'Walking Dead' Boss Breaks Down Deadly, Heartbreaking Episode

Showrunner Scott M. Gimple talks with THR about [spoiler's] fate and the decision to leave things unclear.
 Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 603, "Thank You," of AMC's The Walking Dead as well as the comics that the series is based upon.]

AMC's The Walking Dead may have just featured its most important episode to date.

During Sunday's "Thank You," fan-favorite Glenn (Steven Yeun) — one of the five original characters from season one — seemed to have been killed off.

For Glenn, his apparent "death" was anything but definitive when Nicholas' (Michael Traynor) body — limp after a fatal gunshot to the head — appeared to land atop of Glenn, potentially shielding him from the walker herd. (That's just one of many theories that may explain how Glenn could still be alive.)

Should Glenn's death be real, it would mark a massive departure from the comics on which the show is based where (spoiler alert) Glenn is killed off in issue 100 by dastardly villain Negan — who, sources say, will be introduced in the season six finale.

While Gimple said in a statement during Sunday's Talking Dead that "some version of Glenn or parts of Glenn" — "either in flashback or in the current story" — will be seen again "in some way" to help "complete the story," THR turned to the showrunner to look at why The Walking Dead may be pulling a Game of Thrones, how Glenn's potential near-death experience could change him and impact Maggie in a way we haven't seen before, and more. 

Is Glenn dead? How soon will his "death" be addressed?

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.

What can you say about the next time we'll see Glenn?

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.  

When you say "complete the story," do you mean Glenn's current arc with Nicholas or his entire character journey?  

That's where I must be ambiguous.

If he is, indeed, alive, how might this change him? This is a character who has never killed a human before.

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.

If this is indeed reality and not some sort of hallucination, is there any way he can get out of this?

Everything onscreen we see is information for the viewer one way or the other.

That said, is there a world in which any of these theories, including that Nicholas is checked out and this is some sort of hallucination, are correct?

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.

But you won't say definitively about Glenn.

I can only go with what's onscreen.

Game of Thrones is very likely faking out its audience with Jon Snow's "death." What do you guys have to gain from doing the same with Glenn? What do you want the audience to feel or learn from this episode?

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.

How does Glenn's storyline fit in with the overall theme of transformation in season six?

At the end of last season, Glenn had a choice in front of him: whether to kill this guy who tried to kill him [Nicholas]. When he came back, he didn't feel that Nicholas was ready to be out there. That was in episode one this season. And because of the way things went down, he was stuck with him. The story in episode three, regardless of what the ending of that particular act is, was Glenn still trying to bring this guy along. Even though he was forced with him, this man tried to kill him. There was a lot of strength that the character displayed in doing that. We were seeing Glenn grown up and becoming a man. Episode three really got to underlie that.  

If this truly is the way Glenn dies, how will his death mean something? It seems a bit repetitive as we've already seen Maggie (and the group) lose Hershel and Beth and deal with that grief?

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 that definition and knowing what it is.

Given that this is a show that hinges on life and death — where anyone can go at any time — do you worry about losing credibility going forward if Glenn really isn't dead? There have been several critical pieces about how it would damage the series if Glenn isn't dead.

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.

Yes, but this is a show where you guys kill characters and that's definitive. That is the currency of the show. If this is a case where Glenn truly isn't dead, it makes that currency lose its value.

Do you think the currency was devalued when that happened with Carol?

No, but I also don't think that at the time in season three that viewers were as invested in Carol as they are now given her trajectory. This is season six and Glenn is one of the five original stars still alive from the start in season one.

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.

There is also the distinct possibility that comics villain Negan — who kills Glenn in issue 100 — is coming at the end of this season. Why potentially fake Glenn's death now versus potentially having it come next season in one of, if not the most defining moments of the comics? 

That's one of those questions that any way that I answer could spoil five different parts of the story. But I hope to show you. We will be showing it. You will be learning the answer to that question as you watch. If I were to answer it now, I would wind up revealing all sorts of stuff from different directions. The lame way of saying it is: You'll have to see.

Do you think Glenn is alive or dead? Click here to vote in our poll and share your theories in the comments section below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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