AMC megahit The Walking Dead‘s Season 5 mid-season premiere aired Sunday night to 15.8 million viewers, an impressive number for a busy night of TV that included the record-breaking premiere of another AMC show, Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, and CBS’s Grammys broadcast.
Sunday’s episode saw the untimely death of fan favorite character Tyreese (Chad Coleman), who was bitten by a walker and experience strange hallucinations before ultimately succumbing. Tyreese’s death marks the second major character to be killed off in as many episodes after Beth (Emily Kinney) was killed in last year’s midseason finale.
Apparently, some fans were unhappy that the show decided to kill off another minority character. Fans took to Twitter to question whether the show was racist because Tyreese’s death came in the middle of Black History Month.
The New York Post noted that of the 15 survivors now on the show, just five were white males.
The show “has seemingly reached critical mass for its nonwhite, nonmale survivors – and now has no choice but to kill them off,” the Post‘s Lindsay Putnam wrote.
Walking Dead executive producer Gale Ann Hurd addressed the “controversy” in an interview with E! on Monday.
“Look, this is something in this world that we should be cognizant about, so my feeling is: Sure let’s get it out there, let’s talk about it,” Hurd began.
“We’ve killed a lot more white characters than African-American characters,” Hurd told E! “And not only that, I think it’s important to point out that we did cast two African-American actors in roles that were not African-American. In the comic books, Bob was white. And the character of Noah was not an African-American. We just cast the best actor.”
Hurd explained the producers’ choice to kill off the character, a choice that had nothing to do with race:
[Executive producer] Scott Gimple basically said to [Chad Coleman], ‘Is there anything we haven’t really touched on in Tyreese’s journey?’ And the truth was, it went from A to Z. They are at a point of total and ultimate despair. And if this really would happen, you can’t just spread it out and say, ‘OK, we’ve lost a significant character in the last episode. Let’s wait.’ Tyreese had embraced forgiveness and he’d embraced all of the positive qualities as opposed to despair and rage, and in a moment of pondering that, he was vulnerable. And in this world you can’t let your guard down even a split second.
Hurd also commented on Tyreese’s powerful last moments onscreen, when the character was comforted by visions of characters who died in earlier episodes, including Beth. Hurd continued:
The show doesn’t have a stance on whether there’s an afterlife,” Hurd told E! “It’s character-dependent on their belief system. And I think it reflects each of our individual journeys with faith. Some characters, like Maggie, lose their religious faith and some gain much more peace in it. ‘Til the very end, Hershel maintained his belief and his gentleness. And even though he knew the end was there, he had faith that he would go on to a better place. He’d be reunited with the family that he had lost.
The Walking Dead‘s 5th season continues next Sunday on AMC.