Too bad the whole #IsGlennDead storyline was a gigantic bust. Let’s recap: Glenn spared the cowardly Nicholas last season after his actions get Noah (Tyler James Williams) killed and he tried to kill Glenn. Then, just as Nicholas was redeeming himself, the guy (and father) kills himself in a moment of hopelessness and seems to get Glenn killed. Heartbreaking commentary on the price of Glenn’s kindness, surviving in a cruel world etc.
Only the show didn’t do that. It purposefully created a no-win scenario wherein either a) Glenn was dead and it’s much ado about nothing or b) Glenn was alive and it’s still much ado about nothing. Nonetheless, for whatever misguided reason, Glenn’s “death” became an event. AMC even went the extra mile to remove Steven Yeun’s name from the credits for the last three episodes.
Glenn did indeed survive by hiding under the dumpster while the zombies devoured Nicholas’ body, giving him cover. It’s implied that Enid, last seen departing Alexandria in the wake of the Wolves’ attack in episode two, helped lead the zombies away from the dumpster before the two meet up. Meanwhile, back at Alexandria, it’s standard mid-season finale setup: Rick and Morgan’s ideological differences come to head, Carol discovers the Wolf he’s kept locked up and Rick trains Ron to shoot while Rosita teaches Eugene and the Alexandrians some machete skills.Off in the distance, the tower the truck hit during the Wolf attack slowly crumbles until it collapses at the end, just as Glenn signals his survival to Maggie using balloons.
For a season containing the show’s largest main cast (18!) and a plethora of redshirts who like to hang in the background, the show is more populated than ever though it does a good job servicing the ensemble with small moments for each. Father Gabriel continues to fail his way through a redemption quest, Deanna continues her plans for the future sustainability of Alexandria undeterred by her dickish son and Tara gets to give the finger to Rick, who’s acting all dickish himself throughout the episode while he struggles to accept that the Alexandrians are equals. One emerging background player, Tobin (Jason Douglas) shares a nice moment with Rick advocating such a thing.
But the whole Glenn endeavor was such a colossal blunder holds a shadow over everything else. (SPOILERS FROM THE COMICS AHEAD) Since Glenn already has such an iconic death scene queued up this season, the idea that fake-killing him for three episodes just for some extra drama instantly devalues it, even if the audience or the show isn’t aware yet. Instead of Glenn’s crushed skull as a sign of changing times, it will be seen as a grotesque signifyer that, indeed, Glenn is well and truly dead, the result of a pendulum swing that didn’t actually exist.
The goal of which was to convey the sense of uncertainty that people like Maggie was feeling, the all-to-familiar reality of being unable to communicate with a loved one trapped outside. But unlike Maggie, the audience knows Glenn is a character on a TV show. And not just a supporting character but one of the five remaining original castmembers, a sacred cow on television’s biggest series. The only uncertainty that was created was the doubt in Gimple and co. could be so stupid as to attempt this stunt.
It was a shameless gimmick. Sure, there’s superficial similarity to the other is-he-dead? story, Jon Snow’s (attempted?) murder in Game of Thrones‘ season five finale. But that was series author George R.R. Martin’s idea before anyone else’s and it most certainly will have seismic consequences for the story of that show. Whereas here, Glenn appears more or less the same, with his vaunted optimism still in place as he corals Enid back to Alexandria with him.