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Obviously, the major lingering question from the strong “Thank You” is whether or not Glenn is actually dead and gone (or, dead and walking). And that is certainly an important discussion that needs to be had. But, I worry that all of the fuss surrounding how Scott Gimple and the gang at The Walking Dead are shrouding Glenn’s fate in secrecy will completely overshadow the other interesting aspects of the episode. So, before jumping into the Glenn debate, I want to take a few moments to hit on some of the truly excellent character beats contained within the episode.
Last week’s “JSS” was particularly satisfying because it allowed both Carol and Morgan a chance to truly shine through exploring how two very capable individuals live by very different codes of conduct in this new world. This week, we once again saw how the Ricktatorship can inspire and divide- something I think we would be wise to file away for future reference. When the going gets tough, Rick’s way is usually the right way, even if it isn’t the popular way. Having spent five years watching Rick develop into a leader who makes the hard (but almost always correct) decisions, we know that his command to Michonne to leave the Alexandrians behind if they can’t keep up isn’t a callous statement or one that means he wants the “others” to die. Rather, it’s practical: in this world, sacrificing the strong to save the weak only weakens the group. And Michonne’s wonderful speech to Heath only proves Rick’s point in giving the order. Just like playing in a weekend flag football league doesn’t make you a professional football player, going on supply runs and then returning to the relative safety of Alexandria doesn’t make you a battle-tested survivor.
On the flip side, just because you are a battle-tested survivor doesn’t mean you don’t make tactical errors. And that is exactly what Rick has done. I will admit to being a bit confused on the exact geography regarding where all three groups are (exactly how far Rick is from Michonne is one of my major questions following the episode), but things are not looking good for Rick. He’s alone in an RV that won’t start (and there better not be a deus ex machina the next time we see him, because this is the first time in a long time there have been actual stakes surrounding a situation where Rick’s life is in danger and I want to see it actually play out), he just wasted most- if not all- of his ammunition killing those Wolves that Morgan let go (great job, Morgan), and half of the horde is coming his way. We know that the attack on Alexandria is finished, so there is a chance he might get some help from the town (although, that’s certainly doubtful) or from Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl on the road. But no matter where help may arrive from, I highly doubt it will come fast enough to stop the immediate onslaught. Yes, Rick is one of the “unkillable” characters on the show (others, as Damon Lindelof said on Talking Dead, include Michonne, Daryl, and Carol at this point in the series). But I’m excited to see him have to legitimately fight for his life again.
And now, time for the Glenn death discussion. Let me say, upfront, that Glenn isn’t one of my favorite characters, so if he is indeed dead, I’m not particularly broken up about it (while I try to not get too drawn into characters, lest it cloud my reviews, the only two characters I will be gutted to eventually lose will be Daryl and Carol). And the fact of the matter is, I really don’t think he’s dead. There was just so much smoke and mirrors regarding the whole situation (both in the filming of the sequence itself, which I’ll get to, and in the Talking Dead after show) that I don’t buy it. Within the scene itself, there were great pains taken to show Glenn falling underneath Nicholas’s body. In the initial shot on the ground, it’s clear the walkers are eating someone laying on top of Glenn’s chest. And we are shown on two occasions (in the close-up and the aerial shot) that Glenn is still right next to the dumpster – the perfect place to scurry underneath! But the main reason I think he’s still alive: we didn’t see him die. It’s that simple. On The Walking Dead (like Game of Thrones), you aren’t dead until we see you die.
Now, it’s entirely possible for the show to leave Glenn’s fate unknown for several episodes (since next week will be a Morgan-centric flashback, we won’t find out anyone’s fate for at least two weeks) and then bring him back as a walker to further traumatize and destroy Maggie’s psyche. However, I think it would be far more likely for him to escape and get captured by the Wolves, and we don’t hear from him for several months (the show has a track record of holding characters off screen for months, having done so with both Carol and Beth). But the problem with Glenn escaping is that it cheapens the idea that a walker horde is deadly. Yes, Glenn was the group’s expert at infiltrating places on supply runs. He’s really good at surviving in tight situations. But the show placed him in an unwinnable situation. Short of rubbing himself in walker gore (something we know works), anything he does to get out of that situation is going to feel cheap and unearned (even a last minute save from another character). And that is exactly what I don’t want the show to do. On The Walking Dead, there are just some situations you can’t survive. And that’s ok. That’s just how this world works. Changing the rules to allow for a spectacular escape from certain death sets a dangerous precedent on the show moving forward.
— I’m enjoying the split episode structure (getting one episode on the road and one in Alexandria) and having the audio cues to let us know where in the timeline we are. Kudos to the writers for making is completely clear where we are from a storyline perspective throughout each episode.
— I’ve really missed Michonne. She’s such an effective character and the show is always better when she is given a weighty story.
— What was up with Daryl bailing on Sasha and Abraham? Yes, it was a tedious job, and yes, he probably could have been more useful somewhere else. But seeing as his little excursion did absolutely no good, all that plot point did was show us that Daryl is willing to go on his own when he wants to. Which might be trouble down the line.
— Quick reminder: next week’s episode will be 90 minutes, so plan your evening accordingly.
— And, one more reminder: in light of the secrecy shrouding Glenn’s death, the comments are a no-spoiler zone. So, no comments on the comics and Glenn’s fate there, or listing any other outside information that may prove or disprove Glenn’s death.