Two roads diverged in a wood, and Walking Dead took the one less traveled by. SPOILERS for last night's episode, "Pretty Much Dead Already" as well as for issues #1-91 of the Walking Dead comic book ahead!!
Obviously, the television version of the Walking Dead has already diverged from the comic book in many different ways, most notably the fact that Shane is still alive (plus Darrl and T-Dawg being...well...you know, there at all).
However, until last night's episode, they had not yet made a change that had any dramatic impact on the long-ranging storyline of the series. Shane is alive, yes, but so long as he dies before TOO long it does not really affect the narrative of the series too much. Similarly, Otis dying the way he did didn't change much, the release of the Walkers in the barn did not change much, the visit to the CDC didn't change much, Daryl and T-Dawg being along for the ride doesn't change much, etc.
Now one of of the only remaining survivors from the beginning of the series being zombified?
That's a pretty big departure.
Or is it?
The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a brilliant little piece of having the ILLUSION of change rather than change itself. Yes, the character of Sophia is important for the narrative of the Walking Dead comic book. She represents a sort of innocence for the character of Carl, as she is more or less his only anchor to normality - another little kid for him to play with (as all the other kids have slowly been picked off). Meanwhile, as Glenn and Maggie's adopted daughter, she obviously plays a major role in their lives. However, how much of that importance for the narrative is the character being SOPHIA? You can't mix and match Andrea with some other blond woman. You can't mix and match Dale with some other old guy. Sophia, though...I dunno...I think you could pretty much toss any other orphaned girl into the storyline and it works basically as well. It is not exactly like Sophia was the most interesting character in the world. She existed mostly in terms of what she meant to others, not in her own unique characteristics (If Michonne is a 10 out of 10 in being a unique character, Sophia is a negative 17). So if her role in the series was taken by a new girl (provided that it happens very soon - presumably as soon as they make it to the prison if not sooner. Perhaps they could change Tyrese's daughter to becoming Carl's age and then not kill her off, for instance), I think you would have an effective example of giving off the illusion of a drastic change while not really changing the overall narrative that much.
Or this could just be the start of a completely different path for the characters.
I suppose we shall see in February!
Either way, that was a chilling way to end the Fall Finale. Well done.