace the child actresses with CGI and animatronics and it wouldn’t make a difference.
Judith exists so people have a reason to look for baby formula during the apocalypse. She will get sick, causing real characters to go out and find her medicine. She will cry at inopportune moments, thus drawing the unwanted attention of a zombie.
But we don’t need Judith for this stuff to happen. This is a fictional world, damn it. The writers can make anything happen if they feel like it. The problem, apparently, is that the writers of TWD are too lazy to think of any interesting plot motivators.
“Let’s stick a baby, a cannibal, and Cutty from The Wire into a shack and see what happens!” said everyone in the writer’s room.
And yeah, that scene was pretty good, but we didn’t need the baby. Judith could have just as easily been a bag of medicine, a puppy or the goddamn suitcase from Pulp Fiction.
Mind you, I think it would be fine to either retcon Judith into, let’s say, a twelve year old. Or have a title card that reads, “Ten Years Later” before opening with a prepubescent Judith who’s, ya know, able to do things.
(And so what if nothing much happens during those aforementioned ten years. You all watched season two and nothing happened then, either.)
For now, all we have is a prop that the show needs to drag along like a piece of useless luggage. Every now and then a supporting character or someone from the ever-expanding roster of cardboard background characters might die because of said useless luggage, but that’s about it.
There’s precedent for it – This next part doesn’t count as a spoiler because, one, the show has departed from the comics and, two, it’s over five years old: In the comic, Robert Kirkman wisely kills two birds with one stone when he offs Lori and Judith with a single shot from a sniper rifle.
The scene was brutal, quick and left a lasting impression. Seeing Lori’s bloody face looking up at Rick with Judith’s arm sticking out from under her was painful and realistic. Now we almost had something akin to that in the season four finale, what with the gore-drenched baby seat.
If you’re going to kill a (fictional) baby, that’s the way to do it! Offscreen with an unsettling reminder that it wasn’t pretty.
But no, Judith was alive and well, a burden on characters who now have to change diapers and find a clean binky instead of bashing zombies to niblets, which is kinda the main draw of the show.
Instead, the TWD writers chose to turn a badass group of post-apocalyptic zombie killers into the babysitters’ club.
When it comes to fiction, almost nothing is made better by adding a baby. Lazy writers add babies because, by their very nature of being babies, people expect you to care about them. But I don’t and I doubt you guys do, either.
If you were to replace Judith with a small sack of potatoes for which Rick and Co. have some sort of sentimental attachment, nobody would notice.
TWD is already pretty awesome. It doesn’t need a sack of potatoes with sentimental value, nor does it need a baby. Given a choice between the two, I would definitely vote potato.