‘The Walking Dead’ Just Gave Glenn Fans Hope With One Word
Did that mean what we think it meant? We weigh the evidence.
Major spoilers for tonight’s “The Walking Dead” episode “Always Accountable” past this point.
That’s exactly the word fans of Steven Yeun’s Glenn have been saying over and over for the past few weeks since his seeming demise at the hands (and mouths) of thousands of hungry undead — followed by multiple theories that posited things might not be as grim as we thought they were.
Is Schrodinger’s Glenn alive? Or is he deceased? It’s something the show itself has been teasing and playing with, first giving an ambiguous statement about his possible return immediately after the episode aired; then removing Yeun from the credits. Even Executive Producer David Alpert both confirmed and denied his return to MTV News, stating that, “that good guy Glenn, regardless of what has happened to Glenn, is gone.”
See how he parsed his words there? Not, “Glenn is gone,” but Glenn the good guy, the angel on Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) shoulder is gone.
All this conversation — and the lack of answers regarding his fate, including when his girlfriend/wife Maggie (Lauren Cohan) went to rescue him only to decide not to know any definitive answers as an actual plot point/character beat — has left fans split down the middle.
Every clue, every “leaked” set photo, every piece of evidence can be read a million ways… And on tonight’s episode, the latest clue was no different.
All episode long, Daryl (Norman Reedus) had been trying to contact Rick on his walkie-talkie, but with no luck. At the end of the episode, as he drove off into the distance, he tried one more time.
“Rick, copy?” Daryl said, only to be greeted by silence. “Anybody?”
That’s when he heard a voice, something barely making it through the static.
“Say it again?” Daryl said to the voice, and then clear as a bell, as the episode cut to black, we heard that one word:
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This is a format the show has been playing with a lot this season, throwing a mysterious phrase, or word, or sound off-screen at the end of the episode. In the season premiere, it was a blaring horn that turned out to a be truck crashing into our heroes’ home base of Alexandria. At the end of the fourth episode, “Here’s Not Here,” Morgan (Lennie James) heard a voice screaming, “Open the gates!” that later turned out to be Rick, being chased by thousands of undead walkers.
The phrase we hear this episode is a little between those two when it comes to ambiguity, so let’s parse the evidence that this is — or isn’t — Glenn.
First off all, it’s probably Glenn, alive and well, because it f–king sounds like Glenn, okay? I’ve watched this show for six seasons, interviewed Steven Yeun multiple times, and I know what his voice sounds like. And either they got Steven Yeun to loop someone else’s dialogue, they got a soundalike for Steven Yeun… Or it’s Glenn calling for help.
Another piece of evidence in favor of Glenn calling for help? The list of people who had walkie-talkies is pretty small. There’s Daryl; Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), who are with Daryl at the end of the episode and probably aren’t testing their ventriloquism skills; Rick; and Glenn.
So given it’s not any of the first three answering, and Rick wasn’t able to raise anyone on his end last episode, by process of elimination it has to be Glenn on that walkie-talkie.
Here’s the counter-point, though: who’s to say that someone else didn’t break into the channel? Or who’s to say that someone else — that person who sounds just like Glenn, of course — didn’t find his walkie-talkie and is using it?
It could also potentially be someone on Daryl’s walkie-talkie, which was possibly stolen by the drifters he encountered this episode, calling for help immediately after they left Daryl for dead. But why they’d be immediately asking for help after pulling a gun on him and Daryl telling them he’s going to kill them the next time he sees them seems relatively unlikely.
Alternately, it could be a recording if was want to get weird and scifi about it. Glenn could have recorded his voice saying, “help” over and over, and was broadcasting it on the walkie-talkie channel so noone would ever forget him. Pretty far fetched, but only because that was definitely Glenn, YOU GUYS.
One more piece of evidence against it being Glenn, though? Norman Reedus told us over the phone that we might be on the wrong track.
“I don’t know that’s Glenn on the [walkie-talkie],” Reedus told MTV News when we post-morted the episode. “I think maybe you should go back and listen to that voice again… You see what you see, and he’s such a beloved character, people
things. You hope that you heard Glenn on the walkie-talkie. But you should probably listen to it again.”
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So I did, and it sounded like Glenn. In this case, it’s perfectly reasonable to think that Reedus might be under a gag-order, same as the rest of the cast, to be as ambiguous as possible until Glenn’s survival is confirmed or denied. That also said, Reedus hopped on the phone with us while he was filming the season finale — so given he’s way farther ahead than we are, he probably knows what he’s talking about.
THAT also said, in direct contradiction to the sub-headline above, Reedus never expressly said it
Glenn, he just said we should listen again. So…
The last, most damning piece of evidence that it’s Glenn saying, “help” at the end of the episode, though, is that it’s just not dramatically satisfying if it’s anyone else. The smoking gun, if you will, is Chekhov’s Gun: you don’t introduce the idea that Glenn may have survived in the first act if it doesn’t pay off in the third act… Whether that act is in the world of the show, or outside in our real world.
We’re currently two episodes from the end of the half season, where we’ll see some sort of resolution to Rick Grimes’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (remember, these first eight episodes have, so far, all happened in about 24 hours). To have something ambiguously horrible happen to Glenn in the first three episodes and NOT have it pay off in the last three episodes is just bad drama.
You could argue that “Walking Dead” aims to embrace the real world, where there are no easy solutions or answers. But I would argue that not answering this question will send the show into a dramatic spiral it might not recover from. In real life, of course someone could disappear and you never see them again: Virginia, particularly in the post-apocalypse, is a big place. In drama though, dangling plot threads have a way of unraveling the whole tapestry.
Maggie may say she prefers the Schrodinger’s version of Glenn who could as well be alive as dead, to keep her own hope alive; but we were in the real world need resolution.
And the way that word “help” is structured in the episode, what else works as a cliffhanger? Not some random person. Not someone who doesn’t have a strong emotional connection to Daryl and the rest of the group. Only Glenn.
Seriously, this thing is awful. How could he possibly survive that? Yikes.