Before I begin…SPOILER ALERT!!!
Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead may have really sent a lot of people into the feels, but there were two significant cliffhangers that will need to be answered as soon as possible. The first was Rick’s fate out on his own. He cut his hand during a fight with a trio of walkers and then was attacked by The Wolves in his RV. With the RV not starting and walkers surrounding him, it seems like he is in for a fight to survive this mess. The second cliffhanger was what most certainly appeared to be the end for Glenn…
With his first appearance on the show including the infamous line calling Rick a dumb-ass, Glenn repeats a similar phrase to Rick in the midst of the walker herd wrangling. Glenn also looks at Hershel’s pocket watch in a private moment at the pet store. Throughout the episode, David is dealing with the fact that he is likely dead after getting bit by a walker and his story about meeting his wife seems to be eerily similar to Glenn’s story about meeting Maggie. These seem like sign that lead toward using clever tactics to hide/hint toward a potential shocking reveal. When Glenn was pulled off the dumpster by Nicholas’s dead body, it immediately looked like the end for Glenn…or was it?
I am going to take a moment to unpack both possibilities and the possible outcomes of each fate…but before I do…SPOILER ALERT!!!
Glenn’s Fate in the Comics: Before unpacking the possibilities in the show, it is important to think about how Glenn meets his end in the comics. If the story followed the same path, Glenn will survive this chaos and live to see another day or two. The comics revealed a villain named Negan. This brash and foul-mouthed leader has a number of brutal acts strung out in the comics, but none worse than his destruction of Glenn. In a moment of capture of Rick’s group by Negan, the villain lines up the group (similar to the Terminus scene at the start of Season 5) and tries to decide who to punish for killing some of his men. Eventually and suddenly, Negan chooses Glenn and kills him with a barbed wire baseball bat named Lucille. This is the worst of all of the deaths in the comics and something that fans have been waiting to see on the show for some time.
Time to Grieve…Glenn is Gone: The way that the scene played out last night, it seems impossible that he could have survived. The episode subversively hinted toward his ultimate demise with the use of certain symbolism: Glenn’s “dumb-ass” comment, Hershel’s pocket watch, and David’s story. Nicholas had been dead weight for some time and likely represented that the world is too harsh for a forgiving soul like Glenn’s to last forever. Glenn had been the only person from the main group to never kill a living human. He was the one member who provided redemption for others who lost their way. In this moment, his decision to let Nicholas live and to let him provide help could easily be seen as Glenn’s decision leading to his downfall. Even thinking a couple episodes back, Glenn was quietly resistant to letting Nicholas be a part of the group to lead the walkers away from Alexandria.
In the final scene with Glenn, Nicholas’s dead body causes Glenn to fall off the dumpster and into the crowd of walkers. With not a single other person seemingly in sight or in range to save him, a helpless Glenn is simply left at the bottom of a horde of walkers all clawing in his direction.
On The Talking Dead, a prepared statement mentioned that we will see Glenn again in whole or “in parts.” This leads to option #2…
Glenn, the Pizza Delivery Walker: It appears that Glenn met his fate at the bottom of the walker pile, but the statement from The Talking Dead would highlight the possibility of seeing Glenn in walker form in the near future. This actually happened with Hershel in Season 4. The Governor decapitated Hershel, whose head seemed to reappear in the following episode. Glenn could rise from the horde and become one of them, eventually finding his way back to Maggie at Alexandria and making for a horrible, gut-wrenching reunion or encountering another character and having to be put down.
Main cast members have met this fate before (e.g. Hershel, Merle, Shane), but this would definitely be the most significant of the group to be portrayed in this way. With how the scene played out, this would be a possible fate…
Or is it?!?: There are many fan theories that have sprung up to explain how Glenn could have survived. He could have been covered in Nicholas’s blood and guts, masking his living smell. He could have somehow pulled himself under the dumpster. Maybe someone was actually nearby and could have saved him, considering that Season 6 has been a nonlinear storyline. It is really hard to imagine him getting out of this mess, but there are other elements in play that could save him.
The first is the story from the comics. It is clear that the show has diverged from the comics in some senses, but it always seems to pull back to the same basic story. For example, Carol’s and Andrea’s fates in the comics were reversed in the show, leading to Carol being the one who toughened up and survived all the way to Season 6 so far. Daryl doesn’t exist in the comics, but he has become a staple for the show and has taken a couple of characters’ places for some of the major plot points. Glenn’s fate with Negan in the comics could be replaced by another character (e.g. Daryl, Morgan, Carol, etc.), but that is the story that fans of the comics have been waiting to see on the show. It would be a bit of a travesty to not play out that storyline as close to the comics as possible. Maybe he survives this walker horde and realizes that his time is coming to an end, but not just yet.
The second is the way that the possible death was handled by AMC and The Talking Dead. Major characters get significant airtime when they die on the show. Steven was nowhere to be found last night and has instead been seen still on-set filming scenes with other current characters. Glenn was also not shown in the In Memoriam section, which has happened before but led to the reveal that the character was actually still alive. Killing Glenn so suddenly without a sense of closure or respect to the length of time he has been part of the story also seems a step away from the show’s process. The cryptic statement only adds to the speculation if Glenn somehow could survive.
What this means…: If Glenn somehow survives, it won’t be for long. The only reason that he would pull through at this point would be to let the Negan story play out. Maggie’s pregnancy has not be discussed much at all and there would need to be some sort of closure there. Speaking of Maggie, she may be the toughest of all of the the characters on the show. She lost her entire family, including the dramatic deaths of Hershel and Beth, and may now have just lost Glenn. Her grieving and fight to continue with life will eventually be a great story to tell.
If he survives, it also needs to be in a believable way. He cannot simply emerge unscathed. It is hard to imagine that he would not at least be scratched or lose a limb. There could be an attempt to keep his injury a secret, long enough to let Negan enter the scene. If he just pops up without anything wrong, it will feel like the writers got lazy with the harshness of how the world has turned.
It is more likely that he will be announced as dead still, so what does that mean moving forward? As I mentioned above, the Negan story can still play out and with the same level of impact. Glenn’s death by Negan’s bat was made worse because it was actually in front of Maggie. She was left to mourn while her husband had been beaten in front of her eyes. A similar story could be told with other character combinations, such as Daryl and Carol, Michonne and Morgan, or Abraham and Rosita. The Daryl-Carol version could elicit similar reactions to the harshness of the comic version, but this seems like a cheaper way to tell the same story. This doesn’t feel like how the show was able to transform the death of the boys after the prison into the Mika and Lizzie story, or how Sasha and Carol have replaced Andrea minus the love story with Rick.
Either way, The Walking Dead has continued to find ways to surprise their fans and will give Glenn the tribute he deserves at the point they make his death official. Have faith in the storytelling and appreciate the fact that a show can get you so worked up over the death of a main character to feel like you are grieving someone in the real world. I don’t want to see him fall in such a horrible fashion, but there was still purpose and meaning behind last night’s shocker in relation to the continued harsh reality of a post-apocalyptic world. Innocents have fallen previously, and Glenn just might be the next unfortunate addition to that list.