Over two years after the shocking season 7 opener that changed everything, The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun says Daryl is not to blame for the death of Glenn. Though its initial hook may have been its gruesome depiction of zombies walking the earth after an apocalyptic event, The Walking Dead really caught on with audiences thanks to its core characters, especially those introduced in season 1.
Fans developed a quick attachment to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) and their son Carl (Chandler Riggs), Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) the daredevil, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) the brooding loner, and others who became the show's main characters. It was because of their fondness for these fictional people that fans were so shocked when, in the first episode of season 7, the new bad guy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) showed off his true badness by brutally murdering a pair of main characters, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and especially Glenn. Adding an extra layer of horror to the proceedings was the fact that Glenn may have been spared had Daryl not lost his temper and punched Negan, provoking him to further violence.
The question of whether Daryl was to blame for Glenn's death has lingered on the show ever since that turning point episode, but now Steven Yeun himself has weighed in to say that he doesn't believe Daryl should feel guilty over what happened. Speaking to fans at Walker Stalker Con London, Yeun said he doesn't think Daryl got Glenn killed, but simply thinks Daryl's anger was a natural emotional reaction (via ComicBook.com). Yeun said: "I think nobody would have just sat there and taken all that, whoever it was. So I don’t know, it seems like you can’t even blame anything. It’s just what happened.”
Yeun then talked about what might have happened had Glenn survived the encounter with Negan and gone on to raise a child with his wife Maggie (Lauren Cohan). Yeun acknowledged there were a lot of ways the story could have gone but did pin down one possibility:
“But I think what would have happened is definitely Glenn and Maggie would have tried to forge their own path, I think that would have been real. Maybe they would have gone to Hilltop, maybe they would have stayed in Alexandria, just kind of carved their own space there. But I don’t see them abandoning their group. I don’t see them just up and leaving. But I do see them growing and moving on beyond kind of what they’re expected to be.”
Unfortunately for the young couple, Scott Gimple and the team at The Walking Dead decided to stick with the comic books and have Glenn die at the hands of Negan. As traumatic as the death of Glenn was for his fellow characters on the show, it was apparently even more traumatic for fans, many of whom swore off the show after that particularly brutal episode. Indeed, The Walking Dead's downward ratings trend can be traced directly to the season 7 opener. Those ratings have not recovered even into season 9, despite the show rebounding creatively in the minds of many critics and remaining fans. As for Steven Yeun himself, he's previously made it known that he didn't care for the way the show handled Glenn overall, and has said he's not interested in returning for a cameo.
Though Yeun himself has absolved Daryl of responsibility for Glenn's death, it's unlikely Daryl will be setting down his burden of guilt any time soon. Indeed, the character of Daryl has much to feel guilty about on the show, including now the death of Henry (Matt Lintz) and his inability to protect Carol (Melissa McBride) from seeing her adopted son's head perched on a spike after Alpha (Samantha Morton) and The Whisperers went on their massacre. Daryl also still feels guilt over the disappearance of Rick, and has not given up his quest to find his lost friend, even though it's been years since he vanished. It seems the writers on The Walking Dead love heaping guilt on Daryl, and indeed Norman Reedus does a fine job depicting the crushing weight of that responsibility, and how it fuels Daryl's actions.