The Walking Dead’s first two episodes of Season six have been impressive installments, seamlessly blending intense action with compelling character beats. But after five seasons, that’s no surprise. The series, though at times uneven, has always managed to deliver nail-biting tension and great characterization. And between the nuanced writing of these characters and the caliber of performances by the actors who inhabit them, we’ve become invested in Rick’s group members. And that’s why survivors’ deaths are always hard to watch. So in some ways, episode 6.3 was like many others, giving us an epic battle, ending on a cliffhanger, and showing yet another resident of this world succumb to the walkers who have inherited it. Only, this episode wasn’t like the others. Because no matter how many people we’ve seen die on this show, no matter how bad things have gotten, Rick’s core group of survivors has remained mostly intact. Sure, we’ve lost members early on, but those that have made it this far seem to have earned a right to continue to survive. But that sense of security with our main group members (and cast favorites) was ripped away from us in a brutal, merciless way. And that’s what made this episode different. And in the end, whatever else this episode was or wasn’t, the only thing that matters is that it broke our hearts.
I have a lot to say about Glenn, and once I get going I may not be able to stop, so because other things did actually happen in this episode, I’ll get to them first.
“Thank You” took place in the same time frame that “JSS” occurred in, but this week we were shown what was happening with Rick’s zombie herding crew while The Alexandria community was dealing with The Wolves’ murderous rampage. After Rick heard the horn blaring and realized where it was coming from, a crucial decision had to be made: They could continue their mission to lead the remaining walkers away (many were being drawn to The Safe Zone again by the noise) or go back to the community and help their friends with an unknown danger. Rick chose to split the group up (which is never a good idea) and try to do both.
So while Rick races to get to the RV and divert the herd that went astray back onto the road, Daryl, Sasha and Abraham will continue to lead the walkers who are still left away from the community. That leaves Michonne, Glenn, and those clueless Alexandrians the task of heading back home to lend assistance there.
As Rick explains the plan, he tells Michonne and Glenn that everyone might not make it back, so they should be prepared to leave some Alexandrians behind. The warning is ironic after this episode, but it was most likely placed to foreshadow the many deaths that would follow. Heath overhears Rick’s instructions and is furious that Rick would have his people abandon the others. But just a few minutes later, Sturgess shoots Scott in the leg, David gets bit by a walker, and Annie twists her ankle and can’t run. So unless everyone else is willing to sacrifice their lives because that bunch can’t keep up, Rick’s advice was pretty darn good.
With walkers at every turn and half their members injured, the group stops in a store to attend to the Alexandrians’ wounds and rest. It’s there that Glenn hatches a plan to set fire to a building to draw the walkers away, clearing a path for the others. Nicholas, trying to redeem himself, offers to go with Glenn, thereby sealing Glenn’s fate. But more on that later.
In the meantime, Michonne and Heath have it out. Heath is very critical of Rick’s philosophy, but Michonne tells him that he hasn’t been out there like Rick and it’s sometimes been necessary to have that attitude in order to survive. But Heath thinks he’s seen it all, spouting off about all the runs he’s been on, until Michonne can’t listen to it anymore, and sets him straight, saying “Have you ever had to kill people because they already killed your friends and were coming for you next? Have you ever done things that made you afraid of yourself afterwards? Have you ever been covered in so much blood that you didn’t know if it was yours, or walkers, or your friends?” Take that Heath. It was so good to see Michonne finally call an Alexandrian out. Because most of them just don’t get what Rick and the others have been through. With the exception of Reg, Deanna and Aaron, those Alexandrians have been a bunch of ungrateful, judgmental assholes.
When walkers descend upon the store, the group is forced to make a quick escape, where Annie falls and gets killed by walkers. And it’s here that events start to snowball, with three major characters in peril, one after another – beginning with Michonne.
When the group comes to a gate, they climb over one by one, and things look bad for Michonne and David. When those walkers were grabbing at Michonne’s legs, I started thinking there was a chance she might go down. It seems like a no-brainer, but there’s been so much for our characters to do these last three episodes that it was easy to forget that anyone could die at any time. But this show never lets us forget for very long.
Michonne ends up making it over the gate, but walkers grab David and tear him apart while the rest of the group watches. Poor David, all he wanted was to get home to his wife to say goodbye before he died from his walker bite and it was too late. And now it was. Perhaps the inability to have that closure with a loved one was more foreshadowing.
