After months of theorizing about whose POV we saw in the last shot of Last Day on Earth during which every possible character was claimed to be the one killed by Negan (these characters had hair dangling in front of their eyes but in the shot there were no hair / look at the shades / X got kind of a farewell episode), The Walking Dead did not reveal the identity of the deceased until 20 minutes in.
While some complain about an unnecessary, artificial deceleration of the show (a point I cannot fully dismiss), I rather liked the re-introduction in order to emotionally delve in again and feel some emotional impact. After some bantering with the audience’s expectations and some sick bantering on Negan’s part with Rick’s psyche (including a showcase of the makeup department with the gruesome killing of the walker hanging in the noose), we finally find out who “It” is: Abraham (a brief “obituary” will follow further below). After his scenes in Last Day on Earth, which definitely had a farewell vibe to them, it didn’t come as an overly surprising choice. For someone who really liked his character, the scene worked for me emotionally, especially after his classic-Abraham-style last words “Suck my nuts!”, taking it “like a champ”. However, I gotta say, the writers did not do the show a favor by dragging this revelation out for 6 months with this cheap, borderline outrageous cliffhanger. I feel it could have hit me even stronger to find out right away or a week later. Obviously, from a marketing standpoint, this was a masterpiece as this caused a lot of talk on the Interwebs.
After seeing and feeling the reactions of Rosita and Sasha and Negan relentlessly twisting the knife in the wound, Daryl, impulsive as he is, manages to take a hit at Negan. This triggers the truly shocking part of the episode which I did not anticipate – at all. In order for everyone to respect Negan’s New World Order, he’s just gotta punish this act of disobedience (only the first one was “free”). And he just freakin’ hits Glenn on the head!! In a truly emotionally awful shot, wide-eyed Glenn tries to comfort Maggie (“Maggie, I’ll find you”), with one eye half-popping out of its socket, unable to speak comprehensibly. During this scene of terror, Negan, in his psychopathic style, is mocking Glenn. At this moment, I was really contemplating stopping watching TWD as the bleak atmosphere and the sense of absolute helplessness got to me. Negan’s poignant jokes and the show’s explicit portrayal of Negan bashing in heads with Lucille made the show reach a new level of desperation I wasn’t sure I was in for.
At first, I could not process the thought of Glenn, whom we’ve known from the beginning and who is among the most fan favorite characters, being dead. I didn’t hardly emote, which I attributed to the badly timed cliffhanger. But toward to the end of the episode, dealing with the aftermath of the two killings, I started processing what just happened and the show managed to trigger a emotional reaction after all. Seeing the characters grieve and deal with the horrendous situation made me tear up. Maggie, currently the most vulnerable character, stood up first and bade the others to let her go on alone. This very understandable reaction of blaming herself really hit me hard as I have once been in a similar place. Then the show returns to one of its many strengths: Displaying the group’s solidarity with each other, especially in dire situations, leaving at least the slightest glimmer of hope amidst all this grief.
In between, Rick continues to be tortured by Negan and finds himself faced with an impossible choice: maiming Carl or causing everyone, including Carl, to be shot. Raising the stakes almost to the maximum, the show really created tension here as I totally would not put it past Negan to follow through on this. But in a Binding of Isaac moment, Negan shows mercy and spares Rick of breaking entirely as he believes Rick now understands the necessity of obedience. This godlike allegory keeps the character grounded instead of turning him into a more insane, hateful maniac than he already is.
This episode continued fleshing out the most dangerous, because cunning as well as psychopathic, villain to date. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a superb job in playing this sick bastard, with many subtle quirks and a perverted enjoyment of what’s happening. The latter also manifests itself in his dialogue, which is full of enthusiastic sadism and very refreshing as it weirdly combines swear words (which are one step below vulgar) and childlike words (which make him condescending and almost patronizing). This dissonance in tone and the dissonance between the reality and his state of mind is truly frightening but nonetheless he does not seem like a mentally ill person at all as he stays fully in control.
The episodes leaves me rather interested than excited. In a lose-lose situation, they actually made the season premiere work and established Negan as an almost unbeatable antagonist. I am not happy we lost Glenn but I have to appreciate the show raising the stakes and killing off a main character. This development that the living are the true monsters has been there for a while and it was time to follow through on the consequences in order to not stagnate storywise.
Next episode we will probably see a flashback about Carol and Morgan and the so-called kingdom. Since the SDCC trailer arrived, I am pretty interested in seeing Ezekiel and his freakin’ Tiger 😀
Sergeant Abraham Ford:
I personally always enjoyed Abraham’s dry cynicism, which would often make me laugh, as well as his optimism and zest for life since our group arrived in Alexandria. We met him in season 4 as the determined leader of a small group out to protect savior/scientist Eugene and rescue the world with a no-bullshit-attitude, taking great joy in killing walkers (even smiling meanwhile). After being part of the very likeable GREATM group and falling into a hole after being ripped of his purpose in the zombie apocalypse and thus being suicidal, he found a new zest for life in Alexandria and due to his relationship with Sasha. It was nice to see him happy again, especially his cute reaction to Maggie being pregnant, and to see him also getting Sasha back on track. So all things considered, I would agree with Michael Cudlitz when he stated that Abraham’s story was told.
- When he gave zero fucks when Eugene, the old perv, was peeping at Rosita and him making love (again!). Aaaah, let him watch! 😀 (Frankly, I wouldn’t care either if I were with such a hottie). (5×05, Self Help)
- When he addresses the inhabitants of Alexandria who are very doubtful about Rick:
“Simply put, there’s a vast ocean of shit you people don’t know shit about. Rick knows every fine grain of said shit.” (5×16, Conquer)
Quotes (Characterizing or simply funny):
[to Tara] Yeah. I saw the way you were looking down Rosita’s shirt while she was serving you dinner. Hey, the things are damn near hypnotic. [laughs] Look, Eugene spends half the day staring at her ass. I’m not mad, it just means my theory’s shot. (4×15, Us)
Eugene: In doing so, a broad range of capabilities are acquired, allowing one to flip the script and use said capabilities to shape said environment to maximum longevity. I’m saying I’m in the process of said step two. I’ve changed, adapted, I’m a survivor. Abraham: Keep telling yourself that.
