Life and the Dead

Reflections on life and death and The Walking Dead

Glenn Rhee: Alive or Dead

Glenn Rhee: To be or not to be…. That is the question we’ve been asking ourselves lately.  Whether that noble character who we have watched these past 6 seasons suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune emerges alive or dead has us all sitting on pins and needles, analyzing and overanalyzing that shocking scene when Nicolas shoots himself in the head and knocks Glenn down into the horde of hungry walkers. I have watched this scene 3 times. The first time, I reacted much like everyone else, in utter shock and disbelief, because, unlike Game of Thrones where after Ned Stark’s swift and gruesome decapitation you brace yourself for the next main character elimination, or eliminations (as in the notorious PTSD-inducing Red Wedding), TWD knocks off it’s characters relatively sparingly and usually pardons the main characters. So after overcoming the initial shock of what looked like Glenn’s death, I moved onto denial. Glenn is not dead. He can’t be dead! So I re-watched the scene. Glenn’s facial expressions read more like despair and grief as opposed to pain and suffering. And from the camera’s point of view, it could be that we’re watching the zombies tear apart Nicolas, who did seem to actually fall on top of Glenn. I watched it carefully…the zombies were ripping through khaki colored clothing. Was Glenn wearing khaki colored clothing? Or was that Nicolas? I watched it a third time. They BOTH were wearing khaki! It’s clear that the writers/directors/producers were really trying to mess with us sleuthy fans. And so we waited for the following episode to see if Steven Yeun was still listed in the opening credits. Damn! He wasn’t! So then, I resolved that Glenn may indeed be dead.

Like Shrodinger’s cat, Glenn is theoretically alive and dead in my mind. He is in a state of quantum superposition. Did that radioactive decay occur or not? Did Nicolas fall on top of Glenn or not? Did Glenn roll under that dumpster or not? Then the paradox seems resolved when at the end of the 6th episode, we hear the lone voice over Daryl’s radio…”Help!”…like in Horton Hears a Who. “We are here, we are here, WE ARE HERE!! He is alive. I wanted to print a t-shirt called TWD’s Glenn. On the front, it would read, “Glenn is Alive”, and on the back it would read, “Glenn is Dead”. There’s already a Shrodinger’s cat version. My brother has it.

I began watching The Walking Dead so I would have a common topic of discussion with my two teenage boys. I quickly became desensitized to the graphic violence (something I’m not proud of) but became over-emotionally involved in the welfare of my favorite characters. I burst into tears when Beth was killed by an explosive bullet to the head and cried even more when her limp body was carried away by a grieving Daryl Dixon. My son, seemingly concerned by my overreaction, said with mild disgust, “Mom…Beth is not a real person. She’s a character played by someone else who is still alive. She didn’t really die.” Oh yes. I forgot. Thank you.

Why do I continue to watch The Walking Dead and how did I get so absorbed in this series? And why has it survived through 6 seasons and seems to be going strong? The bottom line is, I care. I care about the characters. I love Rick Grime’s tortured soul, Michonne’s empathy ad braveness, Carol’s warrior-like transformation, Abraham’s wacky potty mouth, Daryl Dixon’s moral compass and cross bow accuracy, Maggie’s devotion, and Glenn’s righteousness. I have watched them evolve, I have watched them struggle, I have watched them triumph, and I have watched the good prevail. And they are good, as Aaron has so accurately pointed out. We want good to prevail over evil, don’t we? Today, we hear with increasing frequency that in other parts of the world evil sometimes prevails. I have to believe that in the end, good will always win over evil. So far in The Walking Dead, the good have been able to stand their ground, and I want it to continue in that direction.

In the comic book series, Glenn does indeed meet a grizzly end – and in front of his family, none the less. The horror. The horror! I have never actually read the comic book series but did look into what becomes of Glenn, simply because I had to know if he could still possibly be alive in the television series. Not that the two necessarily follow the same story line. Daryl Dixon, after all, doesn’t even exist in the comic book version. If Glenn really is dead, I think the integrity of The Walking Dead television series could be compromised. Will the series be able to soldier on? That depends. As long as the good always outweighs the bad, I believe it stands a chance of continuing to maintain a loyal fan base. But be warned Mr. Gimple, Mr. Kirkman and all other TWD writers, producers, and directors; there is one character who better live through the last episode of the final season. He stands for goodness and he knows the difference between good people and bad people. As much as we all respect Rick Grimes, the last man standing has to be Daryl Dixon. The moment he is knocked off, well, that’s the final nail in the coffin of The Walking Dead for me.