‘The Walking Dead’ Is Pulling A Dirty Trick On Viewers If Last Night’s Tragedy …

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Against All Odds, The Walking Dead Has Found New Life.

Here’s the obligatory “Spoiler Alert,” but at this point — given all the social media and internet chatter — it seems pointless to warn about discussing the status of Glenn Rhee on AMC’s gruesome hit series “The Walking Dead.” However, on Sunday’s episode, it did seem that former Chicago actor Steven Yeun’s character was overwhelmed by the zombie walkers, right after Nicholas (Michael Traynor) blew his brains out on top of a dumpster with walkers swarming all over the place. If you wish to remain in the dark — and have somehow avoided the online explosion of fan anguish until now — be warned that this piece will discuss lots of details from Sunday’s show. It’s also a show that keeps fans talking, and rarely have fans been more aggressively at odds than in the aftermath of Sunday’s episode, which seemed to feature the demise of Steven Yeun’s Glenn. While it sure looks like Glenn himself was devoured, there is one theory floating around that Nicholas’ body fell on top on Glenn — providing the fresh meat to the walkers and allowing Glenn to escape.

Although I’m a long-time fan of the original comic books—I’ve been reading them since 2003—my feelings about the television series have always been ambivalent at best. Killing off beloved protagonists has become a storytelling trick of choice for shows looking to shock audiences and grab ratings in the increasingly competitive TV drama market.

I recapped the show here at WIRED for a while, and if you peruse the archives, you can actually trace the slow, rolling boil of my contempt, which culminated in headlines like “Zombies Don’t Kill People, Being Stupid Does” and “Rick Grimes Is the Worst Leader Ever.” I started to dislike the show so much that I actually stopped recapping in the middle of the 2013 season, and when Fear the Walking Dead premiered in August, I panned that too. Sounds unlikely, but as Us Weekly pointed out Monday, “The Talking Dead” site did not post an obit/memoriam for the heroic former pizza delivery guy — as it usually does when a character is killed off on the series. Troy native Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn on the hit zombie cable thriller, appeared to be dying at the hands of the undead herd as the episode drew to a conclusion. And a statement was read from “Walking Dead” executive producer Scott Gimple promising that “in some way, we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn or parts of Glenn again, either in flashback or in the current story to help complete the story.” Bill Zwecker is the expert when it comes to knowing the scoop on the rich and famous.

That’s the topsy turvy world of expectations and predictions that producers of the show dropped us into Sunday, when they showed beloved character Glenn Rhee falling off a dumpster and into a swarm of flesh-eating zombies (called “walkers” on the show, which refuses to acknowledge the term or pop culture history connected to the z-word). As Entertainment Weekly’s walking alive series expert Dalton Ross put it, the key question of the evening was, “Wait, did Glenn just die?” In the key scene, Glenn and Nicholas became trapped by a huge zombie swarm. When Nicholas, whom Glenn had been snapping out of a dazed state with alarming frequency, killed himself with a bullet to the head, both men fell into the hungry horde.

Last night, when Rick found himself in the woods with a massive horde of zombies creeping his way and two survivors who could barely walk, his advice was far more pragmatic: “They aren’t all going to make it,” he told Glenn and Michonne quietly. “You try to save them, but if they can’t keep up, you keep going.” Forget leaving no man behind—pragmatism is the modus operandi for Rick Grimes 2.0, and it is sweet, sweet music to my ears. Glenn was with another guy, Nicholas, who was trying to redeem himself; he had let many friends die in the past by abandoning them during walker attacks. Suffering the worst from this devastating uncertainty could be metro Detroit fans, since Yeun is a 2001 Troy High School graduate who studied psychology at Kalamazoo College before deciding to pursue a career in acting. As Nicolas (a cowardly, relatively new character saved by Glenn more than once) sees what seems to be certain demise, he shoots himself and pulls Glenn down with him into the waiting horde below.

As the savvy heroine Sidney Prescott famously said in Scream, too often the thrills boil down to the incompetence of someone who keeps running up the stairs to escape the killer when she should be running out the front door. We did see footage of him screaming as someone’s innards were ripped out by walkers — apologies if you’re having a meal while reading this — but there were plenty of signs something else was afoot. This sort of conflict quickly gets tiresome, because it ultimately isn’t between human and monster, or hero and villain, but between people and their narratively-mandated compulsion to make the worst choices possible. Fans have also seized on the presence, or rather, absence, of certain elements on The Walking Dead’s after-show, The Talking Dead, as proof of Glenn’s survival. The wrap-up show, hosted by comedian Chris Hardwick, has without fail featured actors who portrayed major characters immediately after their characters died.

But if you’re constantly presented with a parade of fools willfully marching to their own deaths, it’s also easy to become a bit of a monster yourself, your empathy curdled to contempt while you shout at the screen about how someone actually deserves to die for their ineptitude. In most zombie movies, the fools tend to get weeded out in the first hour or so, leaving the more capable survivors to have more interesting and less infuriating confrontations towards the end. Fienberg: I don’t think it’s a matter of dumb so much as manipulative and I absolutely think the producers are manipulative enough to fake the death of a beloved character. Fortunately for the future of humanity—and the audience of this show—that kind of weakness can’t last forever in a post-apocalyptic crucible designed to burn it away.

