The Walking Dead’s “Heads Up” (written by Channing Powell) was a very solid episode, filled with many of the things that make this show compelling to watch. But first things first: Yes, Glenn is alive. His fate has been a topic on message boards since 6.3 aired four weeks ago, and still remains a hot button issue even after we saw what happened in 6.7. Needless to say, the whole thing has caused quite a stir. I have a lot to say about the matter, but it should wait until the end of this review. So for now, let’s move on.

At the beginning of the episode we see that Nicholas’ body acted as a shield for Glenn, allowing him to crawl under a dumpster, kill the walkers groping at him underneath, and then lie waiting until the horde got distracted (courtesy of Enid) and eventually moved on. After Glenn gets out, Enid throws him some water from a rooftop, but then refuses to talk to him. Glenn is persistent, tracking her down to a nearby store, but when Glenn starts asking questions about Alexandria and specifically Maggie, Enid disappears. I was kind of hoping she would stay gone, because I’ve had enough of tough, bratty teenagers who are really just vulnerable and scared underneath it all. It’s been used in far too many TV shows and those type of character tropes are irritating, not to mention a bore to watch.

Glenn travels toward Alexandria, but along the way he sees David, who was with Glenn and Michonne during the initial walker herding plan. He puts a knife through walker David’s skull, but then notices David’s note to his wife Betsy. Glenn picks it up so he could deliver it to Betsy himself (unaware Betsy slashed her wrists) and then decides to go back for Enid. I loved this – It was such a Glenn thing to do, and a perfect example of the kind of man he is: Despite everything he’s been through (especially recently with Nicholas) he won’t leave anyone behind.

Glenn catches up with Enid at an abandoned restaurant, telling her he won’t leave her alone out there. She responds by pulling a gun on him. Glenn easily disarms her, and at this point he had good reason to leave her – but of course he doesn’t, and Enid reluctantly agrees to go back to Alexandria.

On the way back to The Safe Zone, Glenn and Enid stop to fill up balloons (to serve as a walker distraction) and talk. I desperately wanted them to just keep going, because no one should ever stand still unprotected in the zombie apocalypse – and I’m still not feeling secure about Glenn’s long term survival. During their exchange, Enid reveals she was orphaned by walkers, and Glenn says that he probably was too. This was a very interesting comment by Glenn, because we’ve never really gotten much of his backstory. It was good to get this little piece of information about his past.

When the pair finally get back to Alexandria, they’re stunned to see the place surrounded by a massive amount of walkers. Enid wants to give up, but Glenn won’t let her. He’s going to get her home safely, and not just for Maggie anymore. This scene very effectively epitomized who Glenn is: His persevering spirit is fueled by his belief that surviving honors those who have fallen before him – the “you live because they don’t get to” philosophy. It’s the thing that has kept him going (other than Maggie) and it’s one of the traits that makes him a fan favorite.

Inside the walls of The Safe Zone, Rick notices walker blood seeping through, causing him to become concerned about the barricades holding. He goes and talks to Maggie about coming up with a plan to draw the walkers away so the rest of their group can walk right up when they return. Maggie doesn’t tell him she’s pregnant, but instead says Judith is starting to look like Lori. I didn’t take this comment as a slight toward Rick, but instead saw it as Maggie taking comfort in the thought that deceased loved ones can live on through their children.

Rick and Carl give Ron a beginner lesson on guns, but not before Rick sees Father Gabriel hanging prayer announcement flyers and rips them off the post. Carl disapproved of his father’s action, but it was only very recently that Gabriel was betraying the whole group, telling Deanna they were bad people, and leaving the gate open as an invitation to walkers. Given all that, I’d say Gabriel got off easy.

TWD 6.7 Rick with gun
During the lesson, Ron is way too eager a student, asking to fire a gun into a herd of walkers. Rick puts him off, and wisely won’t give him a loaded weapon. But I have to question Rick’s judgement in teaching Ron at all. Rick was a cop, and should be able to read people – and Ron is certainly acting suspicious cozying up to the man who killed his father. And sure enough, Ron goes to the armory and steals some bullets, because he has every intention of using that gun. When he follows Carl through town, it’s pretty clear who his target is. But ultimately Ron won’t get the chance to carry out his revenge mission – at least in this episode.

Elsewhere, Morgan has a sit down with Rick, Carol and Michonne, where he’s confronted about letting five wolves go during the rampage (who then subsequently tried to kill Rick). It was a gripping exchange, and each character got to have his or her say, from Carol’s obvious and barely controlled anger to Rick and Michonne’s more practical and matter of fact stance that in order to make it in this new world you have to sometimes kill human beings. Morgan’s “All life is precious” pacifism is getting tiring, but even so, it didn’t take away from this excellent scene. I’ve said it countless times, but this show excels at writing these more quiet moments, and these actors perfectly conveyed their characters’ philosophies. I’ve missed these group interactions.

