Obviously if you have not watched Episode 3 of The Walking Dead’s 6th season, then this article will have spoilers. This is all the warning you’ll get. Proceed as you see fit.
Everyone on my newsfeed is all atwitter about episode 3 of The Walking Dead and the death of goodguy Glenn – except that no one is *actually* talking about it, perhaps because of the explosive reaction to Beth’s death last season being leaked before DVR-inclined fans could see the episode. I haven’t actually seen the episode, but every week I have to check episode summaries to make sure that my favorite satanic Betty Crocker clone Carol is still alive and kicking (fuck Daryl – if Carol dies, I riot!). It seems like there have been rumblings of Glenn’s death since season 4, and Glenn has been picking up every damn baseball bat he can get his hands on (more on that later), but it seems like the show finally made good on those rumors this last week.
Of course, almost as soon as it aired, the cries of “Say it isn’t so!” were quickly drowned out by “Don’t believe it! Glenn is ALIVE!” Spoiler sites started leaking recent photos of actor Steven Yuen on set as evidence, and people repeatedly point out that this death is a far departure from Glenn’s death in the comics at the hands of Negan (with his barbed-wire-wrapped bat Lucille, hence the foreshadowing) who is expected to be introduced to the show late in season 6.
Sure, Glenn is a good guy; he often acts as a moral compass when unhinged leader Rick is having one of his more unstable moments, and everyone wants to see him get a different send off than falling off a dumpster under the dead body of total asshat Nicholas. On a different level, in a show that includes many great roles for people of color, Glenn has been a refreshing change in how Asian-American men are usually portrayed on tv. But acting as a role model for diversity and the desire to see him get his goodbyes aren’t enough to justify manipulating viewers with this sort of fake cliffhanger. Here are my thoughts on why Glenn really should be dead…and why he probably isn’t.
1. We get it nerds: this isn’t the way Glenn dies in the comics, blah blah blah. It would be odd for the show to veer so far away from the source material with such a major character. Abraham or Rosita, Father Gabriel, any of the newer characters would be let go without much fuss, but Glenn has been with us since the end of the first episode. Plus, every pop culture site in the world has gone on ad nauseum about the fact that Negan is supposed to appear at the end of season 6. Surely the show must be gearing up to present that iconic death?!
And that’s why this is the perfect way for Glenn to go out.
Maybe it’s my lack of attachment to the comics, but the show has done its best work when it has moved away from comics. For example Carol: rather than turning herself into zombie food, Carol has hung around the show for a few seasons after she should have died, and she’s the most intriguing character on the show, bar none. Ever since Sophia’s death, Carol has had a coldness that has only grown more powerful and cunning since she should have made her exit; her “Look at the flowers” execution of a child and her ultimatum to Sam in Alexandria are two of the most chilling moments on the show, and they had nothing to do with walkers. And neither would have happened if they had stuck with the comic storyline.
And as much as I’m growing to dislike Daryl (he can get in line right behind Carl for who should be walker-bait next), and there is at least some reason to blame him for the death of sweet strongman Tyrese, his inclusion in the earlier seasons was fantastically done, giving us a wonderful counter-point to redneck Merle. His love for his brother conflicting with his desire to be a good person were really well done, and his character never existed in the comics at all.
The Walking Dead is the freshest and most intriguing when they step away from or take liberties with the storylines in the comics. It keeps people on their toes. What a fantastic little nose tweek to all the naysaying nerds if Glenn, rather than getting a big spectacular finish in a mid-season or season finale, is simply the victim of circumstance. I personally think it would be great if Walker Glenn showed up at the gates of Alexandria, and the only weapon on hand to dispatch him was a baseball bat. It would be a perfect homage to his comics death while creating entirely new content.
2. Yes, I get that this is a show and that it’s fiction, but it has established itself as a show attempting to create a realistic portrayal of life during a zombie apocalypse. And the reality during a zombie apocalypse (I assume, since, you know, one hasn’t actually ever happened) is that shit happens and sometimes your story just runs out. As this blogger points out, if Glenn somehow survives that insane mass of hungry dead chompers, either through some lucky circumstance or the intervention of another character, it will stretch the show’s credibility pretty far. Perhaps far enough that it won’t be able to come back.
Yes, we’d all like to see Glenn get his big finale finish, go out like a champ with lots of fanfare. But that’s not how the world works. The “real world,” even if it’s a fantastic world of zombie viruses and survivalist cannibals, doesn’t have any fucks to give about your story arc or if this particular death is as big and “splashy” (interpret that word however you like!) as you feel it should be. It’s a hard, ugly place and sometimes terrible things happen. They can even happen to Glenn.
3. Maggie’s turn! We’ve had very little time spent with Maggie who has, since season two, lost every member of her family, one by one. Herschel’s and Beth’s deaths were two of the most heart-wrenching in the series, but both were the result of human misdeed. We haven’t had a main character turn into a walker in a good long while – Herschel’s head barely counts and before that was Merle; the others who were bitten were “taken care of” before they could turn. All of those complaining about the loss of storyline for Glenn should think about all that’s potentially gained for Maggie if you take away her one final familial connection.
So why do I think Glenn is probably still alive? Because of everything I just said above.
As much as I enjoy The Walking Dead, their willingness to kill off potentially great characters like Tyrese to give their content to fan-favorite Daryl indicates a willingness to pander to crazed fandom; showrunner Scott Gimple has to know what killing Glenn off like this would set off in terms of fan response. I think it’s the smarter choice, and I think the potential payoff is much higher, but allowing Glenn to survive is the safer bet. And the survivors who have been around since the very beginning are getting pretty well thinned out, and they aren’t going to take that lightly. I mean, even a dud like Andrea got her sendoff in the third season finale.
Though I would like to see this be a catalyst to really change and explore Maggie…well, probably not in the cards. If we look closely at The Walking Dead they are much more invested in deep character development with the male characters. Aside from Carol, who is the exception that proves the rule, the main women in TWD haven’t gotten the same level of development. Michonne is a stone cold badass, but we still have only gotten the tiniest of glimpses into her past. She used to travel with two chained up walker “pets” for fuck’s sake, and we know they were close to her, but we have so little information. Rosita is there to provide a contrast (and orgasms) to militant Abraham, and Tara is just there to give us hope that awkward lesbians with limited practical skills can survive the apocalypse. Maggie’s been to hell several times over, but her main role at the end of last season was to convince Deanna that Rick knew what he was talking about.
And of course we can’t discount the frame-by-frame examination of the scene of Glenn’s supposed “death”: the overhead shot to show you how grave, how impossible the situation is paired with the bloody entrails shown as Glenn is screaming, clearly positioned way too far up on Glenn’s body to possibly be his. The show is playing with us, and it’s a game that I don’t think we, as viewers, can win.
I’m still holding out hope that Walker Glenn will get dispatched by a baseball bat. But I’m not gonna hold my breath.
Tags: Alexandria, Alexandria Safe Zone, AMC's The Walking Dead, Beth, Carol, Carol and Cookies, Cookies, Glenn, Glenn's Death, Herschel, Is Glenn Dead?, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Look at the flowers, Lucille, Maggie, Michonne, Miss Jaye, Negan, Rick, Robert Kirkman, Steven Yuen, The Talking Dead, The Walking Dead, Vanity Fair, Walking Dead, World of Champagne