By Carter Glace, Staff Writer
Truth be told, I don’t currently watch The Walking Dead. I watched the first season of the AMC hit with immense enthusiasm, but by season two, it became the kind of show where I promised myself would catch up but never did. But being versed with the comics, I find that I can throw my hat back in ring with Season 6’s controversial ending.
For those who don’t watch, Season 6 has been slowly leading up to one of the series’ signature villains: Negan, leader of a warring band in Washington DC. Not only was Negan coming, the creative team didn’t hide that they were building up to his iconic moment, and that a series regular would be paying the price. When we are first introduced to Negan in the comics, he has captured Rick’s team, using a baseball bat to violently beat Glenn into a pulp in vivid, graphic detail.
The television show left this moment for the very final scene of the finale. Negan walks past the row of hostages, barbed-wire wrapped bat in tow. We cut to first person as he picks a target. He swings. Cut to black. No, we don’t find out who it is. Season 6 of the Walking Dead ended on a cliff hanger.
Fans have been outraged, feeling they’ve been cheated out of answers they were promised. Screenwriting for Television Tip 101: Never end a main story line on a cliff hanger. You can have as many subplots up in the air as you like, but you have to give a solid ending for your main story. But I’m not here to complain about the TV show. Like I said, I don’t really watch. Instead, I want to talk about the comic moment that has inspired such outrage, and how it was what finally turned me off from the comics.
The Death of Glenn in Issue 100 tends to be near the top of “Best/Most Shocking Moments” lists, it has become one of the most remembered moments of the series, ingrained in the minds of every fan and reader. But for me, it represented the moment when the series went from a tragic and enthralling series to a cruel and alienating one. It was when character deaths went from being impactful and devastating to inevitable stunts. And as a whole, it signified that the series had reached the peak of what it could achieve.
To start, it is unnecessarily cruel. Especially cruel. For the desolate Walking Dead series, that is saying a lot. It’s not enough to just have Glenn die, we see it over 6 pages of graphic violence. We see his eye popping out, we see him stumble around in a pool of blood. We see him gargle for help, and by the end of it his head isn’t recognizable. The Walking Dead has had some brutal deaths and disturbing images, but everything leading up to that felt like child’s play. But why? It would have been a horrifying moment even if it was a single panel. Why make it the most gratuitous scene of violence in the entire series? The only answer I can think of is that they want us to be punished for liking Glenn.
And that leads me to the bigger question: Why did Glenn have to die? Yes, TWD is a world where anyone can die at any moment. But any Negan could have killed any character and it would have made the same point. It wasn’t the fact that he killed someone specific, it was how he meticulously walked through every possible target and evaluated the pros and cons of killing them. It was how he was establishing that no matter what Rick did, he would lose. Ultimately, I feel the reason Glenn died is because his ‘clock’ ran out. The writers couldn’t think of any more important thing for Glenn to do then die to raise the stakes. To make the 100th issue something big and eye catching. It’s hard to see The Death of Glenn in any other light than that of the catchy publicity stunt.
When I criticize TWD post Glenn, I don’t mean to criticize its quality. The writers of the series continue to make strong stories and interesting characters. But for me, issue 100 was the warning sign that the series had reached a rut. That the number of compelling stories and ideas you can have in this universe was finite, when characters ran out their usefulness they would be removed to stir emotions, they would force you to witness almost comical brutality. And seeing issue 100 recreated in television form, seeing so many viewers feeling like they were used for a ratings pull, it would appear history is repeating itself.