[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Walking Dead comic book series.]
Don’t shoot the messenger here, but The Walking Dead‘s Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) should be killed off this season. We’re not saying that he definitively will be; our argument is that the AMC zombie drama would be wise to follow the events of Robert Kirkman’s comic book series and off the character during its current sixth season.
For the uninitiated, Glenn is killed off in the landmark 100th issue of the comics in the most savage fashion: by Negan, who picks the former pizza delivery boy out of a lineup that includes Rick, Maggie and Michonne, among others, and beats him to death with Lucille, a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire.
As die-hard fans of the AMC drama know by now, the series recently tapped Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen) to play Negan, the personable villain whose colorful vocabulary is loaded with f-bombs but who is so maniacal that he makes David Morrissey’s Governor look like a fluffy bunny. The character, sources tell THR, is slated to arrive in the season finale.
Season six of The Walking Dead has put Glenn — one of the few remaining original castmembers — at death’s door multiple times, with the now infamous “dumpster scene” the most well-known. During the season’s third episode, “Thank You,” Glenn and Nicholas (Michael Traynor) are trapped atop a dumpster surrounded by the undead. Nicholas kills himself and sends both men tumbling to the ground, with the his body resting atop a blood-soaked Glenn. Yeun’s name was subsequently removed from the opening credits in the ensuing weeks before a fan theory — that Glenn slid under the dumpster to safety — was revealed to have actually happened on the series.
Critics, including THR‘s Tim Goodman and Daniel Fienberg, took issue with the fake-out, noting that if Glenn were to survive the experience that it would jeopardize The Walking Dead‘s credibility. Goodman, immediately after the cliffhanger episode, said the idea of Glenn surviving the encounter would be “total bullshit,” while Fienberg called the plot point “manipulative.”
In an interview with THR after the Nov. 30 season six midseason finale, showrunner Scott M. Gimple defended the arc and said experiences like Glenn’s “are part of the [show’s] world,” and didn’t think there was a credibility issue. He stressed that the point of the story was to allow viewers to feel the uncertainty that comes with going outside of the walls of Alexandria — and that same theme would be explored in the second half of the season.
Now, Walking Dead is three episodes into the back half of the season, with only five hours remaining. The series has now set up what comics readers are expecting: the battle between Negan’s group — the savage Saviors — and Rick’s central group of survivors, the latter of whom are going into battle in a bid to open trade with the nearby Hilltop colony. (The Saviors take half of Hilltop’s supplies in exchange for protection from their group of murderers.)
Sunday’s episode left off with Glenn and his pregnant wife, Maggie (Lauren Cohan), in an RV with Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Jesus (Tom Payne) — as well as another member of the Hilltop familiar with Negan and his camp — heading off for a battle that Maggie knows is going to cost their group something.
While it’s unclear if the same group who journeyed to Hilltop will head back out and face off against the Saviors, there’s a good chance that Glenn will be among the ranks who look to fight for Alexandria’s future. In the comics, a van carrying Rick, Carl, Glenn, Maggie, Sophia, Michonne and Heath is surprised by Negan and 50 members of the Saviors.
“I don’t know if Glenn completely outpaces everyone else in the near-death experience department,” Gimple tells THR when asked how he justifies all of Glenn’s close calls. “Glenn, from the moment we meet him on the show, is somebody who oddly runs into danger. Up until the point that he found Maggie, he was really not thinking about his own life too much, and there’s dialogue in the show directly to that. But once he got together with Maggie, then he had this thing to fight for, and he finds himself throwing himself into danger again on regular basis. Even in [the midseason premiere], it’s all for Maggie that he has this near-death experience. There’s something about the DNA of that character and the way he operates and sees the world that he’s someone who finds himself in those situations a lot. I think everybody finds themselves in those situations a lot as would all of us in that world — except Robert Kirkman, who says he would throw himself off a bridge.”
Given where the series currently finds itself — and Gimple’s outlook about why Glenn repeatedly finds himself in these dangerous situations, we’re going to go out on a limb and say that this should be the season in which Glenn’s luck runs out. Should the character, who thus far has never killed another human, survive the upcoming confrontation with Negan — if it happens as it does in the comics or if it’s “remixed,” as Gimple tends to do — it would continue to jeopardize the show’s credibility. Yes, anyone can go at any time — as Kirkman has said over the years — but the writing about Glenn’s death has been on the wall for some time. Think back to last season at Terminus, where Glenn narrowly escaped having his head bashed in with a baseball bat.
“I would think if you’re not a comic book reader, the fact that that guy had a baseball bat to Glenn’s head at Terminus really has no additional meaning for you,” Kirkman tells THR. “Glenn is lined up just like the others. Don’t put too much weight on things like that that are Easter eggs for the core, devoted fan that we try to tip the hat to from time to time as a way of saying, ‘Hey, we know you guys are paying attention; we love you guys.’ I don’t know that that’s going to reveal story or indicate what we’re going to be doing in the future, but those things are fun moments we throw in for the superfan. There’s nothing that can be gleaned from the various scenes you’ve seen. The road is always open, and the paths we choose hopefully are always going to be surprising. You may think that you can read into things, but I’m happy with the fact that you pretty much never can. So stay on your toes.”
Other close calls for Glenn include when Noah sacrificed himself to save Glenn in the revolving door of death scene triggered by idiot Nicholas. Or even in the midseason premiere when Abraham saved Glenn from death by walkers as his back was against Alexandria’s walls as he attempted to pull the undead away from wife Maggie.
“Everyone in that [midseason premiere] episode almost dies,” Nicotero points out. “Daryl, Sasha and Abraham almost died in the opening. The fact that we played up the stakes and what that shows is that Glenn is going to do what ever he’s going to do to save Maggie. In that instance, he runs out in an effort to distract walkers that are about to tear down her outpost. Glenn seems to be getting himself into these situations more than he should.”
Sums up Cohan of how worried fans should be about Glenn given Negan’s impending arrival: “I think Glenn is the cat with 109 lives — I hope! I wish I could know enough to lie to you!”
Do you think Glenn should be killed off this season? Sound off in the comments below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.