‘The Walking Dead’: Hope Floats

The Walking Dead
“Heads Up”
November 22, 2015

After three long weeks of uncertainty, we get right to it: Joel Osteen thanking Glenn, shooting himself in the head, and then as a final “LOL JK,” knocking Glenn off the dumpster and into a pile of starving walkers with his corpse. However, just as some of us speculated, those weren’t Glenn’s intestines that were being nommed up by his chin while he screamed in horror because that’s not how bodies work, they were Joel Osteen’s. And thus Glenn is able to shimmy himself out from underneath the devoured corpse of Joel Osteen and under the dumpster where he spends the night. Mmmm, dumpster bottoms.

Also, told you so.

The next morning, something distracts the dumpster shuffle, and they go wandering off, allowing Glenn to emerge from his temporary dumpster home. He grabs Joel Osteen’s gun and finds his backpack, which is when Enid, who is somehow in the nearby building, tosses him a water bottle. When Glenn calls to her, she instructs him that there’s another bottle in the corner, he needs to take it and go. But Glenn is like, “UH, NO MA’AM. YOU GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW,” before chasing her into the building.

Though can’t find her right away, he knows she’s still in the building, and he asks about the horn from Alexandria. From somewhere over his head, she explains that what happened was people died. Glenn asks if it was the herd, but she doesn’t know anything about a herd, it was people. Glenn asks if Maggie is OK, but when he doesn’t get an answer, he discovers that Enid has slipped out of the building, climbed up onto the roof and has made a break for it. Teenagers are the worst.

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As Glenn makes his way through town, he finds That David Person, the one who wrote the note to his wife and we were all like, “Don’t listen to Michonne. Not only are you not going to make it back to Alexandria, but neither is that note, sucker.” Anyway, Glenn finds the note that Michonne was a jerk and refused to take and is like, “OH COME ON.”

Glenn then finds Enid hiding in a bakery, busily writing “JSS” on old checks she finds because what else does she have to do, eat pudding? look at flowers? Glenn sneaks in through the back of the bakery and grabs her, explaining that HE IS TAKING HER HOME, YOUNG LADY, AND HE ISN’T GOING TO TAKE ANY GUFF FROM HER. But Enid has other ideas and pulls a gun on him.

Glenn:

exasperated idris elba

After a lot of blah blah, Glenn takes the gun from Enid, and forces her to lead the way back to Alexandria, because NO, MA’AM. No. Ma’am.

As they walk along, Enid stabs a disabled walker in the face for the funsies of it, and they find the Green “Safe Zone” balloons. They tie the balloons to Enid’s pack, with the idea that they can use them as distraction if need be, and Enid points out that there’s an entire helium tank with more balloons in the bushes because one of the buildings that Alexandria built its walls around was a Party City, true fact. And then they talk about being orphans, as though EVERYONE IN THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE AREN’T ORPHANS. Guh.

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Glenn and Enid eventually come to the outskirts of Alexandria, where they find the mass of walkers congregated at the walls. “OH GREAT,” huffs Enid. “WE SHOULD JUST LET THE WORLD DIE.” But Glenn tells her that their survival isn’t just about her or him or Maggie, EVERYTHING ISN’T ABOUT YOU, ENID. Teenagers are the worst.

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Meanwhile, inside those walls, Rick is nervous about their integrity, and he should be! That is certainly a thing he should worry about! Rick then interrupts Morgan’s tai chi to inform him that they’ve got stuff and thangs to talk about, and Morgan’s like, “cool.”

Elsewhere, Maggie hasn’t given up hope about Glenn and is keeping lookout for a sign. And Father Worthless is putting up signs for a prayer meeting, signs which Rick pulls down with a big ol’ NOPE.

Rick and Carl then teach Ron how to shoot a gun, but sans bullets, because bullets are for closers people who know what they are doing and are actually in the midst of a crisis.

