Only four episodes into the new season, and AMC’s The Walking Dead has already delivered shocks and surprises like never before. From the brutally violent Wolves attack on Alexandria in episode two to last week’s pacifist Morgan origin story, Scott M. Gimple and company continue to prove their ability to keep a zombie apocalypse series fresh and exciting.
Yet while there are currently multiple plot points to explore this season- Morgan keeping that one Wolf captive and not killing him, Rick on his own with a swarm of walkers behind him, most of the group separated- the question that’s on everyone’s mind is whether or not (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) Glenn is still alive. Initially, it appeared obvious that the character had been killed off. We saw him and Nicholas fall to the ground and surrounded by walkers, and between the music and camera angles the producers made it look like it was Glenn’s guts the zombies were devouring.
However, many theories have circulated around the web since this episode, titled “Thank You,” aired a couple weeks ago, which suggest that Glenn is indeed alive. If you’re like me, you’ve probably already read these extensively.IGN, MoviePilot and The Hollywood Reporter have each stated reasons for why his supposed death was fake. I myself called BS on these initially and even Tweeted RIP Glenn posts. Yet, the more I think about it, the more I’m led to believe that Gimple and Kirkman couldn’t give such a beloved character a death as brutal or as unexpected as the one here.
Granted, we’ve seen plenty of main characters on this show- Hershel, Tyrese, Dale, Beth, Lori, etc.- meet their end in a shocking and indescribably gory fashion, but their deaths were both clear and took place toward the end of an episode or season finale. Not only did Glenn’s “death” happen three episodes into season six, but there were also 15 minutes still remaining. If a show is going to kill off one of its most prominent characters who has been around since the beginning, that character deserves a proper sendoff.
Beyond this, from a basic storytelling angle, killing Glenn off this way doesn’t make sense. A central theme of this season so far, and particularly in last week’s episode, has been on the ethics of taking human life in a post-apocalyptic world. Initially, we as fans were rooting for the ruthless, shoot first and think later Rick at the start of this season. His character now is a stark contrast to his more indecisive nature in earlier seasons and is as a result much more entertaining to watch, especially with hordes of walkers and an army of savages closing in on him and his friends. That said, Morgan’s suddenly pacifist nature looks weak by comparison.
However, last week’s episode, which came just after “Thank You,” gave us a reason to think otherwise. By showing us how and why Morgan has developed his no kill policy, viewers are now more drawn to this attitude than to the gung-ho Rick way of doing things. And if we look back at Glenn, we see that he is the only member of the core group who has never killed another human. Even with enemies like The Governor and those cannibals from last season, Glenn has never come to the point of taking a human life.
That said, why would Gimple and company reward his good nature with such a brutal death? Even for a post-apocalyptic series, that’s a gruesome message. While it’s kind of expected that everyone will go eventually, it’s too early in the season for such a major character to exit like this. And for further food for thought, I suggest watching The Talking Dead episode which aired after “Thank You.”
Judging by the trailer for tonight’s episode, we may have to wait until the midseason finale before we get any answers, which is cruel. Nevertheless, the suspense is all the more reason to tune in. Between its nonlinear storytelling and multiple subplots, this may end up being the best season of The Walking Dead so far.