UPDATE: As expected (and desperately hoped), Glenn was absent from this week’s Talking Dead “In Memoriam” segment, fueling speculation that we’ll see the fan favorite again. Here’s what showrunner Scott Gimple had to say about Glenn: “Dear fans of The Walking Dead, this is a hard story to tell and when we were planning to tell it, we knew our friends at the Talking Dead would be talking to you about it and knowing you’d all be talking, and feeling and commiserating, I knew we should say something about it lest our silence say something we didn’t mean to say or not say. So I’ll say this: In some way, we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn or parts of Glenn again, either in flashback or in the current story to help complete the story.”
When Glenn Rhee picked up a baseball bat outside of Shirewilt Estates in last season’s midseason premiere “What Happened and What’s Going On,” a chill ran down the spines of The Walking Dead comic book readers, who understood exactly which grisly moment the scene seemed to foreshadow. Glenn is beaten to death in front of his wife and friends by a psychopath named Negan and his razor-studded baseball bat in Issue 100—making the TV version of Glenn’s new weapon feel like a dark little joke.
And yet, despite Robert Kirkman’s talk-show trolling, no spiky baseball bat ever harmed Glenn. In the moments before his grisly, apparent demise in Sunday night’s episode “Thank You,” Glenn was overpowered by a force more unstoppable than savagery: plain ol’ bad luck.
We watched his tortured, blood-spattered face look down in horror as guts and muscle tissue were chomped to pieces above his chest. Melancholy violins and a lingering shot of the impossibly thick scrum of walkers he was buried under signaled doom to every stunned viewer at home. What the hell did my eyeballs just see? a nation wondered tonight.
We’d all be holding each other in tears and drafting silly Change.org petitions right now but something about this Big Shocking Death feels… off. The beloved ex-pizza delivery boy appeared to meet his maker after, of all things, an unexpected topple from a dumpster. A dumpster! Glenn Rhee, one of the Atlanta Five, dies after falling off a fucking dumpster?
The moments preceding Glenn’s fateful fall were some of the most truly terrifying The Walking Dead has pulled off in months—and in a season that, so far, has done a mighty job of raising the stakes to the groaning tune of 10,000 walkers. Glenn, a rabidly adored fan favorite (Daryl who?) ends up cornered and trapped atop a dumpster with Nicholas, who takes one dizzying look at the pair’s dismal odds, gets woozy, then shoots himself in the head. Glenn tips over like a bowling pin, then everything is screaming and violins and blood and guts.
No one is around to watch any of this happen. For the rest of the episode, no one but the audience even knows Glenn is “dead.”
But the scene leaves a phantom of ambiguity behind. Was that Glenn’s body being torn apart or Nicholas’s? (Nicholas’s body appeared to land at least partially on top of Glenn’s.) The camera never pulls back far enough for us to see the situation clearly and when we cut away, Glenn, for the moment, is still alive (but quite possibly being torn to shreds).
You guys, I have stopped and replayed this scene close to a dozen times now. I’ve tried comparing the colors of Glenn’s and Nicholas’s shirts to see whose chest was being ripped open, but the sadists who make this show had Glenn and Nicholas wear near-identical clothing for this episode. I’ve tried assessing the plausibility of Glenn using Nicholas’s body as a shield while he crawls under the dumpster (or something), but even that scenario only delays the inevitable. And, for what it’s worth, in the shot immediately before the camera turns to his face, we see the collarbone-adjacent area of Glenn’s chest free of Nicholas’s corpse—the same(ish) area we see walkers digging into a moment later.
Add to that the requisite nostalgia blitz for soon-to-die characters—the dumpster, calling Rick a “dumbass” over the walkie-talkie—and, well, things are not looking good for Glenn.
Neither AMC nor Steven Yeun’s reps were willing to shed any light on the matter (hey, you can’t blame me for trying). And I’m writing this article well before Talking Dead airs its weekly death montage so for all I know, Glenn’s mug could show up for one final bow, making his death official, and this Jon Snow 2.0 conspiracy will die right then and there. (Yeun, it’s worth noting, was not a pre-announced guest for the weekly post-mortem show.)
There’s just one issue. Skip past the next paragraph if you want to remain potentially spoiler-free.
The thing is—again, potential spoiler alert—Yeun has been seen on set, in costume, multiple times since “Thank You” wrapped, according to eagle-eyed fans in Atlanta who regularly report cast sightings to fan group The Spoiling Dead. In fact, he was spotted on set just last week. Sure, he could be filming potential flashbacks—though a character who has yet to be introduced was reportedly seen with Glenn, complicating that theory. We’re not likely to know for sure until later this season. (Or until Chris Hardwick tells us so.)
In the meantime, spare a thought for living tragedy magnet Maggie Greene. May that woman’s life start to suck far less after this.
Rick didn’t fare much better in this episode after he went solo to try to hitch a ride in the RV back to Alexandria. He encounters a trio of walkers that he expertly dispatches—until we see him nursing his bleeding hand. Did zombie blood from that machete touch Rick’s wound? The episode does its darned best to remind us that any wound touched by walkers spells certain death (unless the limb is cut off quickly like Hershel’s leg), by having two Alexandrians wax poetic about their own fates after getting bit.
No one knows exactly how quickly the infection spreads, but Rick spends an awfully long time after sustaining his injury trying to start that RV, then fending off a group of hostile humans. There is precedent for a hand-less Rick in the comics, but Andrew Lincoln has already gone around telling cute stories about how the show’s VFX supervisor shut down the idea because it would be too “expensive.” So either Rick chops his hand off, Rick dies, or everything is fine and this show is driving everyone into conspiracy theory-fueled insanity, which is probably how the zombie apocalypse actually starts.
Either way, here we are. At the mercy of Chris Hardwick. There is no more terrifying fate.