David’s death was excruciatingly slow, and it was bizarre that the group just watched while he suffered in agony as zombies ate him alive. In other instances when characters died, it happened too fast or others were unable to help, like when Maggie watched her father get murdered or when Glenn was trapped in the revolving door with Noah. But in this case, they were all safely over the gate with their guns, so they could have put David out of his misery. Instead, they all just watched. But then again, that scene set things up for showing Heath’s stunned, blood covered face reflected in the water, allowing him to finally understand what Michonne was saying about survival.
Sadly, the devastating part of the episode was still to come. When Glenn and Nicholas get to the feed store, they see that it has already been torched. Nicholas’ panic is mounting as the walkers come at them from every direction. Ultimately, the two jump on top of a dumpster and find themselves surrounded by a giant horde of zombies.
With no apparent means of escape, a terrified but resigned Nicholas pulls out a gun, says a quiet “Thank You” to Glenn, and shoots himself in the head. Then the unthinkable happens. Nicolas falls onto Glenn, knocking him off the dumpster, and right into the middle of the zombies. And as Glenn cries out in anguish, we see walkers feasting on flesh.
After that scene, the episode doesn’t even let us take a sobbing breath before we see Rick make it to the RV (sustaining a hand injury from killing a walker) before he gets attacked by two Wolves. And at this point, it seemed possible, for the first time – maybe ever – that Rick Grimes could actually die. It was as if the show was reminding us they have the power to kill anyone off at any time, and perhaps this might be a one-two punch to illustrate that fact. But that would have been way too much for viewers at one time, and in retrospect, this whole story gravitates around the character of Rick, so he ends up killing those two Wolves and a bunch of others lurking outside the RV. But the show loves its cliffhangers, so we leave Rick with an RV that won’t start and walkers shambling around it, drawn in by the noise (and they’re really hammering home that noise bit this season).
Despite the usual “Really?” moments that get the gang into these quandaries (why don’t they all just rub zombie guts on themselves and walk right past those walkers? There’s always a car with a full tank of gasoline available except in the town with all the parked cars?), this episode was very well done. But, right now, that’s kind of beside the point. So, some things need to be said.
For many fans (like myself) who’ve been watching this show since day one, Glenn was there with us. He’s one of the original survivors, and it’s easy to feel sentimental about him. But sentimentality aside, it’s more about what Glenn represents in this show. And in one simple word, that’s humanity. He has never stopped doing right by everyone. He helped a total stranger in episode 1.1 (with his “dumbass” to Rick being called back in this episode), and he’s been helping people ever since. Glenn is smart, but a little bit goofy too. He’s tough when he needs to be and can lay a guy out with one punch, but he always tries to see the best in others. He loves with all his heart, and not just Maggie – he’s completely devoted and loyal to his whole group, too. And he doesn’t give up on anybody. Whether he’s delaying his own escape to let someone out of a train car at Terminus, or giving an Alexandrian who tried to kill him another chance, he always sees the best in people. And so he has retained that ever elusive humanity. And with his own humanity intact, Glenn has come to represent hope for all of humanity as well.
No matter how dark the show gets (and boy does it get dark), as long as Glenn is around you know there’s hope for our survivors. He made his fellow group members, including Rick, believe they could have a life worth fighting for without losing all of themselves. He’s the only current survivor (with maybe the exception of Maggie) who hasn’t gone astray at some point. And if Dale, Tyreese and Hershel were the group’s moral compasses, then Glenn has been their collective heart.
We all know this show is famous for killing off characters, and deep down we also know that no character is ever really safe (maybe not even Rick). But to kill off Glenn is to destroy the hope that makes this show bearable to watch. Because seeing total darkness and misery every week (even with cool zombies) is too much, and then we might as well turn on the news.
And what about poor Maggie? She will have lost everyone who gave her a sense of hope. Without Hershel, Beth, and especially Glenn, how can she find a way to go on? Of course, Maggie could be pregnant, giving her that reason to keep going. It’s possible the writers will go down that route, but we already have a baby in the zombie apocalypse.
So, where do we go from here? The Walking Dead forums have blown up, and I normally don’t go on until I’ve written my reviews so as not to bias them, but I couldn’t stay away this time. I needed some little shred of hope that maybe Glenn wasn’t actually dead. And I got it, because escape theories abound online. And let’s remember, we never actually saw Glenn die. But would it be a cop out to have some contrived way for Glenn to have escaped? Maybe, but I certainly don’t care. I want – make that need – Glenn to be alive out there.
Next week looks to be an extended 90 minute, Morgan-centric episode. So we’ll probably have to wait to learn Glenn’s fate. But here’s to hoping the writers pull a baby Judith, bloody car seat fake out, allowing Glenn to find his way back inside the walls of Alexandria, into Maggie’s arms, and back into our hearts – where he belongs.