MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING!!!
Seriously, turn back now if you haven’t yet seen “Thank you”, the latest episode of The Walking Dead which aired on DSTV this past Monday evening. This was a big one, and you really don’t want to spoil it for yourself! If you have though, then scroll on down past the pic.
The Walking Dead may have had some spotty moments in its earlier run, but it has been absolutely firing on all cylinders for some time now, and the latest season is no different as the three episodes we’ve seen thus far have all been superb. Now while the TV series is pretty hectic – too intense for many actually – it still has not reached the level of mind numbingly brutal storytelling as the comic book that spawned it. In this latest episode though, it came pretty damn close.
Glenn, one of the show’s most beloved characters, the eternal optimist who never gives up on his friends and who has been right there in the thick of things from practically the start with ex-lawman anti-hero Rick Grimes, has died. It was violent, it was gory and it was completely shocking. It left members of my household in tears.
Since the only people who should be reading this are those that have seen the episode already, I won’t breakdown Glenn’s death in detail but to recap: Glenn and Nicholas – the cowardly townsman who tried to kill Glenn, only for Glenn to forgive and him and try to get him to become a better perosn – found themselved trapped between an insurmountable fence and a veritable tidal wave of ravenous zombies. Out of options, the pair climb onto a small dumpster, barely out of reach of the zombies’s hands. Nicholas though, is going through a bit of a mental crisis, and seemingly faced with certain death turns to Glenn, quietly mouths “Thank you” before shooting himself in the head. Except his corpse falls right on top of Glenn, toppling them both to ground where the zombies promptly swoop in and start grossly tearing/eating them, with Glenn issuing a final bloodcurdling scream as entrails are ripped out.
And it was also total bullshit to many fans, who think that showrunner Scott M. Gimple just pulled one hell of a fast one on us. Gimple hinted at this possibility of subterfuge when he appeared on The Talking Dead (via THR), the official companion talk show that airs immediately after The Walking Dead and breaks down each episode. When asked by THR to elaborate and clarify whether Glenn was indeed dead, and if not, when will we see him again, Gimple had this to say:
“We saw what we saw onscreen. I had an innocuous statement on Talking Dead that said it better than I can say it here. [His “death” will be addressed] this half-season. I’d say sooner rather than later. We’re ripping through this season pretty damn quick. People will know pretty damn quick. Even getting into the thematics, it tips it one way or the other…
..We will see Glenn, some version of Glenn or parts of Glenn, again, either in flashback or in the current timeline. We will complete the story. That’s the important thing. That’s what people are feeling, and it will be this half of the season.”
Parts of Glenn?! Well that doesn’t sound creepy at all!
But back to this theory of Glenn not actually having died – we saw him go down, we saw the zombies start their disembowelment, so how could he have made it? Well, one prevailing school of thought is that what we saw never actually happened. Nicholas had been spacing out that entire episode, seemingly seeing and hearing things that weren’t there. Could it be that what we saw was merely his panic-induced hallucination? The Huffington Post came across some compelling evidence as a rewatch of the episode seems to confirm that Nicholas ran out of bullets just shortly before his death, and if that is true, then how could he have shot himself?
I’ve checked out the moment in the episode they’re referencing, and it really does sound as if we can hear Nicholas’ gun run out of ammo just before that. Personally though, I this may just have been a continuity error, as I just don’t see Gimple and co pulling the old “it was just a dream this whole time” ploy, not for something this major – they would undoubtedly lose the respect of fans immediately for such a cheap tactic. The show previously went through something similar early one when it looked as if fan-favourite Carol had died, only for it to be revealed later that she had actually survived.
“In an episode that I wrote and story I helped craft with Carol, it very much looked like Carol died in season three. She was found in a cell [in the prison]. The show wasn’t quite as big as it is now, but people went through that story and seemed like they enjoyed it. Carol went through something pretty big there. I have read comics my whole life and go to the movies and watch TV, and twists and turns are part of storytelling. I love that people are having this huge response [to Glenn]. What’s interesting to see is some of the pieces you’re talking about. But I’d encourage everyone to keep watching. I think it’s wonderful that people are speculating about the story. And why not? We have some time between the episodes [every week], but let’s watch the story and see how it turns out.”
