I don’t think we’ve talked about this much—if at all—on these pages, but we’re pretty big fans of The Walking Dead. Knowing how violent, zombie-filled, and off from our normal viewing routine the show was, I actually watched the entire first season myself to see if the show was worth all the gore before deciding it definitely was, recommending it to Katie with my assurances that story, character, and acting were excellent, and immediately re-watching the entire first season with her. Ever since, we’ve been huge fans, along with most everyone else who’s given it a chance.
Last night, as any fans know by now, they supposedly…might have killed off one of the mainstay original characters and one that’s probably the most beloved by viewers and readers of the graphic novel alike—Glenn Rhee.
In the TV show, Glen shows up near the end of the pilot as a disembodied voice calling Rick—who’s just climbed into a tank in the middle of a walker horde—a dumbass. He eventually helps Rick escape and introduces him to the rest of his group. The comic follows a similar introduction to Glen, the first living human Rick encounters after his initial run-in with Morgan and his sun after waking from a coma.
In last night’s episode—number 3 of season 6, eerily titled “Thank You” (Nicholas’ last words to Glen before shooting himself)—we see the troubled/troublesome Nicholas tumble off a dumpster into the depths of yet another walker horde with Glen in tow and are shown a close up of walkers ripping someone’s guts out in a close up of Glenn screaming, leading many teary-eyed fans to believe one of our favorite characters may have breathed his last, screamy breath.
But that’s totally not the case. Glenn is 100% alive.
First off, there is zero way that the writers, producers, directors, and fans (which encompasses all previous categories) would let such a beloved character leave the show in such an ambiguous, hollow way. This is a dramatic fucking show, one that has never been accused of pulling punches or shying away from explosive, bloody excitement. It’s also one that—above all—celebrates and nurtures character development as its primary narrative mechanic. I have absolutely no doubt that they all feel Glen deserves a proper send off, and maybe dying underneath a guy no one particularly likes is not that send off.
Second, following up on that concept, there are too many loose ends. This is not a happy ending show…at all, and it’s also not one that tries to be perfect or predictable in its storytelling, but between the fireworks/flares that Glen still has that were meant to start a walker-distracting fire and the unsatisfactory lack of goodbyes between Glen and his wife, Maggie…and Rick, for that matter, that adds up to too many possible threads to great, tear-jerky stories that no writer in their right mind would just throw away for a less-than-mediocre character death.
Lastly, I’m not an expert (happily), but those screams of Glen’s seem much more of the variety of ‘Oh dear god, that guy on top of me is being eaten by zombie, how am I going to get out of here’, not the ‘Fuck, I’m being eaten alive’ variety. Again, I’m happily no expert on that. Vulture’s got some helpful reminders in the form of animated GIFs if you need a refresher though.
Basically, undramatic, shallow “death” of main character + good writing = no death. So, if we accept that Glen’s not currently dead, which he totally is not; and we accept that the people behind The Walking Dead are good storytellers who would at no cost sidestep telling a good story with one of our favorite characters, we have two possible outcomes:
First, we don’t see Glen for a while, we’re all distraught over the next couple episodes, and then, near the end of the season when we’ve maybe forgotten about him a little bit, Glen appears as some awesome, superhero version of himself to save the day, a la Michonne when we first meet her with the sword and walker guards.
This possibility—I think—is thin and unlikely. It just doesn’t sit well in the whole world that’s been set up for us.
More likely—Glen is alive, but dies very soon. Think about it—they can’t just show us that he made it out and go back to everything being hunky dory…er, as hunky dory as things get in this world. It’d be a let down in terms of cause and effect in this world and would cause us, as an audience, to step back from the world and its believability, not in terms of zombies, but in terms of consequence to actions and choices. If Glen survives and everything’s fine, then anyone can survive in this kind of situation; suspense instantly evaporates.
But if Glen escapes this situation of the zombie pile-on long enough to create some sort of fiery moth-to-the-flame sacrifice that saves not only his friends and these new thin-skinned Alexandrians, but also his wife…that’s a good closer on our friend, Glenn. That’s a send off.
Above, our illustration of the illustration of one of Glenn’s first frames in the original comic, by Tony Moore.