“I’m the one black guy. You realize how precarious that makes my situation?” – Theodore “T-Dog” …Something
Late Sunday night, November 4, the world cried out in a loud simultaneous wail as the most beloved character in the entire Walking Dead cast died and went to that big abandoned prison in the sky. And why exactly was T-Dog, a very minor character in a rather large cast, so beloved?
It’s pretty telling that someone could post literally all of T-Dog’s lines from Season 2 (link above) and not crack the five minute mark. Honestly, I was surprised it went on as long as it did. You could watch that montage and think T-Dog was an actual character on the show. But alas, he was not a character at all. He was a set decoration. Mostly he was there to scowl or nod or perform manual labor or, most famously, lean on stuff. T-Dog’s one story arc on his entire twenty episode credited run spanning three seasons?
He cut his arm.
And therein lies the enigma of T-Dog. We know nothing about him! How can you be on a show where characters are in peril at every waking moment, manage to live through that and yet still never contribute anything to the plot? Who are you T-Dog? Where are you from? How did you join the group? Why do they call you T-Dog? These are questions that were never answered and now never will be answered.
How could this have happened? Some have cried racism. I disagree, but I do acknowledge that some evidence has been compiled. (He sure was subservient to those white people in southern Georgia! He sure did lazily lean on stuff all the time! He sure was named T-Dog!) Others have bemoaned that it was just bad writing. I agree with that a bit more. Season 2 became wearily bogged down in the search for Sophia and the ludicrous notion that everyone would be safe on a farm forever and ever amen. Sure, T-Dog was underdeveloped but you could say that about more than half the cast. Did you know there was a kid named Jimmy that lived on the farm? Quick, name Otis’ wife! Give up? It was Bertha. No it wasn’t, but you didn’t know that. Ultimately, what I think happened was that T-Dog was penciled in from the very beginning as someone who could easily be killed off at any time. Season 1 was only 6 episodes long so no surprise that he made it through. Season 2 spun its wheels a lot with no one dying. The showrunner change picked up the pace but by the time things were fixed and the death order had been altered to accomodate Frank Darabont loyalists, we were already rolling downhill toward Season 3. With Season 1 being so short and Season 2 being so boring, I would argue that the story itself is still fairly young and T-Dog died right when he was supposed to, as inconsequential as he was always meant to be. It was only the length of Season 2 that made it noticeable that he wasn’t just dying already. (Another possibility: if you watched the Talking Dead post-show, you could see how naturally likeable actor IronE Singleton is. He had an instant rapport with the audience and the producer who was there seemed genuinely sorry to see him go. Maybe they let him live longer because they liked him.)
But here’s the thing about sarcastic love, for me anyway. It is STILL A FORM OF LOVE. When I sarcastically love something, what it really is or becomes is genuine affection. I haven’t watched WWE most of my life and recently allowed my cousin to get me back into it because I appreciate it as a sport. No, it’s because it’s so much fun to make fun of it! I appreciate the athleticism and the things that are well done, but more often than not, I am googling the “worst angles in wrestling history” or botched moves or terrible characters. I mock what I love and I love what I mock. In that sense, T-Dog became a snarky internet commenting phenomenon. Some praised T for never getting involved. If you don’t do anything, you can’t die! For some, the terribleness of the other characters made T-Dog even more worthy of their love. The guy who never says anything looks pretty good standing next to the passive-aggressive whiny bitch who won’t shut up or stop contradicting herself from scene to scene. So when T-Dog died last week, a lot of the fun died with him. I’m sure someone will create a “Ghost of T-Dog” gimmick account on some of the message boards but it just won’t be the same.
T-Dog, we loved you and even though your death was supposed to be overshadowed by the death of the second-billed cast member, we wouldn’t let you be overlooked. They had no idea what they were dealing with. We, as one, rose up and shouted your most famous line. The line that epitomizes your entire man-of-few-words and possibly racist persona.
AWW HELL NO!
R.I.P., T-Dog. You were dead as soon as they introduced other black characters. Sorry.