Warning: Major spoilers follow. I know you expect that from a recap, but seriously, major spoilers follow.
Boy, it sure seems like Glenn's dead. Eaten by zombies, presumably about to become one himself, if there's anything left of him.
You can quibble. You can say that he was protected by the body of another man, and could then crawl to safety. But I would be hugely disappointed if The Walking Dead undid this shocking moment. So let's just assume it won't.
Glenn's death both is and isn't surprising
On the one hand, this isn't too surprising. Despite Glenn being with the show from the first season, I don't know that I could tell you much about him beyond "seems like a nice guy" and "loves his wife, Maggie." Of the handful of players left from the show's earliest days, Glenn was by far the most expendable.
On the other hand, that's precisely what makes this death so surprising. The character made it this far, and he was a fan favorite, thanks to Steven Yeun's low-key but effective performance.
Because he's such a blank slate, Glenn is the character it's easiest to see yourself as in the post-zombie world. In both the comics and the show, Glenn is a character made to be projected upon. And those are the sorts of characters who make it to the end of a show's run. (See also: the much more blatant audience-surrogate character of Hurley on Lost.)
He's also one of just five characters remaining from the first season of the show, though he's the first of the first-season bunch to die since Andrea way back in season three. And his death neatly underlines the sheer hell on earth Rick and the gang have unleashed with their zombie cattle drive.
I was surprisingly affected by Glenn's death, even though the character did nothing for me. The method of it was a little weird (I'm not precisely sure of the physics that led to him falling into that mass of zombies), but the overall effect was deeply unnerving.
But The Walking Dead killing Glenn makes me realize just how solid the show's cast has quietly become in the past three seasons. Weak links have been mercilessly fed to the zombies, and the main players have been beefed up.
How many of them are going to make it to the series finale, whenever that is? Let's give a shot at some predictions, from the main-credits star most likely to die to the least. (Again, I'm assuming Glenn is dead, because come on, show. Don't screw this up.)
Abraham: He's got "heroic final stand" written all over him
Michael Cudlitz has been a fun addition to the main cast, and I love the character's casual competence. He'll last a few seasons more, if not right up until the end.
But somewhere in that process, the characters are going to get stuck in a jam that will require self-sacrifice, and Abraham seems almost certain to be the guy who dives on the grenade and/or strides forward into the zombie horde. There is simply no way this series ends with Abraham alive and kicking (though he could be dead and kicking; you never know).
Sasha: She simply doesn't have enough ties to other characters
Occasionally, The Walking Dead kills off a character with major ties to the others to underline the idea that Life Is Short, or whatever. (This is exactly what Glenn's seeming death accomplishes.) But far more often than not, the characters that die are those who will make the main characters sad but not really trip them up in any way.
Such a death would be Sasha's, at least at present. The show is sure trying to draw a line between her and several other characters, but she's a little too remote for it to work. That makes sense, since she's lost her brother and all, but it also marks her as someone who could very easily be removed from the show without affecting it too badly.
Maggie: She will have her revenge
If Glenn dies, it will hit Maggie hard, of course. It's difficult to see her not finding someone to blame for the death of her husband, even if that "someone" is a zombie horde she destroys singlehandedly.
But this is also a show where characters who become consumed with some burning desire to right past wrongs tend to be devoured, especially if those desires take them up against one of the series' de facto leaders. My guess is that Maggie will blame Rick for all the things that have gone wrong since he decided to lure the zombies off to some unspecified point 20-some miles away, and she'll go up against him. I can't imagine that ending well for her.
(Sidebar: Rick's plan is just to lure the zombies 20 miles away and assume they won't wander right back? That doesn't sound like the most thought-out plan.)
Daryl: Voted most likely to get a movie deal
On one hand, Daryl being written out of the series seems like a crazy idea. People love this character, and they love the way Norman Reedus plays him. If anybody from the series has become a breakout star, it's either Reedus or Lauren Cohan (who plays Maggie).
But that's precisely why it seems likely that he'll eventually leave the show. At some point, Reedus will get an offer from the movies that's too good to pass up, and he'll regretfully have to leave the series to pursue new opportunities. Daryl is a popular enough character that the show might leave him alive, just not hanging out with everybody else, but I somehow doubt it will pass up the opportunity to have him go out in a blaze of glory.
Carl: It would be kind of hilarious, though, right?
Now we're getting to a list of people I think are more likely than not to make it to the end of the show. Still, if the series wants to do something truly daring at some point in its run, perhaps once buzz has started to slip, it could do worse than killing Carl. The annoying teenager never dies on these shows. The Walking Dead could break new ground!
Morgan: He'll probably make it to the end. Probably.
Morgan's story is so compelling, and he's overcome so much, that it would make sense for him to make it all the way to the series' final episode. Indeed, if he lasts past this season, I would put good money on it.
But there's an exception here, which is that perhaps star Lennie James, who's much in demand, has signed a short-term contract with the show, which will carry him through one season and then send him on his way. Yeah, it would be sort of disappointing for Morgan's story to conclude with his death, after he managed to overcome the deaths of everyone he cares about and his own descent into madness, but it could be like that one season when Michelle Rodriguez was on Lost: in, then out, memorably.
Michonne: Yeah, she's safe
Michonne was one of the most popular characters from the comics. And though it took a while, she's become one of the most popular characters in the series. Plus, as a take-no-prisoners type, she seems likely to survive just about any situation she lands in. She somehow managed to survive zombies trying to drag her down off a flimsy fence, then managed to escape, thanks to raw strength and Heath gunning down a bunch of the Walkers. If she survived that, she can survive anything.
Put it this way: If I were somehow deposited in this world, I would stick close to Michonne. She seems to be a better long-term strategist than anybody else. If the character dies, it will be somewhere in the last handful of episodes, and it will be a massive moment.
Rick: He'll probably die in the series finale
I've been hoping the show would kill Rick, not because I hate the character or anything (though he'd be toward the bottom of any character ranking I made), but because it seems like it would be the kind of bold move that would really push the show to another level. Rick is the hero because he's the hero. There's literally no other reason for it. His plans aren't that great, he seems to crumple under the weight of responsibility, and he has a tendency to completely fall apart at the worst possible moments.
But if the show were going to kill him, it would have in season four or five, when it was really shaking things up. Now that it's this late in its run, it seems far more likely that he makes it to the end. That said, he's precisely the kind of character who would die toward the end of the series finale, that Carl and Judith might have a better life or something. Boo!
Carol: She is protected by Robert Kirkman himself
At New York Comic Con, Kirkman, creator of the comics the series is based on and an active voice in the show, was asked which character he thought would make it to the end of the series. And, as reported by Screenrant, he picked Carol. He said:
The Carol that’s in the comic was my attempt to show just how broken an individual can become from the zombie apocalypse. The Carol in the show, which is a much better character let’s be honest, actually is made stronger by all the more horrible things that happen to her in the show. Killing her would definitely not … we can’t do that.
First of all, it's nice to see that Kirkman agrees with me on the awesomeness of Carol. Second of all, it's entirely possible he's lying. He's done it before to disguise horrible upcoming plot twists.
But I think he's telling the truth here. If there's been a performance on The Walking Dead that's genuinely Emmy-nomination-worthy, it's been Melissa McBride's. And if there's been a character who's gone from afterthought to genuinely important figure, through sheer force of will, it's Carol. Kirkman might be pulling our legs, but I'm inclined to agree with him.
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How would you rank all of these characters? And do you think Glenn survived? Hop in comments to let me know. And be sure to leave me your questions for today's culture chat!