Now, we’re finally getting to the good part: the part at the end of the film where everyone who’s still alive has something to offer besides the same obvious mistakes. Disbelieving fans online are speculating that Glenn pulled some MacGyver-like maneuver to avoid getting killed; more pragmatic folks think his wife, Maggie, is pregnant — and whatever happened, we’ll get the backstory in a flashback episode next week. Like you mentioned, the blood and innards could certainly belong to Nicholas — whoever the heck Nicholas is — and Glenn could be ready for an escape behind the dumpster. If this discussion sounds familiar, it’s likely because fans of the equally gruesome HBO series Game of Thrones had a similar reaction when that show saw the untimely demise of its own fan favourite — the dashing Jon Snow — on last season’s finale episode.

Although the former lawman’s black-and-white morality has slowly faded to gray, his ethical evolution has been slow, inconsistent, and often frustrating. I wouldn’t put it past the writers to play the whole sequence as an ear-ringing hallucination following Nicholas’ decision to forcefully expel his brains into Glenn’s face. Months after we saw daggers entering the body of Castle Black’s ill-fated Lord Commander, many fans still believe the character didn’t actually die — a speculation boosted by sightings of actor Kit Harrington at the show’s set in Belfast.

Rick has certainly done his share of killing—even stabbing his former best friend to death in an early episode—but his increasingly flexible morality often proved less pliant when judging the choices of people who aren’t Rick Grimes. Glenn Rhee and Jon Snow share many similarities as characters: both started out as bullied and downtrodden characters, who emerged as leading figures whose humanity was undiminished by the sullied society around them. In season four, after housewife-turned-badass Carol killed two survivors carrying a lethal plague in order to save the rest of the group from infection, she told Rick that their deaths were a necessary evil: “It’s about facing reality.” But Rick refused, exiling her to the wilderness because he wasn’t ready to live in a world where those types of sacrifices are sanctioned or required.

Goodman: I’d flip that on its head a bit and say that the show was brave enough back then to kill what fans (of the TV show, not the comics) thought might have been a major character or two in those first couple of seasons, including having a son kill his mother, which was bold. Not long after Carol’s departure, the group ended up splintering anyway; they spent the next season wandering around rural Georgia in small, isolated groups, looking traumatized, and navel-gazing about whether life was really worth living at after all. As far as tools of behavioral reinforcement go, death is near the bottom of the list—it’s not like you’re going to learn something once you’ve died.

But Yeun — who emigrated to America with his family from South Korea as a child — excelled in playing Glenn as a character who evolved into much more. He avoided the typical asexual stereotypes for Asian men, married his sweetheart Maggie and became a powerful voice of experience among the survivors of zombie apocalypse. After two more seasons of watching loved ones torn to pieces for the slightest miscalculations, Rick has finally grown battle-hardened, ruthless, efficient—more like Carol.

Fienberg: By my count, Shane, Dale, Andrea and Lori are all absolutely core characters the show killed off previously and that’s before you get into marginalia like T-Dog, Hershel, Beth, Tyrese and a lot of people whose names I don’t remember. The shift becomes glaringly obvious when they arrive at Alexandria, a community whose walls had almost completely insulated them from the post-apocalypse, preserving both a tiny pocket of suburban culture and the dangerous naiveté of its inhabitants. The people there are not so different from the people Rick and company used to be only a few seasons earlier, but after the survivors finally enter the city in a bottle, they view its naiveté with a mixture of contempt and concern. “These people are children,” Carol says quietly, as she watches the townspeople fumble about, more concerned with pasta makers than learning how to handle a gun. Now in its sixth season, it needs a storytelling jolt to keep fans engaged and remind them of the series’ unspoken mantra — almost any character can die at any time.

But I know why they’re all dead: They’re dead so my family, all those people out there, can be alive.” The choice seems easy now, or at least obvious. If the resolution of Glenn’s story feels needlessly drawn out or inauthentic, fans will blame the show for fumbling the exit of an important character. If he’s dead, the loss will be felt most by Maggie, but Maggie just had her sister die a few episodes ago, so there’s no variation anymore to making Lauren Cohan wail, no matter how entirely convincingly she does it. It’s going to get people killed.” He’s Carol now, talking to the past version of himself, waiting for her to wise up before her ivory tower ideals end in a long row of tombstones. My hunch is that last Sunday’s moment was just a warning shot; a jolting announcement of Glenn’s passing that will be fully explored in the episode to come.

It’s a process that can be dangerous, not just for those who aren’t strong enough, but also for anyone else who can’t quite embrace the Darwinian ruthlessness it demands. Soft hearts get eaten. “I wanted to kill him, so it would be easier,” said Rick after a particularly foolish Alexandrian did a particularly foolish thing in a recent episode. “So I wouldn’t have to worry about how he could screw up, about what stupid thing he’d do next.

But I realized I didn’t have to do it… Somebody like that, they’re gonna die no matter what.” Although it might sound depressing, it’s a statement that should fill Walking Dead fans with relief and excitement. Rick—the ambivalent hero we’ve been yoked to for so long—has finally gotten on board, and now that we don’t have to make constant stops to watch Rick agonize about his mercurial morality, the train is barreling forward. For me, there can’t be an out here because the show would immediately lose all the goodwill I’ve stored for it, and I’d especially be disappointed about the great way they killed off Glenn — fast, unexpected, brutal, etc.

I’ve felt some tension and drama this season, especially in the second episode, but I’ve felt a lot more fatigue, as the core group of characters I once cared about has become disparate and frazzled.

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