SPOILER WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for ‘The Walking Dead’ TV show and comic. Proceed with caution!
It’s been two weeks, so I think enough time has passed to talk openly about the events in the recent episodes of ‘The Walking Dead’.
Social media has been exploding for two weeks now over the apparent death of Glenn Rhee, played by Steven Yeun, one of the few remaining original survivors.
Usually when a major character has died, it caps a major story arc, where their character grows more than ever before. As predictable as that may seem, it helps deepen viewers’ attachment to them and makes their death more impactful. That did NOT happen with Glenn, whose death came out of nowhere, when Nicholas committed suicide and his body knocked Glenn into a horde of walkers, who proceeded to rip him apart. Or did they?
Scott M. Gimple, ‘The Walking Dead’ showrunner immediately issued this statement:
“In some way, we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn or parts of Glenn again, either in flashback or in the current story to help complete the story.”
Then Glenn was omitted from the In Memoriam montage during ‘Talking Dead’, a segment dedicated to all those that died in that night’s episode, even extras and zombies (and zombie extras). Complicating things even further, Yeun’s name has been removed from the opening credits. But in “the Morgan episode,” none of the regular cast appeared, yet their names were still in the credits and even those of the regular guest stars appeared at the start of the episode, even though they weren’t in it either. Why was Yeun’s name gone? OMG, Glenn MUST be dead!!! Or is he?!?!
I’ll just say this: He better be.
Two weeks later, viewers are still wondering about his fate, as the episode immediately following was a flashback featuring Morgan, while the next was set in Alexandria with Glenn and several others still “out there” unaccounted for. The result is a tense slow burn that upon repeat viewing will surely prove masterful and artistically rendered. But for now, fans just want confirmation of Glenn’s fate and an explanation.
But ‘The Walking Dead’ is set in a world overrun with flesh-eating zombies, where death lies around every corner– at least it should. That’s the premise of the show after all. Don’t get attached to anyone because they could die at any given time, whether or not they get a juicy storyline to send them off into the sunset.
Glenn’s “death” as it stands would be a brilliant move. The death of one of the few surviving original cast members is major, but to kill him off out of the blue with no warning is genius!
It’s just a shame that at this point, it doesn’t look like it will stick. And after making such a huge deal out of the “is he or isn’t he” situation, there’s no way they would appear to kill him off, reveal he’s alive then kill him off again for real. Thus he’d be unkillable, at least for a good while.
That hampers the show. NO character should be unkillable. That’s where the danger and suspense lie. I’ve said before, there are too any unkillable darlings on this show– Rick, Carl, Michonne, Daryl, even Carol. The expression “Kill your darlings” is a guide for writers to avoid treating characters too preciously. If one character is safe from death or harm, that eliminates the threat that the audience perceives. If nearly ALL of the show’s regulars are safe in the zombie apocalypse… then who cares? What’s the point of the show? To see what Red Shirts die this week with no consequence for the characters whose names we actually know?
Plus, Glenn is supposed to die soon anyway. I know the show deviates quite a bit from the comics, sometimes for the better. But when the comic book hit its landmark #100 issue, readers knew something HUGE had to happen and that was Glenn’s death– not from falling into a sea of walkers, but having his head bashed in, his eyes knocked out of their sockets as he gurgled the name “Maggie” as long as he could still speak. This head bashing went on for an excruciating length of time, while Rick, Carl, pregnant Maggie and others watched, unable to do anything lest they also meet their deaths.
TV Glenn had it easy!
Though TV Glenn’s death was different and happened earlier, readers knew it was coming. And this was more merciful! But apparently it didn’t really happen. Like Zachary Levi said on ‘Talking Dead’, this has been stretched out too long for him to really be dead. Too many folks that aren’t familiar with the source material are losing their minds– because how dare they kill someone they LIKE on a show about people getting eaten on a weekly basis. It’s almost like the show has no choice but to spoon feed audiences a pat happy ending.
Do I sound blood-thirsty? It’s a bloody show. Death has lingered over this program from the beginning. To back off that– to establish that the bulk of the cast is safe no matter what– removes a crucial part of the storytelling and the suspense and tension that drew viewers to begin with. To NOT kill him off would be the real betrayal.
Do you agree or disagree? Should Glenn live or die?