Morgan takes a peek into Dr. Denise’s office, and she’s like, “Oh, hi, can I help ya?” But Morgan acts all skittish and weird and is like, “OH NEVER MIND I SEE RICK GOODBYE.”

Morgan sits down with Rick, Carol and Michonne for a performance evaluation, where Rick is like, “Sooooo, I was attacked by people with Ws on their foreheads and, funny thing, they happened to be carrying guns that looked awfully familiar. And then Carol here tells me she saw you let five people with Ws on their foreheads just go, people who burned other people alive, (not that Carol is in much of a position to judge). Have anything to say about this?” Morgan explains that all life is precious, the butterfly effect, ninja turtles, people can change, etc. But Michonne is like, “Yeah, things aren’t that simple, dummy.”

Meeting adjourned, Rick discusses with Michonne ways to drive the horde away, maybe after they catch their breath. And Michonne is like, “This is us catching our breath, dummy.” And that’s when Deanna walks up and hands them the foreshadowing of her own death future plans for Alexandria that she drew up.

Meanwhile, Rosita bides her time by training Dr. Mullet and the Alexandrians (which would be an awesome name for a Walking Dead theme band) in the art of the machete. Dr. Mullet gets wonky at the sound of the walkers outside the walls, but Rosita is NOT HAVING IT. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, MULLET. DYING IS EASY. WHAT YOU SHOULD BE SCARED OF IS LIVING KNOWING THAT YOU DIDN’T DO EVERYTHING TO SAVE SOMEONE ELSE. And with that Dr. Mullet skulks off to pout.

That Ron kid sneaks into the pantry and steals some bullets. GOOD WORK GUARDING THE ARMORY, ALEXANDRIA PANTRY LADY. YOU HAD ONE JOB, ALEXANDRIA PANTRY LADY.

Rick, still concerned about the integrity of the walls, starts building braces: sawing and hammering things literally right next to the walls, not an hour after telling everyone to be very quiet, lest they attract the attention of the walkers — moreso than they already have. Still, is it really a great idea to set up your workshop right there, Rick? Are you sure?

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One of the Alexandrians helps Rick and is like, “You scared us but then you were right and we were a bunch of dumb wrong babies so please don’t give up on us, please.”

And then Rick is distracted by that idiot son of Deanna’s, who, for some reason, is shimmying his way on a wire over the wall and the walkers on the other side. “HEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, IDIOT?” everyone yells at him. “AND WHERE DID YOU EVEN GET THAT GRAPPLING HOOK?” The grappling hook starts to give way, because of course it starts to give way, and suddenly Idiot Son is in trouble. Tara, who happens to be on the wall, shoots at the walkers while Rick and other pull Idiot Son to safety, which, for some reason, ends with Rick yelling at Tara for “risking her life” for Idiot Son. In response, Rick earns this:

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Idiot Son tries to explain himself: he thought he’d sneak over the walkers, find a car and try to lure the walkers away, and he knew perfectly well that Rick would never give his permission for such a boneheaded “plan.” “YOU GOT THAT RIGHT,” says Rick. “DARN TOOTIN’.”

Morgan swings back by the infirmary, and after giving Dr. Denise a few “you got this, girl”s, he explains that he needs some antibiotics “for a friend.” So she agrees to come with him to take a look at this friend of his, and agrees to keep it a big secret. They sneak across Alexandria, but not before catching the attention of one Carol who is like, “WHAT IS THIS DUMB DUMMY UP TO NOW?”

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But Carol has The Baby, so she runs over to Jessie’s house and is like, “HERE, TAKE THIS, I HAVE TO GO KILL MORGAN.” Before she can take The Baby, Jessie has to go lock something up first, giving Still Terrified and Hiding Upstairs Sam time to ask Carol if killing people is what turns them into monsters. But Carol is like, “Nope, the only thing keeping us from becoming monsters is killing folks that need killing.” With that, she hands The Baby off to Jessie and storms over to the house where Morgan is hiding the Wolf, and is all, “Whatcha got in the cell, Morgan? Someone who needs some killing?”

