Is Glenn really dead? For three weeks now, many of us have been pacing back and forth, asking ourselves this question—unable to eat, sleep or fornicate. Sunday night’s episode of The Walking Dead put us out of our misery, after achieving its goal of completely stressing us out.
When Glenn was presumed dead, I vowed to never write again (for a few hours) and then collected my tears into an empty Poland Spring bottle, to save them in case there was a chance that Glenn wasn’t in fact brutally gutted by walkers while on the run with his former nemesis Nicholas, who shot himself and almost killed Glenn in the process. Well, just as we hoped, Glenn is alive. Glenn is alllllliiiiivvvvveeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!
Since we never quite saw Glenn perish, popular theory held that he managed to somehow climb under the dumpster and survive. Roughly 75% of Walking Dead fans speculated correctly that the blood and carnage we saw was from Nicholas. Glenn never seemed dead dead, especially if you went by the foreshadowing in the previous episode, in the way Maggie held out hope that her husband was still out there. There’s usually a finality to Walking Dead demises (beheadings, etc.) that rarely leaves the door open for optimism. A Glenn resurrection and reunion seemed inevitable. Still, we panicked.
So the purpose of stringing us along is obvious, but was it necessary? In his interview on Talking Dead, creator Scott Gimple explained his reasoning, that he wanted the audience to feel the same “uncertainty” that Maggie felt. Adding to that, we were also forced into a glimmer of optimism that’s almost essential to survivors in this world. We were made to consider the possibility that the worst hadn’t yet happened (that Glenn was prob alive)—a sensation that The Walking Dead often plays on, but which doesn’t dismiss the fact Glenn’s fake death felt gimmicky.
There’s at least one character who finds the idea of hope useless, though. After Glenn escapes by crawling under the dumpster and out of the grips of the hungry walkers, he comes across our favorite cynic Enid, who ran away just as the Wolves were invading Alexandria. She wants to be free, but Glenn wants to reel her back. Enid thinks there’s no point in trying save a world that’s inching toward death. She tells Glenn, “The world is trying to die. We’re supposed to just let it.” I feel her.
There aren’t many idealists left at this point in the apocalypse, but Enid’s cynicism is a coping tactic in a way that’s different from the others. Even now, Rick’s crew still feels like the world is worth saving. Enid claims to see little worth in that. But hers is a false layer of protection, thinking that assuming the worst will ease the blow when the worst actually happens. Like many of the others, she’s reached her point of: Why am I still here? Luckily, Glenn, who’s come to symbolize both morality and hope, is there to explain, assuring Enid that the world, as destroyed as it is, is still worth living in. That’s mostly because of the people. Where else would she go anyway? Survive as long as you can, Enid, and do it with those who’ve survived this long.
The other philosophical dilemma of this episode is Morgan’s struggle with morality. Once Rick returns to Alexandria—after encountering and killing a bunch of Wolves in the RV (note how he’s still strongly shading Father Gabriel)—Morgan convenes a meeting with him, Carol and Michonne to give his All Lives Matter speech. Morgan’s having a mental crisis about his decision to avoid killing. “I don’t know what’s right anymore,” he says. “I know I could end it [long pause]. But I also know that people can change. ’Cause everyone sitting here can. All life is precious.” Ugh.
Michonne is right that, for the sake of helping the good people live, Morgan will have to give up his pipe dream and his last bit of ethics. Most of the people here are not murderers, but survivalists. Quote of the night goes to Carol, who tells a very frightened and traumatized Sam (who’s now witnessed his mom murder someone): “The only thing that keeps you from becoming a monster is killing.” I’m also reminded of Daryl in last week’s episode, after he escaped three random kidnappers in the woods, only to return to help them and then be betrayed again. In that moment, he’s still willing to take the strangers back to a safe place after their brush with death and, he says, “I’m from a place where people are still like they were, more or less. Better or worse.”
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Images via AMC