Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead season 7 premiere
As 17 million viewers (and probably quite a few non-viewers) are now aware, last Sunday’s season 7 premiere of AMC apocalyptic drama The Walking Dead saw the fan favorite character of Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) experience one of the most graphic demises in the history of the series. Mirroring what happened to Glenn in the comics, Negan literally bashed Glenn’s brains in with his trademark weapon Lucille.
Negan had promised in the season 6 cliffhanger finale that he was going to murder one member of Rick’s group with Lucille, as a way of establishing dominance over them, and introducing them to the life of servitude they would be living from now on. That man was Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), who was defiant to the bitter end, and as Negan said “took it like a champ.” Unfortunately, Daryl’s anger got the best of him, and he ultimately provoked the vicious villain to get “back to it,” ending Glenn’s life.
Considering that The Walking Dead infamously faked Glenn’s death during season 6, many fans assumed that series creator Robert Kirkman and showrunner Scott Gimple would opt to not kill him off for real this time, despite what happened in print. After all, the show and book have deviated significantly on multiple occasions. In this case though, Kirkman ultimately decided that it was essential to the ongoing Walking Dead narrative for Glenn to meet his maker. Kirkman explained his reasoning to EW as follows:
“It’s just that there’s a lot of material that comes from Glenn’s death in the comics. And while we do try to change things up to keep things interesting for the audience, and for me, this is one that there’s so much that comes from Rick, there’s so much with Negan, because that character is someone that he killed, and definitely Maggie is someone that kind of gets put on the trajectory that affects a great number of stories and a great number of characters moving forward. So it was kind of essential that that part of the scene at least remained intact, unfortunately.”
That said, Kirkman and the TWD creative team did at least consider other options aside from killing Glenn off:
“We did discuss options. At the end of the day, we were like, pulling the thread on this sweater just pulls too many things apart and it’s too difficult to get back on that trajectory without that death.”
In the end, it seems that Glenn’s death just has too much of a narrative butterfly effect on the future of The Walking Dead for Kirkman to be comfortable letting him live. That fact will obviously not offer much comfort to fans devastated by Glenn’s horrific demise, and saddened that he and Maggie have now had to invoke the “till death do we part” clause in their marriage vows. Unfortunately, in every war, there are casualties, and what Negan just did will likely soon lead to an all-out battle between Rick’s group and The Saviors. The violence so far is just a warm-up.
The Walking Dead season 7 airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.