Rosita surprisingly gets some lines in this episode even without Abraham around. She gives a group lesson on how to use a machete, but Eugene is reluctant to participate. When he reveals he’s scared of dying, Rosita nastily tells him “Dying is simple… The people around you dying, that’s the hard part… What you should be scared of is living. Knowing that you didn’t do everything you could to keep them here.” It was obvious she was having some residual guilt over Abraham, and Eugene has shown himself to be a coward before, but he is trying, even playing a part in saving Tara and Glenn last season. I thought Rosita was a bit too hard on him.

Because almost every episode of The Walking Dead has to have a “What the hell?” moment, this week it came to us in the form of Spencer’s asinine attempt to help the community by scrambling along a rope above a giant horde of walkers. Trouble comes when the hook that he attached to the roof gives way, snapping the rope and dropping Spencer right in the middle of the horde. Tara immediately runs to help, and Rick, Tobin and Morgan pull Spencer back over the wall. Rick is furious and yells at Tara for risking her life (although not sure how shooting her gun from the roof top qualifies), but she promptly responds by giving him the finger. Rick then focuses his anger on Spencer, telling him he can help by not making them rush to save him. And Rick was absolutely right. Spencer’s stunt was impulsive and foolish, and quite frankly, a grown man should know better. But he’s an Alexandrian, so he must be portrayed as an imbecile because the writers have deemed it so. They seem to have forgotten that these same people built giant walls around a community and cleared the surrounding area of all walkers when the apocalypse started.

TWD 6.7 Spencer
After his little meeting with Rick and the gang, Morgan enlists the help of Denise to go and look at the injured Wolf in the jail cell. But Carol is quickly on to him, so after dropping Judith off with Jessie she races over and confronts Morgan yet again about him and his weakness for the Wolves. We only got to see Carol a bit in this episode, but she’s always enjoyable to watch. Melissa McBride has made her intense, funny, multi-dimensional character one of the most interesting in the entire series.
As the episode winds down, Carol is confronting Morgan, Ron is trailing Carl, and Rick (after apologizing to Tara) is hearing from a grateful Deanna. But soon everyone stops what they’re doing because they observe a bundle of green balloons floating up over the town. Glenn – the boy who was supposed to still be delivering pizzas but instead turned into the man who doesn’t leave people behind and who won’t give up – finally got to send his signal. The scene was an exceptional one – the beautiful score and the shots of Maggie racing down the road, getting confirmation from Rick that it was indeed Glenn, provided the most touching moment of the episode. But that scene was also for those of us who wanted Glenn to survive – those who were willing to suspend our disbelief in exchange for getting the guy who represents hope back in this story. It felt great to see it. But in true Walking Dead fashion, they didn’t let us revel in the moment very long: As Glenn’s balloons floated out of sight, the watch tower fell and destroyed one of the walls of The Safe Zone, opening the way for the walkers.

After two average episodes, “Head’s Up” was a welcome installment. It gave us good character moments, one heck of a cliffhanger, and of course – Glenn. Now, I’m sure there are some fans who are disgruntled over his survival (just as there were many, many fans upset over his possible death). Some fans and critics may call it unrealistic, emotionally manipulative, lazy writing – a jump the shark moment. But personally I don’t agree. And while I’m thrilled Glenn is alive because of all the reasons I wrote about in previous reviews, I can still look at the story critically and be satisfied. Was it unrealistic that Nicholas’ body fell on top of Glenn in just the perfect way as to provide a shield, saving him from any walker bites and allowing him to squeeze himself under the tiny opening at the bottom of the dumpster? Maybe, but it’s no more unrealistic than the many other unlikely ways people have survived walker attacks on this show. I can recall Tyrese being surrounded by walkers and fighting his way through using just his hammer in season 4 (“Isolation”). Heck, just this season, Rick’s RV was engulfed by a giant horde of zombies, and he managed to get away and end up in front of the entire herd. This series has a long history of allowing characters to survive seemingly unsurmountable circumstances. Sometimes we just have to chalk it up to the random nature of their zombie-infested world.

And while the Glenn mystery was a bit manipulative, I don’t think the writers fully anticipated the wave of overwhelming emotion viewers would have over Glenn’s supposed death. We should also keep in mind that every television drama manipulates its audience to some degree. And isn’t that kind of what we’re looking for anyway? We want to feel something when we watch, and Glenn’s “death” certainly made us feel strongly, one way or another.

And finally, the cry of “lazy writing” is irksome. Regardless of what you thought of the Glenn storyline and outcome, it was a deliberate, premeditated plot by the writers. I would sooner call the one dimensional residents of The Safe Zone (with the exception of Deanna) an example of lazy writing than the purposeful set up and execution of Glenn’s story.

The bottom line is, the writers saved Glenn – and they definitely had their reasons. Whether he survives the rest of the season is still questionable – this storyline didn’t preclude Glenn dying in a future episode. But right now, I’m happy to see him again. I think there’s more to his story. And let’s remember, this whole thing really isn’t about realism anyway. It’s about the human struggle. It’s about a group of survivors fighting to live and trying to maintain their humanity in the process. If that means a fan favorite can take refuge under a dumpster and emerge without a scratch, then so be it.

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