David, that's a great question. I'm afraid I can't limit my answer to just one character, so I'm going to rank my top three.
And when they die -- horribly -- some of that goodness, hope, and optimism goes with them.
We didn't know Noah very well, but he made it to Alexandria, and began to take notes on the construction of the walls, realizing that if he was to have a future in the city, someone would have to take responsibility for their upkeep and care.
And then, in the very same episode he died, and audiences were forced to reckon with the idea that this is a world in which planning beyond today doesn't make much sense.
Tomorrow is no guarantee. And a "future" as we understand it might be no more than a pipe dream. In his diary, all Noah had time to write, before dying, was "This is the beginning."
From her lovely singing, to her ability to coax out Daryl's (Norman Reedus) often silent humanity, she was an absolute ray of light on The Walking Dead.
After her attempted suicide in Season Two, Beth came back from the brink, caring for Judith like a mother, bringing joy to the other survivors with her voice, and so on.
And again, she died in a particularly useless way. She died just moments before she could have been reunited with her sister, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Daryl.
But the one that gets me the most, frankly, is Hershel.
I loved that character. I loved his humanity, his beautiful, fallible humanity, and his sense of dignity. Hershel brought Rick (Andrew Lincoln) back from the abyss of psychosis on more than one occasion, and became the moral voice for the group in a way that, for me, Dale (Jeffrey De Munn ) never quite managed as well.
The death of Laurie (Sarah Wayne Callies) shocked me, but in terms of being upsetting deaths, these characters take the cake.
Why does The Walking Dead kill off hope again and again?
I believe it is part of making us understand Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) journey. When he gets to Alexandria, he is not much better than the people of Terminus (who slaughtered visitors to their town like cattle). He is so concerned about losing his own, about protecting his own, that he can't see the value of outsiders.
We lose Noah -- architect of the future, Beth -- voice of the future -- and Hershel -- wise man and elder statesman -- and we can really see where Rick is coming from. We understand why he believes you have to be harsh. One moment of weakness, and your very future is dead.
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