NOTE: Major spoilers from Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead follow. If you haven't watched it, read on at your own risk!
Well, it finally happened. After three straight episodes with no hint of Glenn following his appeared swansong back in Thank You, Heads Up's opening moments revealed his fate.
It turns out that all of those theorists suggesting that the walkers were eating Nicholas and that Glenn could use that as a distraction to slide under the dumpster were right. And it was this manoeuvre that has left me angry and disappointed with the AMC drama.
Glenn is a character I love. Steven Yeun does a great job in portraying him, and he's the nicest, most morally straightforward character on the show. He gives people second chances (or third, in the case of Nicholas). He doesn't leave people behind. He genuinely cares about people.
So why, then, am I so frustrated with him remaining alive?
Part of it has to do with what they threw away by keeping him alive. Thank You gave us a send-off to Glenn. David's desperation to make it home to see wife Betsy one last time before succumbing to his walker bite paralleled Glenn's need to return home to (at the time presumed) pregnant wife Maggie.
Ultimately, Nicholas was responsible for what happened to Glenn. His struggle to cope with the world led to him shooting himself in the head, falling into a group of walkers and taking Glenn with him. Thematically, that ties in perfectly with what The Walking Dead has been trying to do this season. The show has played around with the question of giving people chances - heck, Rick even said in the premiere: "I don't take chances anymore."
When combined with Morgan's arc this season, this makes for a really intriguing look at coping in the world as it is. Glenn is very much the moral compass for the show. He acts exactly how we hope that we do in our everyday lives. Kind. Forgiving. Caring. He's exactly the kind of character that The Walking Dead has been trying to suggest to us won't survive long once the world falls. That's always been there, but season six has really focused on this idea.
Letting Glenn die in this manner would have been fitting, and really conveyed this point. Sure, it wasn't perhaps everyone's ideal send-off for a character that has been there from the beginning, or even for a main character generally. But look at the last two major deaths the show has done: Beth and Tyreese. Both really poor. This was far greater.
Not only that, but The Walking Dead, for the first time, has decided that it's appropriate to cheapen the idea of death. I get that the show has done similar things to this before. Merle was a presumed goner having been left on that rooftop. Judith was thought to be a victim of The Governor's prison attack. Those are the two most memorable examples.
But neither of those actually showed us the character appearing to die. We had no idea how Merle would be able to survive the group of zombies while handcuffed to a pipe. We had no idea whether one of the other survivors had taken Judith in the chaos. We assumed they had probably met an end. With Glenn, there was blood. There were intestines. Granted, the walkers appeared to be eating from his chest where - basic biology - there are no intestines.
Still, the show chose to shoot it that way. They made it look like he was being ripped apart. Glenn's facial expressions looked like he was being consumed. They used a sombre score. By all accounts, The Walking Dead made it look like he was dead, clearly to provoke a reaction from fans - both emotion as they watched and outrage as they refused to believe it.
There was no story purpose to this. It was for the shock factor, plain and simple. I've no issue with deaths that are for a shock factor, providing that they work. I'm sure there was more that Game of Thrones could have done with Robb Stark, but the Red Wedding is such a powerful scene that it's acceptable. Pretending to kill a character for shock value? That's unacceptable.
Perhaps the thing that angers me the most about this, though, is how unrealistic it is that he survived. The Walking Dead has prided itself on maintaining a sense of realism within its own universe. Since the virus outbreak, one would presume that enough people have died so that the zombies vastly outnumber the surviving humans. Based on that, it seems logical that one (or several) would appear from nowhere to attack one of our survivors. They're unrelenting in their desire for human flesh. If you face one alone with no weapons, it's a real challenge to survive.
What the show has done here is reverse all of that. Sure, the walkers were busy chomping away on Nicholas, but there were hundreds of them in that alley. At least ten of those were virtually on top of Glenn and Nicholas, with more crowding as each second passed. Yet, Glenn managed to slide under the dumpster with no bites or scratches. So, a character can survive on the ground in the middle of a herd if they have another body on top of them? Or, at least survive long enough to save themselves.
I refuse to believe this. I can get on board with Glenn being able to get under the dumpster. We've seen a similar thing before in the pilot - Rick getting under, and then into, the tank. Unlike Glenn, Rick always had some sort of space to move into as he evaded those walkers. His escape there seemed somewhat realistic. Glenn's did not.
That's not to say that Glenn's survival is all bad, however. We get to keep him around, which will keep the show enjoyable as a whole. Also, with the recent casting of Negan, who is set to debut in the sixth season finale, there is the distinct possibility that we'll get to see the iconic comic book scene featuring him and his spiked bat Lucille.
This fakeout was mostly a really bad move on The Walking Dead's part. Descending into this territory caused far more issues than were necessary, both for the show's story future and for the show itself. Angering fans in this way really isn't the right way to go. I love Glenn, and I love The Walking Dead, but this was a major misstep in what has otherwise been a fantastic season so far.