[to Eugene about his plan to produce bullets]: That, my friend, is some damn fine genuine outside-the-box thinking.
[a bit later]: I apologize for questioning your skills. You know how to bite a dick, Eugene. I mean that with the utmost of respect. Welcome to stage two. (6×14, Twice As Far)
Abraham: You afraid… to go back to it? Let somebody close?
Rick: [hesitates] Yeah. Yeah.
Abraham: Me, too. But now… I think I’m that much more ready to tear the world a brand new asshole. Any second now. (6×15, East)
And a nice interaction between Abraham and Glenn in the GREATM storyline:
Glenn: You’d better turn in. You’ve got a late watch.
Abraham: Yeah. I really need some ass first. [referring to Rosita, Abraham walks off]
Glenn: [whispers to himself alone] Didn’t need to know that, but cool. (5×05, Self Help)
Glenn is probably among my absolute favorite characters from any show. From the start, he’s been a symbol for hope and the humanity that is left in this postapocalyptic world. It is characters like Glenn whose decisions interest me in such a setting: Will he maintain his humanity or will he break and be forced to do ugly, potentially immoral things?
What is so intriguing about Glenn probably is his everyman character. He isn’t particularly strong nor hyper-intelligent but it is his character, his decisions and speeches reminding us who we are or wanna be in such a world that make him so likeable.
Back in the pilot, when the situation appeared to be hopeless for Rick, there is the radio call from Glenn, instantly giving us hope. Why did he do it? That’s what Rick also asked:
Rick: Back at the tank, why’d you stick your neck out for me?
Glenn: Call it foolish, naive hope that if I’m ever that far up shit creek, somebody might do the same for me. Guess I’m an even bigger dumbass than you. (1×2, Guts)
And it wasn’t the only time. Remember Glenn waking up in the deserted prison? That’s when he saw Tara, trapped, unable to escape on her own. He risked his life to save her, a selfless act which makes him a true hero in this world where everyone is in for himself. He believes in humanity, giving people a second chance, sometimes (almost) to his downfall. He almost died when Nicholas, that stupid Alexandrian coward, gave up on himself and committed suicide. Thanks to his status as a fan favorite and a giant cop-out due to the writers’ hesitance to kill off a major character, he didn’t, though, and even managed to convince moody Enid to come back to Alexandria and be part of the community. He has already stood on the verge of death several times, which unfortunately made him (in addition to his fate in the comics) a logical choice to say goodbye to.
In his introduction, it is also revealed that he often went on scavenging and scouting missions alone, which is probably when he developed his survival skills. However, Glenn has always been a team player. On Hershel’s farm, he can’t even keep the walkers in the barn a secret despite thereby really upsetting Maggie.
The everyman aspect and the resulting likability also finds itself in other aspects, e.g. his cute discomfort with secretly having to obtain a pregnancy test for Lori and his even cuter surprise and disbelief that Maggie wants to have sex with him. This playful banter in season 2 leads to a very intimate relationship over the course of 4 and a half seasons, which feels very authentic for the viewer (as Rick said: “Hey, this is a good thing, something we don’t get enough of these days”). Moreover, it continually serves as a strong motivation for both characters to get through and return safely from whatever dire situation to be able to reunite with their loved one. That results in the audience really rooting for the both of them and in some heartwarming moments, such as in season 4.2. When Glenn reads Maggie’s handwriting on the signposts on the way to Terminus, he is even even ready to leave Abraham’s well-equipped group to follow the trail.
Similarly, Glenn ignores the insurmountable amount of walkers storming Alexandria in order to save Maggie. He almost died as he was surrounded by walkers but got rescued by Sasha and Abraham; I have never cheered that intensely while watching a TV show, I even jumped from the couch because Glenn was rescued.
Glenn also was always good for delivering a moment of levity e.g. announcing to be about to throw up when covering themselves in walker guts or distracting walkers in Atlanta with the car alarm and enjoying it. Here are some memorable or very telling quotes:
Maggie: Condoms? [Glenn gasps] You got a girlfriend I don’t know about?
Glenn: Me? No. No.
Maggie: Then you’re a pretty confident guy.
Glenn: No, no, no. I-I-I wasn’t… I would never…
Maggie: Something wrong with me?
Glenn: [chuckles nervously] No. No, I… I would never have sex…[Maggie stares at Glenn] Uh, I’m… I’m lost. (2×4, Cherokee Rose)
Glenn: I’m only asking ’cause it’s like all the women are acting really weird. And-And I read somewhere that when women spend a lot of time together, their cycles line up and they all get super crazy hormonal at the same time. Dale: I’m gonna advise you to keep that theory to yourself. (2×5, Chupacabra)
But I think these two quotes characterize Glenn the best. First, Glenn explaining his motivation and his resilience:
“You honor the dead by going on. Even when you’re scared. You live because they don’t get to.” (6×7, Heads Up)
And Maggie opening Glenn’s eyes as well as the audience’s about his value for the group:
“Shut up. You’re smart. You’re brave. You’re a leader. But you don’t know it. And your friends don’t want to know it. They’d rather have you fetching peaches. There’s a dead guy in the well? Send Glenn down. You’re Walker-bait. I can’t take you becoming one of them.” [walks off in tears] (2×6, Secrets)
All images (and quotes) taken off of imdb.com, © by AMC