“Losing characters is one of the more painful parts of the show, but it’s part of the world they inhabit. That said, all sorts of things happen to these characters that are equally painful. Or possibly something that makes us happy or moves us in different ways. I’m excited to see how people feel about the entirety of the story. And there is hard stuff coming up. But it is part of the world they inhabit. Emotions are part of it.”
And boy were there some emotions this past Monday! That being said, I do think that Glenn didn’t actually die though, but the “how” of it has nothing to do with hallucination but comes down purely to how he fell: You can clearly see Nicholas’ corpse fall on top of Glenn as they hit the ground. And when the zombies start at their human buffet, the camera pushes in close so that its focused almost exclusively on Glenn’s anguished face and intestines and other viscera are pulled into the shot. But pay careful attention to where said gore is coming from, and you’ll notice that the angles are wrong, as if all the eviscerated organs are actually not coming from Glenn but from Nicholas’ body on top of him.
With Glenn pinned beneath him, and death seeming imminent, it’s understandable that he would be screaming to high heaven, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to discover Glenn alive, buried under a messy pile of what used to be Nicholas. That could be shielding him enough from the other zombies to survive (after all we know that zombies ignore people covered in their blood, and Glenn and Nicholas had just killed a whole heap of them on that same spot), or it may just provide enough distraction for him to escape somehow.
This is just one of several theories floating around on the net as to how Glenn could have survived and Gimple addressed them as well – including shooting down the “hallucination” angle:
“Some of those theories could be correct. I read all sorts of things about this, and some of it is right and some of it is wrong. But I love that people are this passionate and engaged and are looking at this like a CSI thing. It’s incredible. But back to Nicholas: He did put a gun to his head. We did hear a trigger go off and we saw a lot of blood go. I’m a lot more comfortable saying Nicholas is dead.”
And if Glenn is still alive then this traumatic event will definitely have some ramifications for him and the rest of the cast:
“On the show, the fact that Glenn has never killed a human before has been a very quiet but big part of his character in my mind. If he were alive, how would this change his character? We have a little time to think about that. I shouldn’t speculate one way or the other.”
“Everything that has been going on this season — and we’ve only seen three episodes so far — everything is part of a greater story for these characters. Everything. No matter what happens to these characters — any of these characters — it’s not like, “This thing happened and we’ll figure out what it means.” We mapped these characters’ lives out and we map their deaths out. Sometimes those deaths can be meaningless in as much as how abrupt they can be and how harsh they can be and how they haven’t been built to. Sometimes we do build to these deaths. But even the things that happen outside of life and death — the things these characters do, the choices they make — all of it is a piece of telling this story of this world and these people.”
Glenn’s wife Maggie has of course experienced her fair share of shocking deaths on the show as both her father Herschel and her sister Maggie infamously also met their ends in brutally unexpected ways. Could the “death” of Glenn perhaps not be going to this grief-filled well one too many times?
“I don’t know. What you just described with Maggie, that’s an incredible amount of grief to deal with. Yet how do you continue on? The power of each one of these is different and equally powerful — but different. Hershel destroyed her. Beth destroyed her so much that she shut down. There was nothing going on there on the surface, but it was because she was shut down. What’s interesting here and where we are with the story and [reflected in] the questions you’re asking — you’re asking because there’s uncertainty, and I’ll cop to the fact that there’s uncertainty, that’s what all these questions are about — is how in the interim does Maggie deal with the uncertainty? That’s what’s interesting. Because the audience is going through the same thing Maggie is. That is more painful than definition and knowing what it is.”
Damn right, not knowing is painful, even if I’m about 80% certain that he is actually still alive. And I’m also pretty sure that Gimple and co are probably going to be killing him off for real sometime in the near future, because a fake-out of this magnitude followed by the real thing just when we think he is safe and so don’t expect it, would easily be the most devastating turn of events. And we do know that The Walking Dead loves nothing more than utterly destroying the feelings of its audience. Thank you, indeed.
Last Updated: October 29, 2015