Opinion: Glenn Rhee didn’t have to die on The Walking Dead

Glenn (Steven Yeun) - Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Glenn (Steven Yeun) - Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

On Steven Yeun’s birthday I’m thinking a lot about Glenn on The Walking Dead

There are lots of people who can’t watch the episode of The Walking Dead where Glenn Rhee meets his demise. The season 7 premiere was polarizing, drawing in new fans who’d heard about the buzz of characters being killed off and turning away steadfast fans who didn’t want to think about the show without Glenn. Though his death was foretold in the comics, Glenn Rhee didn’t have to die.

From the moment Glenn came on the screen in The Walking Dead’s first season, lamenting Rick’s idiotic behavior and the way he was drawing the geeks toward him, fans fell in love. Glenn was someone you could relate to because he was just a guy dealing with an impossible situation. His job as a pizza delivery driver gave him lots of helpful insight on how to maneuver around the city, and let’s not forget his memorable exodus from Atlanta in a sports car.

Fans of the comics expected Glenn’s death to come when the survivors encountered Negan and the Saviors. It was a moment that was dreaded by many who knew what was about to happen, and those final moments delivered every bit of awfulness that could be expected in a network television show. (Just imagine for a moment if TWD was on HBO and that episode had Game of Thrones-level gore…)

But Glenn didn’t have to die. And he probably shouldn’t have.

The early seasons of The Walking Dead followed the comics closely. It was easy to anticipate what was coming, from the prison to the Governor to the Saviors.

Later on, though, things started to deviate as the show switched things up. Angela Kang, who took over as showrunner in season 9, was able to play with the story even more thanks to the departure of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes, setting the stage for even more changes.

For example, comic book fans knew who would end up on Alpha’s pikes but Kang’s team worked in a few surprises. King Ezekiel is still alive when he would have been dead if the show followed the comic books.

Given that the show has indeed made a few changes from the comic books, the truth is that Glenn could have lived and someone else could have taken his place in the clearing.

If Glenn had lived, everything would be different, not only for himself but for Maggie, as their destinies were intertwined. Maggie could still be the leader at Hilltop, where they could have raised their son together. The rift between the communities might never have happened. Negan could still be locked up.

Glenn could have stepped in when Rick disappeared to help Michonne in Alexandria. He would have been a natural leader who was respected by everyone because he was such a good person. If Glenn was alive things could be so very different.

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The Walking Dead has always been a show where no one is safe, but it really feels like Glenn Rhee was a character worth keeping alive. It’s impossible to bring him back at this point (save for flashbacks) but his loss is one that still resonates now as much as it did when it happened.