Brotherhood and the Real Cost of Tyrese on The Walking Dead

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***This article contains spoilers for the most recent episode of THE WALKING DEAD, “What Happened and What’s Going On?“***

Well before Tyrese actually caught that last train to Georgia, folks on twitter already knew something was going to happen when Tyrese began getting these extended conversations with Noah. Maybe it’s because TV rarely strays from such familiar beats like having an episode where someone all of a sudden gets a ton of dialogue just to get “shockingly” offed by the end of it. Or because The Walking Dead has this policy it seems of how many black men it can keep on the show at one time. That last part sounds like a joke and hyperbole, but it’s been proven over (enter Tyrone, exit Oscar) and over (enter Father Gabriel, exit Bob) and over (enter Noah, exit Tyrese) again. Since Father Gabriel should’ve BEEN dead by now, I imagine they’re saving his demise for whenever “Book of Eli” Morgan catches up with the group. But the clock was ticking on Tyrese as soon as he began consoling Noah over his zombie ravaged home. The most tragic part of that for me is that Tyrese was just becoming useful. It may not be fair to call the gentle giant “soft” since he could swing the hammer like John Henry, but his moral compass has caused more than a few problems along the way. And the ghost of zombie food past had no chill in reminding him of that during his last moments. But it’s possible that the brute force, kill everything that moves Tyrese wasn’t the role that he needed to fill, especially with the addition of Noah to the crew. Not only between the characters, but the actors seemed to have a good chemistry at the onset of “What Happened and What’s Going On?”

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Even in the brief times that prominent black men characters have co-existed on The Walking Dead, there’s been little interaction between them of note. Even Bob and Tyrese, who both had a person of interest in common (Sasha) didn’t say a whole lot to each other outside of Tyrese driving a screwdriver into Bob’s ear to ease his suffering. Father Gabriel and Tyrese actually had good chemistry as on actors on a previous show (The Wire) and still the writers couldn’t find a way to make anything meaningful happen between them here. But the Tyrese / Noah connection was different. It wasn’t a peer to peer, shoot the shit, relationship. It was a mentor/mentee type of relationship. Or, at least it could’ve been. This immediately stuck out to me while watching this episode as something that doesn’t really happen on TV.

Whether it’s the proliferation of statements like Black on Black Crime (sigh, I really don’t have time to tell you why that’s a farce except to say that white people are killed by other white people at a similar percentage to which black people kill black people AND when black people kill black people, there’s a punishment for it, not some grand jury with not enough evidence BS) or the hyperbole of Black Fathers being an endangered species, there is an active campaign in popular media against the campaign of nurturing between Black men. There was a real opportunity for this on The Walking Dead, to have a healthy, nurturing and beneficial relationship between two Black men on a hugely watched TV show that didn’t include them both being drug dealers (reformed or otherwise).

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I would’ve loved to see Tyrese help Noah cope with the death of his family in such a tragic and horrific way. Alas, I have no idea if the folks in the writer’s room we’re aware of that potential sentiment or really care enough in the real world social movement of that narrative, but they definitely prioritized a shock and awe death of a popular character over anything else.

And look, that’s not their responsibility and you damn sure don’t get the most popular cable TV show in America by abiding to the whims and fancies of Black folk, but it would’ve been nice to see. Maybe we need to examine why their revolving door is so lopsided with Black men, or why Black men are the most disposable on the show, but I’m not so unreasonable to believe they have my peak interest in mind. But again, would’ve been nice.

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As is, it does seem that Tyrese was completely wasted as a character. As someone that hasn’t read The Walking Dead comic book, but know about 30 people that have, all accounts suggest that he was a much better character in the source material. On the show, he often waddled in grey areas of conflict and resolution, was never as brutal as he needed to be (in times of extremely brutal moments surrounding him) and sometimes proved to be a liability to the group. I guess we can go with that “too pure for this world” narrative, but it’s hard to imagine anyone living more than six months with that kind of disposition in this type of world. However, maybe Big Brother status seemed to fit him well (even if Sasha had moved out from under that umbrella a long time ago). Sadly, we’ll never know.

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  • William is the Editor-In-Chief, leader of the Black Knights and father of the Avatar. With Korra's attitude, not the other one.

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  • Andre Carter II

    I disagree with this whole review. We’re so quick to claim that television and film producers have quotas of how many Blacks that they can have on at one time. This show kills a well developed character almost every week, whether Black, White, Hispanic or Asian. I think our own people are starting to cry too much over such things that happen regularly in the same show. Beth was killed last episode, she wasn’t “disposable”, was she? No, is the answer to that question. Tyrese wasn’t interesting to me, personally. He was a surrogate mother to Judith, that is about it.

    I think the thing we should celebrate when it comes to the character Tyrese in this show is that they didn’t make him a brutish, anger driven killer. Instead we got a sizeable African American character who is very emotional, sentimental and caring. I think they learned that from T-Dawg, who you failed to even mention while making a claim to your Negro Quota Theory. I like the introduction of Chris (Noah, my apologies) who seems to be a likeable character. The main reason is because we haven’t had a young AfAm male in the whole series. There are still 3 AfAm males on the show and 2 AfAm females. I’m very satisfied that it is that many considering how minimal the group is now.

    I couldn’t help but to voice my opinion after reading through this, what is this really, an article? Blog post? Journal entry? Diary note? Whatever it may be the cospiracy theory is so forced. Just email Robert Kirkman and ask him. Father-son/mentor-mentee relationships always end in death on this show anyways. I.e. Dale-Rick.

  • will

    The black quota thing isn’t a theory (to the above poster) it’s a real observable thing. And to the article poster, I think you’re spot on with “Eli” coming back as the reverend exits stage left. I hadn’t even considered that possibility til you mentioned, and I’m putting down my virtual 10 bucks on that bet.

    I’m writing this post a little late, as I just watched Noah get ripped apart unexpectedly (or totally not unexpectedly depending on your perspective. I really do agree that TWD kills off it’s black characters just as they’re becoming interesting. But to be fair, they kill off a lot of the tertiary characters just as they’re becoming interesting.

    The problem is that the writers write the black characters as black characters. Michonne is the one exception. She is a badass first, and a black character second. Heck she’s not even a black character, she’s just A character. But the guys on the other hand, are black guy first, whatever second. Usually just a death scene after the writers flail around trying to find something interesting to do.

    And I say all this as a white guy. I’m typically against racial quotas and whatnot, just field good actors and put them in good roles. But even having said that, there is a definite mishandling of how TWD fields and progresses black characters. It’s frustrating and also annoying in how predictable it is.

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