This week’s episode of the Walking Dead was easily one of the roughest episodes to get through in a long time. I haven’t made it a habit of doing weekly recaps of The Walking Dead, but the end of this past episode was so shocking and so ambiguous that I feel the need to discuss it. After back to back episodes seeing Rick lead a group on a mission to divert a mega herd of walkers away from Alexandria, and Carol and the rest of the townsfolk fend off an invasion by the Wolves, we were treated to even more doom and gloom as the team desperately tried to wrap their mission and get back to Alexandria to investigate an ominous sound coming from home. In the midst of the chaos we saw many Alexandrians fall prey to walkers, and things began to get serious for some of our favorite characters. Michonne ended up trapped in a building with many of the Alexandrians, while Glenn and Nicholas set off to find another way out of their predicament of being surrounded. In the end, we saw Glenn and Nicholas cornered by a massive herd of walkers, and a seemingly detached and unraveled Nicholas simply turned to Glenn and said “Thank You” while shooting himself in the head. The result of his actions left his body to freefall into Glenn, knocking him into the crowd of walkers, signaling what appeared to be the end of one of the most beloved characters in the show’s history.
It was such a shocking scene when Nicholas killed himself and Glenn fell into the walkers, it seemed so unreal. How could that be the end of Glenn? How could he die surrounded by none of his friends, all alone devoured by walkers? Part of me knows that’s the nature of the world the live in, a cruel place where safety doesn’t really exist, and attachment can only lead to heartbreak. But, there’s another part of me that refuses to believe that this is how Glenn’s story is going to end, and that part of me kicked in almost immediately after that scene. After seeing the critical and fan response to the show over the last day or two, it appears I’m not alone in being skeptical here. I’d really like to delve into this subject, mostly because I can’t wait for Sunday to see this story play out, and try to come to a conclusion on the question at hand; did The Walking Dead really just kill off Glenn Rhee?
- First, let’s examine what we saw on the episode. Our last scenes of Glenn were with Nicholas, who spent the episode going down a bit of an unstable trajectory. Constantly the group was relying on Nicholas’ knowledge of the area to get them back home, but his cowardice and fear froze him frequently, rendering him less than useful in the high stress. Glenn even tried to reassure Nicholas that he was not the coward who left people to die anymore, that he had evolved and grown thanks to his time with the new group. Still, Nicholas was not able to overcome the situation, and chose to kill himself before he could be eaten alive, in essence signing Glenn’s death warrant. But, something wasn’t right about that scene. For the entirety of the episode we saw a neutral point of view of the happenings, but right in the midst of the infamous “Thank You” scene, the point of view changed to Nicholas, and the unraveling point of view he was seeing. We got in his mind for a second and saw a man barely hanging on under the intensity of a world he had largely been sheltered from. This point of view shift set up the scene beautifully, adding extra shock value to what was about to happen, but it leads me to pose this question; did those scenes occur in Nicholas’ mind only? I wonder if his death and Glenn’s will be written off as part of a momentary delusion, something that occurred in his head as he’s slowly lost his grip under pressure. I think this would be a wonderful way for the show to reverse course on what we saw happen on this last episode, but it doesn’t fully explain why we saw the scene where it looked like Glenn was getting devoured. Why would anyone conjure up a delusion of their death and then proceed to see anything further? It could happen that way realistically, but it might not be the best explanation. I think the better explanation of that scene may be that it happened, but it wasn’t Glenn who was really devoured. It’s tough to tell in the shot, but it really isn’t definitive that Glenn is the one being eaten alive by zombies. Could it be that the zombies have gotten Nicholas instead, and that Glenn has somehow managed to camouflage beneath his dead body? I’m not sure if anyone could possibly save themselves from a herd that big by using a flesh shield, but wouldn’t it be awesome if something distracted the herd away, saving Glenn from certain doom? For all we know, Glenn could have lived through that episode, only to be killed next episode, but there are clues in the episode indicating that there may be a glimmer of hope.
- Now, let’s talk about the speculation after the episode. Part of my ritual every week while watching The Walking Dead is to watch as much of the repeat episode before the new show, to refresh myself on what’s going on, then watch the show and follow that up by watching Talking Dead, the semi-interactive after show hosted by Chris Hardwick. I love having an after show for The Walking Dead, it’s a great way to decompress after such an intense show, and the guests are always fun to hear from, especially when producers come on the show to offer insights. There were some clues given on Talking Dead indicating that Glenn may not have kicked the bucket after all. First, when the show ran their standard “In Memoriam” segment, recapping all the deaths of the episode, they went as far as saying ‘Please let this not be true’ but never confirmed that the character of Glenn had died. This is a very big indication that something more is to come. Also, executive producer Scott Gimble wrote into the show to say that we will see Glenn in some form, whether alive, or dead, or as a walker in the future, and that there will be some form of closure to the story. This was a very open-ended spoiler from the producer, not exactly giving us hope that Glenn may have a happy ending, but instead indicating that we’ll just have to stay tuned. And of course there has been rampant speculation online about the episode, with many writers, bloggers, and fans asking the same question that I’m posing; Is Glenn really dead?” All of the buzz surrounding the show is amazing, and this latest twist has really got fans searching for answers, speculating, and anticipating next week’s episode. This is all very good for the franchise, and regardless of the outcome of next week’s episode, the show has awoken its fan base in a big way.
So what is the verdict? Did we witness the end of Glenn on The Walking Dead or was the wool pulled over our eyes? I think people online will continue speculating until next Sunday when we (hopefully) get some answers, but I think I’ve come to my final conclusion. I don’t think Glenn died in the last episode of The Walking Dead. That just didn’t feel like the appropriate build up to such a crucial character’s demise, there has to be more to his story than the anonymous and sudden ending we saw. Either those scenes were just a figment of Nicholas’ imagination, or what we saw was Nicholas being devoured and not Glenn, but either way I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Glenn living and breathing. But, I really don’t know, this show is so great at keeping you on the edge of your seat, and I wouldn’t be shocked if I was completely wrong about all of this. I’m anxiously awaiting the next episode to get some closure for this story, and I know regardless of the outcome that this show will do the character of Glenn justice. Did The Walking Dead really kill off Glenn? I really don’t think they did, not like that at least. I think we’re gonna see more of Glenn, even if only to wrap up his story and bring some closure for a pivotal character on this dynamic show.