[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 607, “Heads Up,” of AMC’s The Walking Dead.]
After keeping diehard fans waiting for nearly a month, AMC’s The Walking Dead revealed the fate of Steven Yeun’s fan-favorite character Glenn Rhee during Sunday’s episode.
And the verdict is: Glenn is alive.
The episode’s cold open brought viewers right back to the now infamous “dumpster scene” in which Nicholas (Michael Traynor) shot himself in the head after mumbling “thank you” to Glenn. As many astute viewers theorized, it was Nicholas’ body that landed squarely on top of Glenn. As walkers devoured Nicholas’ body, Glenn craftily scooted underneath the nearby dumpster and watched as the undead ravaged his former companion.
What’s more, Glenn spent the night under the dumpster until the area was cleared of roamers — who may have been distracted by the rogue Enid (Katelyn Nacon).
After reuniting with a reluctant Enid, Glenn questions what happened at Alexandria and learns of an attack in which people were killed. He asks about wife Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) fate and, after Enid bails, begins running after the youngster in an effort to bring them both back to Alexandria.
It’s then that the opening credits roll, with Yeun’s name back where it belongs after it was strategically removed for a few episodes as the zombie drama based on Robert Kirkman’s comics left Glenn’s fate up in the air.
That Glenn would survive by crawling under the dumpster was the leading theory many had about how the character could possibly make it out of such a seemingly hopeless scenario. Fans went so far as to crawl under dumpsters to illustrate such a move was possible. (As of press time, nearly 85 percent of the more than 70,000 who voted in THR’s poll believed that Glenn was still alive.)
In the weeks ahead of Sunday’s episode, which set up next week’s midseason finale, many critics took issue with the series potentially faking Glenn’s death a la Game of Thrones and Jon Snow. THR chief TV critic Tim Goodman wrote that it “would be total bullshit” if Glenn were able to survive this particular encounter.
Following the October episode, showrunner Scott M. Gimple defended the controversial plot point. “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,’ ” he told THR, stressing patience with the storyline.”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.”
fate and the decision to leave things unclear.”]
In addition to being a fan favorite, part of the uproar over Glenn’s possible death came from diehard comic fans who were upset thatThe Walking Dead would remix — or omit — one of, if not the comics’ biggest moments yet. (Warning: Spoilers from the comic series ahead.) In the series’ landmark 100th issue, Glenn is shockingly executed during the group’s first confrontation with dastardly villain Negan. In the weeks since Glenn’s faux death on the show, Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been cast to play Negan who, sources say, will be introduced in the season six finale. Insiders also say that Yeun recently signed a new deal to remain on the zombie drama, further indicating that his death at such an early point in the AMC story seemed unlikely. (The AMC series also offered what could be the first look at Negan’s group during its Nov. 15 episode.)
While it’s unclear where Glenn’s story goes from here, The Walking Dead’s sixth season has been exploring the theme of transformation. Glenn, one of a few original series regulars to remain, has never killed a human — a rare and impressive feat as survivors continue to be a bigger threat than zombies. (Gimple called Glenn’s feat a “very quiet but big part of his character.”) For his part, Glenn has been focused on transforming Nicholas into a character worthy of redemption after he was responsible for Noah’s death last season. Nicholas’ “thank you” ultimately had a double meaning: offering his appreciation for Glenn’s tutelage and Glenn’s likely sentiment for his sacrifice.
The big questions going forward will be how this harrowing experience changes Glenn. Is attempting to save people ill-prepared to survive in this world worth it? Should he have killed Nicholas when he had the opportunity last season after Noah’s death? Will he want or be able to kill humans going forward? Does this story set him up to make that choice again with the member of the savage Wolves that Morgan is hiding at Alexandria? Is Glenn cheating death yet again just setting the stage for an eventual confrontation with Negan? Only time will tell.
As for the remainder of the hour, the action was split between Glenn and Enid and Rick and the rest of the Alexandrians.
Glenn went above and beyond to bring Enid back to Alexandria — something he knew Maggie would want him to do. Along their way back home, Glenn sees David’s body at the gate where Michonne and company went over and picks up his note for wife Betsy. Glenn spends the bulk of the journey convincing his fellow “orphan by walkers” friend Enid that the best way to honor the dead is by living. “You live because they don’t get to,” he says. Eventually, they find the green balloons and helium tank that their group left as a marker. Together, they wind up back on the outskirts of Alexandria and are unable to make their way through the walkers that have now surrounded the gated community.
Inside Alexandria, meanwhile, Rick finds support from a former naysayer who helps him reinforce the wall as blood continues to seep inside. After Spencer attempts to cross over a sea of walkers, Rick realizes that he needs to start treating the Alexandrians as equals in their unified fight for survival. Rick and Carol also have words with Morgan, whom they fear is keeping a member of the Wolves inside Alexandria. Elsewhere, Rick teaches Jessie’s son, Ron, how to shoot and the teenager winds up stealing bullets and walking dangerously close to Carl — with his gun drawn.
The episode ends as Glenn and Enid release their balloons to signal Maggie — who continues to have hope for his survival and looks out for her husband. Upon seeing the balloons, Maggie comes running to Rick with the news that she knows it’s Glenn just as the tower outside of Alexandria crashes down and topples part of the community’s walls. It sets up next week’s midseason finale where the walkers will undoubtedly invade Alexandria as the survivors continue to deal with the threat of the Wolves and Wade’s mystery group — which may have ties to Negan’s group.
What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments section, below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.