The Walking Dead has rarely had mercy on its most lovable characters. Never would a great storyline be sacrificed for the sake of sympathy. It’s an admirable yet gut-wrenching aspect of the show. And so it goes that in Sunday night’s episode, “Thank You,” my third-favorite person was (presumably) killed off in the most heartbreaking death blow of the series thus far.
***DEATH SPOILER AHEAD, DUH. WATCH THE EPISODE, COLLECT YOURSELF AND GATHER YOUR FEELINGS BEFORE PROCEEDING***
In memoriam, this week is dedicated to Glenn, who died (?) a horrible death (?) due to a fuccboi named Nicholas. Of all the show’s grisly fatalities, this one cut the deepest and was somewhat foreshadowed when Maggie urged Glenn to stay behind at Alexandria, right before the invasion of the Wolves confirmed the community’s failure to protect its borders. The gang is all spread out now, just as Rick’s mission to hoard the walkers was prematurely set in motion. This is when the worst things happen.
An aberrant horn sent droves of walkers marching toward Alexandria, which means Rick, Glenn, Daryl, Michonne, Abraham, Sasha and the Alexandria no-names need to hurry back. To that end, Rick is running a one-man marathon back to the RV, while Michonne groups with Heath and his crew to find shelter. Glenn and Nicholas later head out together, unknowingly destined to perish. Nicholas is both harboring guilt about leaving Noah behind to die and feels indebted to Glenn, yet there’s a selfish stroke in him—Nicholas is mentally fragile and ill-equipped for survival. A walking liability.
Even after being duped by him, Glenn showed maturity. He’s had faith in people and spared lives before, for better or worse. (Remember in Season 2 when he offered himself up as tribute in that well?). But it’s hard to believe he’d be so charitable when Maggie’s at stake, waiting back at Alexandria (he mentions this more than once, another hint). Even now, Glenn the former pizza delivery boy is honorable enough to comfort Nicholas in his time of cowardice.
Nicholas could’ve lived as a testament to the power of forgiveness. Instead, he dies gutless, shooting himself in the head while stuck on a dumpster with Glenn during a walker ambush. In the process, he literally drags Glenn down with him. Despite the emotional despair of this scene, it’s a provocative visual, seeing Nicholas’ perspective of doom and the real-time desperation that leads to his decision to kill himself. This is what it feels like to be trapped and helpless. It’s the ultimate terror in an Apocalyptic world and you can hardly blame someone for choosing death as their final destination.
The shot of Nicholas staring helplessly at all those walkers is meant to not only dramatize the situation, but to place us in his mind state. This season of The Walking Dead has been visually terrifying, with what seems like the most intimidating herds of walkers we’ve ever seen in terms of number. Even describing them as “herds” seems inaccurate. The overhead shots serve as a constant reminder of their terrorism, and it’s intensified both the stakes and our emotions.
So this moment can only be summed up with two words: NOOOOOOOOOOOO! FUUUUCCCCCKKKKK!
Glenn wasn’t perfect by any means (all of these people are damaged), but he seldom acted without consideration. He’d be the first to ask questions and weigh alternatives, as a level-headed leader and a regular foil for Rick. And now he’s part of the fallen but not forgotten Walking Dead characters who made us feel real pain before we realized, Oh wait this is complete make-believe.
We love you, Glenn.
Forgetting Glenn for a second, my favorite moment this episode is when Michonne and Heath are whisper-debating about the merits of survival and Michonne has to inform Heath that he doesn’t know nann. “Have you ever done things that made you feel afraid of yourself afterward?” she asks. “Have you ever been covered in so much blood that you didn’t know if it was yours or walkers’ or your friends’?” The implied answer is nope.
Anyway, Glenn deserves a much better goodbye. And maybe he’ll get one. Is he really dead? I watched this death (?) scene three times over, noting how Nicholas’ body drops on top of Glenn, and that Glenn is somehow still screaming while blood gushes out and the walkers are gobbling internal organs. Could Glenn have gotten away? Doesn’t look like it. Is there hope yet? Big, if true. Either way, the thought of losing him is hard enough.
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Images via AMC