The terrifying and unpredictable thing about The Walking Dead is that you never know when someone can die. It can come in any episode, and no one is truly safe. At the end of last season, when Aaron and Daryl were in a car surrounded by zombies, there was that nagging belief in the back of our minds that Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple just might do it: They might kill Daryl.
That fear keeps the intensity alive on The Walking Dead, so long as Gimple actually follows through on his threats every once in a while. This week, he followed through (presumably). There was no reprieve for Glenn Rhee. There were no last-second heroics. No one appeared at the last moment to save him. There were no Deus Ex Moffats.
Glenn Rhee died. He fell from a garbage dumpster, and he was consumed by zombies.
… and then there were four.
Rick. Daryl. Carl. Carol.
Five, if you count Morgan.
That’s all that remains now of the original season one cast. It’s been a long time since we’ve lost an original cast member on The Walking Dead, and when we’ve been with someone as long as we’ve been with Glenn, the loss hurts. He came in as a pizza boy, and he died a transformed hero, even if it was a senseless death brought on by Glenn’s own compassion.
The Daleks would laugh at his weakness.
Glenn tried to save Nicholas, as he’s tried — and succeeded — in saving so many before him. Nicholas’ cowardice cost Noah his life last season. Nicholas pride also nearly cost Glenn his life last season, when Nicholas lashed out, lured Glenn into the woods, and shot him.
Glenn, however, chose to let Nicholas live. He told no one but Maggie (who told Tara).
Ultimately, Glenn died the way we expected: Trying to save people. Here, he tried to save Alexandria — and his wife — from a mass of zombies. He volunteered himself to spare Michonne, Heath, and three other Alexandrians who were going to die anyway. He sacrificed himself trying to save Nicholas, the same man who nearly killed him. This time, Nicholas succeeded, however inadvertently. A panicked Nicholas shot himself in the head on top of a dumpster while surrounded by a horde of zombies. When he fell off the dumpster, Glenn fell with him. The walkers were on top of Glenn immediately.
“Thank you,” were Nicholas’ parting words to Glenn before he put a bullet in his brain. It was fitting for a character who has brought us so much to be thankful for on The Walking Dead. Thank you, Glenn, and thank you Steven Yeun for six seasons of terrific work.
The saddest part: The stop watch Glenn pulled out earlier in the episode. He was still in possession of it. Hershel gave it to him back in season three, when he told his future son-in-law on the day he gave Glenn his blessing to marry Maggie: “No man is good enough for your little girl, until one is.”
Glenn really was. Glenn was the literally the best of all people on The Walking Dead: He understood what it took to survive, but he wasn’t ruled by survival. He was ruled by compassion. It’s that compassion that ultimately cost him his life.
Beyond the hole that Glenn’s death leaves for viewers, it’s also likely to create tidal waves for the rest of the cast. Assuming, of course, that Rick survives the swarm of zombies currently encircling him, the blame for Glenn’s death will fall upon him. The blame for the deaths of many Alexandrians will fall upon Rick. He hatched the plan. He pulled the trigger on it before they were ready. No, Rick did not cause the horn to blow, luring the zombies away (that ultimately falls on Morgan, for letting the leaders live, and Aaron, for leaving photographs of Alexandria behind), but as the leader, the blame is bound to fall upon him.
In the weeks to come, many may turn against Rick. Alexandrians, for sure. Maggie, quite possibly. Rick was meant to keep them alive. He was meant to protect them. “Do it for them,” Rick would say, and “doing it for them” is exactly what got Glenn killed.
On the other hand, Glenn was killed doing exactly what Rick told him not to do. “If they can’t keep up, you keep going. You make sure you get back.” If Glenn had cut the injured Alexandrians loose early on, he may have survived. You can’t carry injured people — who are going to die anyway — for sentimental reasons, so that they can get back to say goodbye to their families before they turn. Glenn should’ve saved himself. He also shouldn’t have been so quick to trust Nicholas again.
— It absolutely sucks that Glenn died, but if a major character had to go, Glenn seemed like a logical choice,because his death could cause the most ripples. The show has been giving us a lot of small fishes lately, so they needed to kill off a major character to keep the tension high.
— That said, for diversity reasons, I hate that we lost the only Asian-American on the highest-profile show in America.
— Glenn’s last words to Rick were, fittingly, “Good luck, dumbass.”
— The hardest part of Glenn’s death is yet to come: When Maggie finds out. That’s going to be incredibly hard to watch.
— Nice little callback for Heath there in the end, finding himself covered in blood that he didn’t know was walkers, friends, or his own. Now he “knows” what it means to survive.
— Scott? Why spend so much effort to save him? (Is it because he’s Sasha’s real-life husband?)
— Finally, and this is a potential spoiler for future episodes, but for what it’s worth, there’s a chance that Glenn is not dead. A remote chance, but a chance.
Here’s an image from the season six trailer.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Glenn is inside that dumpster, and he is hallucinating his death. If so, it’s a cheap trick, but honestly, it’s a cheap trick I’d accept over Glenn actually dying.
The other possibility if you look at the scene closely is that the guts and intestines being devoured are not Glenn’s. They belong to Nicholas. The two fall together, we don’t see Nicholas, and Nicholas seemed to fall on top of Glenn. The gore seems to be coming from above Glenn, instead of from Glenn, so it could be Nicholas being consumed. Maybe Glenn squirrels out and jumps inside the dumpster.
I can also envision a very remote possibility where Nicholas’ corpse protects Glenn, he kills a lot of walkers, they fall dead upon him, forming a forcefield of the undead, and he lives under a pile of zombies until the others leave.
Also note: Glenn is not in the episode’s In Memoriam on The Talking Dead and, apparently, Steven Yeun recently signed a new deal on The Walking Dead.
Scott Gimple also added this with regards to Glenn in a note on The Talking Dead:
“In some way, we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn, or parts of Glenn again, in a flashback or in a current story, in order to complete the story.”