Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 6, Episode 7, ‘Heads Up’: Balloonatics

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How ‘The Walking Dead’ totally botched its Glenn situation.

There’s always been a weird tension at the heart of “The Walking Dead,” one that has come to a head in recent weeks as fans argued over whether or not Glenn (Steven Yuen) had died at the hands of a herd of zombies a couple weeks back. While it was not made clear if Glenn, played by Steven Yeun, was dead, fans feared the worst after he was taken out of the opening credits for the show. We have followed Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and company on a march through the American South, joining them as they hunkered down on farms and in prisons, as they survived disease and bandits, as they killed cannibals living and undead alike. But in the latest episode screened in the US, it was revealed that he had made a miraculous escape, and that the show bosses were simply toying with viewers.

We have come to value the Ricktatorship, to respect his cold-eyed clarity about the world our group of heroes has found itself in and to recognize that death is a very real part of life. Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), who was last seen at the bottom of a pile of walkers noshing on some unidentified organs, is, in fact, alive. “It proves this world can take the story of the good guy winning sometimes,” Yeun, 31, who has basically been in hiding for weeks, said on The Talking Dead aftershow. “I feel relieved, I feel very grateful, I feel so amazed at the response.” “I feel bad that I couldn’t say anything to everyone, family, friends. From the beginning, main characters have been picked off: Rick’s best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal) and his wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies); the beloved T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and the hated Andrea (Laurie Holden). But it had been a while since someone from the first season had bitten the dust, so it was a real shock when Glenn appeared to die — killed, ironically enough, as a result of the cowardly actions of a man whose life he had saved at the end of the last season even though that man had tried to kill him. Glenn’s death, then, made a certain amount of sense within the logic of the show: you’re never more vulnerable than when you’ve helped someone, when you’ve taken pity on them.

Glenn had violated one of the key tenets of the Ricktatorship: Do unto them before they can do unto you — and unto your friends, and unto your family. “The only thing that keeps you from becoming a monster is killing,” Carol (Melissa McBride) tells a frightened young boy. She thinks he’s talking about the walkers, but he could just as easily be referring to the “wolves” that stormed Alexandria’s barricades a couple of episodes prior. Carol has been a believer in The New Golden Rule before Rick himself was, but even she seems to be starting to crack: We see doubt flickering across her face as she explains her ethos to the scared child. It’s that presumption that lethal violence is the preferred solution to all of life’s problems that has caused much tension in the group as this season has progressed.

You can kind of see what producer Scott Gimple and company were thinking: “Let’s pretend to kill Glenn and have fan speculation take over the internet.” In that sense, the plan was a success. It’s a philosophy she deploys when she tries to abandon Glenn and displays an unwillingness to return home. “The world is trying to die,” she says. “We should just let it.” But Glenn — Glenn, who we’re so glad to see has survived even as we know this undercuts, perhaps fatally, the show’s commitment to keeping us on our toes — doesn’t subscribe to this notion. “You don’t want to lose anything so you just give up,” he says to Enid earlier in the episode. “You say, ‘That’s what happens.’” Glenn is having none of this. His lack of cynicism and refusal to drift into nihilistic despair rouses our own compassion. *The only other program to milk this mix as well was “The Sopranos,” HBO’s seminal mobster drama. Either in flashback or the current story to help complete the story.” Then there were the abundance of leaked photos from the set, showing actor Steven Yeun fully participating in scenes for the season’s second half. We live in a “What-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” TV culture and “The Walking Dead’s” Season 6 finale could draw attention away from what may be the worst decision it’s ever made.

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