Rick confronts Tara again about saving Idiot Son, and she’s like, “Ugh, quit being awful.” Deanna then approaches Rick to thank him for his part in saving Idiot Son, and he grouses that he could have let Idiot Son go, creating a gap so that he could get out of the walls and distract the walkers away from Alexandria, but he didn’t. When Deanna asks him why he didn’t, he explains because Idiot Son is her idiot son. “Wrong answer,” Deanna cryptically replies.

But before Rick can be like, “What does THAT mean,” everyone is distracted by a bunch of green balloons flying overhead. YAY! GLENN’S SIGN THAT HE’S ALIVE! YAY!

And that’s when the watch tower comes crashing down on top of the wall. BOO! YOU’RE DEFINITELY ALL DEAD NOW! BOO!

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So now that everyone did their own hot takes on Glenn’s return a full week ago, I’m happy to add mine to the pile.

The creator, Scott Gimple, was on Talking Dead following the big Glenn reveal, and explained that the writers drew out the Glenn story to make the viewers feel the uncertainty that the characters live with in this universe. Gimple’s argument was that when people leave in the world of The Walking Dead, their loved ones have no idea if they’ll ever see them again, and they wanted us to share in that anxiety.

However, a number of fans and critics felt that the cliffhanger was a cheap trick, and that making us wait nearly a month to learn Glenn’s fate was simply manipulative, stringing us along for no real story-telling purpose. Furthermore, some feel that Glenn’s miraculous survival stripped away the life and death consequences that had previously defined The Walking Dead universe. By allowing Glenn to survive what appeared to be impossible circumstances, they argue, the writers will leave us distrustful of any other character’s “death” in the future.

Fair enough. All of it. The writers have a point and the irritated fans have a point. The viewers very well might be distrustful after having their chain yanked by the writers, but the writers were not wrong in wanting to heighten fans’ anxiety levels, even if they were unprepared to kill off a beloved character.

But here’s the thing: as to the fans who felt Glenn’s death was a cheat, I get it, but I respectfully disagree. The writers left enough wiggle room, literally and figuratively, for Glenn to make it out alive, and it was all there in “Thank You.” The placement of the dumpster, the fairly obvious fact that it was not Glenn’s innards being torn up from around his neck while he watched and screamed in horror because THAT’S NOT HOW BODIES WORK, and the fact that we did not see Glenn actually dead, as we have with every other character who has actually passed … there was enough there to tell the observant that though small, there was still a chance for Glenn to survive this. But additionally, and more importantly, the writers pretty much assured us Glenn would survive when he promised Michonne he would send up a sign if he was alive and couldn’t get back to them for some reason. This promise, which was brought up in dialogue a second time when Michonne told Maggie about it in a later episode, was a classic Chekhov’s gun, designed to go off in a later story. If this promise had been mentioned — twice, no less —  and then not fulfilled, it would have felt at best like bloated writing, and at worst like an emotionally manipulative cheat.

As for the writers’ insistence that they wanted the viewers to experience the same uncertainty the characters live with and that’s why they dragged out the Glenn storyline over nearly a month: yeah, but no. Try again. Here’s the thing: Maggie and Michonne knew that Glenn (and Joel Osteen) were out there somewhere, but they did not know exactly how much danger Glenn was actually in. If the writers really wanted us to experience the same anxiety as the characters, they would have had Glenn and Joel Osteen go off in search of another building to burn down and left it at that, because that was the last any of our fellow characters would have seen of him. Then, say in this week’s episode, we could have begun with Joel Osteen and Glenn being surrounded in the alleyway, and the cold open could have concluded the way “Thank You” ended, with Glenn seemingly in mortal danger. Then, after the title sequence, he could have slipped under the dumpster, and no one would have felt cheated. Yes! I agree that ending “Thank You” on that ambiguous note created higher anxiety than just having Glenn and Joel Osteen wander off into town, fate unknown. But to pretend that what the viewers felt and what the characters felt would be the same is silly: Maggie still had reason to hope for a good outcome for Glenn, while we as viewers had different, and considerably more unsettling information.

