‘The Walking Dead’ Review: ‘Thank You’ Ends With the Most Tragic Death Yet (Or Does It?)
Recap and review of The Walking Dead – Season 6 Episode 3 – Thank You:
The Walking Dead is a show in a constant state of reinvention, even while things ultimately remain the same. Rick and his group face threats, take down those threats, and move on to other pastures. It’s a formula that has largely worked for five seasons now. And yet, this season has offered an entirely new threat in the form of people who have no freaking idea how to take care of themselves. “Thank You” explores what happens when Rick and co. are stuck babysitting people who aren’t much use in the zombie apocalypse. And, unfortunately, that exploration means one of our favorite characters ends up getting killed.
Yes, it’s apparently the end of the road for Glenn (Steven Yeun), who ends up getting piled on by walkers after his Alexandrian partner, Nicholas (Michael Traynor), cracks under pressure and shoots himself in the head. The momentum of Nicholas’s dead body sends Glenn crashing down off of the dumpster he and Nick had been standing on, leaving the two men to become walker food. It’s an auspicious end for Glenn, who certainly deserved a far better death. Sure, the episode spent considerable time building the idea that Glenn was a goner, with Michonne (Danai Gurira) offering to go on the run in Glenn’s place, noting that he has a wife back home. And yeah, the story also hammers home just how big of a liability Nicholas is to Glenn, considering this is a guy who’s cracked under pressure before, and he’s never far away from going into shock all over again. But it all seems too random for this to really be Glenn’s end. Maybe that’s the point, that death can be random, and that no one on this show is truly safe. Hell, the cliffhanger tries to make a point of this by showing Rick’s RV surrounded by a seemingly inescapable horde of walkers. And yet…well, I don’t buy for one second that Glenn is really dead.
Maybe he’ll prove to be a goner, eaten to death by all those walkers, but the way the scene was shot implies there’s more we’re not seeing. Long story short, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) splits off from the group and heads back for the RV, but not before telling Glenn to keep the group moving. Unfortunately, he doesn’t follow this advice, as the team ends up stopping to deal with their litany of injuries, since the Alexandrians seem to serve no other purpose than to make life a drag for Rick and his group. One Alexandrian shoots another in a panic, one woman sprains her ankle, another gets a huge chunk chewed out of his back, and another goes running off into the woods to save his own skin. To top it all off, Alexandrian native Heath (Corey Hawkins) gets bent out of shape because he overhears Rick telling Glenn to leave the Alexandrians behind if he has to. Basically, this is a mess of a crew with seemingly no hope of survival, which is why it’s all the more surprising when someone from Rick’s group ends up being the one to get seemingly killed. Michonne and the remaining group is able to make it to safety, but Glenn and Nicholas aren’t so lucky, winding up trapped atop a dumpster at the end of a gated-off alleyway. Nicholas sees his own mortality in the eyes of the walkers, and shoots himself in the head, but not before thanking Glenn, presumably for even getting him this far in the first place. And, you know, it’s almost kind of funny. Glenn saved Nicholas’s life all that time ago, when Nicholas had been actively trying to kill him. And yet, Nicholas presumably succeeded in getting Glenn killed here without even trying to.
Of course, the reason for my earlier assertion that Glenn isn’t dead is twofold: for one, the editing goes out of its way to show Glenn twisting his body to allow Nicholas to fall on top of him. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, when we see the walkers supposedly tearing Glenn apart, they’re pulling intestines from what would be the top part of his body, if that’s where they’re reaching. It wouldn’t match up to Glenn’s anatomy, but it would match up to where Nicholas’s body fell, if he did end up falling on top of Glenn. Granted, how on Earth Glenn would even get out of this situation is beyond me, unless Nicholas’s guts somehow masked his odor from the walkers, and even then, I’m not sure Nicholas is dead enough for his guts to work as camouflage like the rotting walker chunks did back in Season 1. I suppose I’m holding out hope less for plausibility’s sake and more for the simple notion that, if this is Glenn’s death, it was kind of a lousy death. I mean, what was even the point of Glenn sparing Nicholas last season? Just some cruel twist of fate that would result in his own death? This is a depressing show, but I don’t believe it’s that defeatist. The good guys don’t always win, and your favorites don’t always survive, but I do believe there’s at least some deeper exploration into a major character’s death when it happens.
But here, Glenn just dies, and no one is around to see it. It’s not like Beth, where we get a lingering display of the effect of the character’s death on their loved ones. Nor is it like Tyreese, or Bob, or even Noah. Sure, if Glenn really is dead, we’ll get all that grieving and introspection in subsequent weeks, but in those instances, we still got the initial reaction in the episode of that person’s death. Ugh, now look at me. I’m basically just pulling arguments out of the sky simply because I really like Glenn and want him to be alive, logic be damned. And yet, for Glenn to pull through where others have died would violate the show’s own rules that no one is safe. Glenn would have Plot Armor, and we’d know he’d be safe for at least a little while. It would almost betray the spirit of the relentless bleakness of The Walking Dead for Glenn to survive anyway. But, at some point, this show has to offer some semblance of real hope, the idea that these people can truly triumph over impossible odds, no matter how unrealistic it might be. Otherwise, it’s just a show of people slowly dying, one by one. And I truly do believe The Walking Dead is a better show than that. Here’s hoping Glenn is alive, but if not, you gave us one hell of a run, Mr. Yeun.
Naturally, Glenn’s apparent death isn’t the only hopeless moment this week, as I’d argue “Thank You” is among the most hopeless episodes the show has ever produced. We get Daryl (Norman Reedus) deliberately disobeying Rick’s orders and breaking away from the convoy led by Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) to go back to Alexandria. It shows that, for all his tough guy posturing, Daryl is still overwhelmed with concern for the people he left behind, and that he feels he’s a part of something greater than simply neutralizing this walker outbreak. Reedus is great at portraying Daryl’s inner struggle between doing his duty and going back to Alexandria, depicting that turmoil without saying a single word. It reiterates that there’s far more to Daryl than meets the eye (not that we needed reminding, really). Similarly, for all his tough guy posturing, we see that Rick is just as capable of being overwhelmed with fear. He gets attacked in the RV by two of the Wolves that Morgan let escape, and he manages to kill them both, only to discover that the engine to the RV has died, leaving him stranded as walkers close in. The look on Rick’s face is a testament to Andrew Lincoln, who manages to simulate a panic attack through minimal movements. Ultimately, Rick is left in a hopeless situation, and that about sums up the entire tone of “Thank You”, whether it’s Nicholas killing himself and (possibly) getting Glenn eaten, or whether it’s Michonne failing to save the Alexandrian with a wife back home. The Walking Dead builds hopeless moments, but its greatness lies in dealing with the hopelessness and finding a reason to go on. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the show builds off of this bleak hour.
But what did you think of The Walking Dead, “Thank You”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Walking Dead, check out our review of “JSS”, which might have been the most intense episode in the show’s history (well, before tonight, anyway)!