So, in short, I didn’t believe Glenn was dead thanks to the very subtle clues left for us, but I don’t blame the viewers who feel like they were duped and cheated by the writers — because they kinda were.

Onto more timely issues: tonight’s episode is the Big Fall Finale, which means someone’s gonna die. But who? Let’s talk odds!

Definitely Safe:

Rick

Carl

Michonne

Carol

Daryl

Maggie

Glenn

Let’s be honest, none of these major characters are going to die, not in the fall finale. Honestly, the character most in danger on this list is probably Glenn, just because you know the writers would think it would be funny to bring him back only to kill him in the very next episode (and to mess with the comic readers). Still, the chances of this actually happening are extraordinarily slim.

Less Safe:

Morgan

Abraham

Sasha

Eugene

Dr. Denise

Tara

Enid

Aaron

Father Gabriel

Jessie

Sam

I don’t actually think Morgan is in danger … yet. But Carol has her eye on him, and once she discovers what he’s done, she will be none too pleased. There will certainly be consequences for harboring the Wolf — someone will probably be killed by him, and Morgan will have to deal with the fallout. The question is whether that happens in the fall finale or later.

As for the other characters, Abraham and Sasha both have death wishes, but they will probably not be actualized just yet. Eugene and Dr. Denise are both out of their depth, but will probably continue to squeak by. Tara was chastised by Rick in this episode for risking her life for the Alexandrians, which she will probably do again. But she will most likely survive, if only because her relationship with Dr. Denise needs a little more time to grow before they are tragically ripped apart. That said, it should be noted that the actresses that portray Sasha and Tara just gave birth, so one or both may be offed just to deal with real life circumstances.

Enid’s story isn’t over yet, neither is Father Dummy, and Aaron still has some guilting to deal with for being the person who led the Wolves to Alexandria.

And then there are Jessie and Sam. Comic spoilers, so scroll over at your own risk: In the comics, Jessie and her son (she only has one) are attacked by walkers when the walls fall. In her favor, the writers are not afraid to diverge from the comics — at the moment the walls fall in the comics, for instance, Sophia is still alive — and so there is a chance that Jessie and Sam could survive this so as to give her relationship with Rick a chance to develop a bit more. That said, of all the characters in this particular category, they have the weakest odds of making it.  

Not at All Safe:

Deanna

Ron

Deanna’s Idiot Son

Rosita

A Whole Bunch of Alexandrians

When Deanna gave Michonne and Rick those plans for the future of Alexandria, she might as well have marched right off and started digging her own grave. Her work here is done.

Ron put a target on his back the moment he stole those bullets and began stalking Carl. Prediction: Ron is confronted by walkers, but doesn’t aim properly and/or panics and is unable to shoot in a crucial moment. He’s bitten and Carl has to shoot him, but does so in front of Enid, freaking her out.

Deanna’s Idiot Son has it coming.

Though she can handle herself in a walker fight, the chances of Rosita surviving the next big crisis plummeted the moment Abraham began making eyes at Sasha. If she were to die in the attack, it would make Abraham feel pretty terrible about his plans to dump her. Also, of all the Team Rick folks, she’s probably the most expendable. And let’s be honest, at least one of Rick’s people will have to die to solidify those life and death consequences that they weakened with Glenn’s survival. The writers can only keep killing a bunch of Alexandrians we don’t know and don’t care about before we start to notice that our favorite characters somehow keep squeaking by.

A Whole Bunch of Alexandrians are going to die, let there be no doubt.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC at 8 p.m.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.

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