Lucille, welcome to the cast. Your work has just begun.
Let’s be clear: What happened tonight had to happen.
Anyone true fan of The Walking Dead knows that this is the point in the comics series where Glenn gets dispatched, and this is exactly how.
Then again, at this point in the comics series, Andrea is still around, so’s Sophia, Carol never made it out of the prison and Daryl doesn’t exist.
But it was Glenn’s turn. He was the only non-Grimes left from the first season. In that time he went from comic relief to plucky utility man to romantic leading man to full-on action hero. Well done, Stephen Yuen! You have inhabited the most transformational character arc in the history of television. That’s not hyperbole. James Arness spent 20 years safeguarding the same western town on Gunsmoke. Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier Crane, over roughly the same time period, went from wasting all his time in a bar to wasting all his time in his own living room. In a notch over six years, Glenn mounted the total hero’s journey.
Killing him because it was his turn, though, would be lazy writing, and showrunner Scott Gimple is anything but lazy. There was something of the morality play to his death. Glenn went the better part of six seasons dispatching walkers without killing a single living person. No other character can make that claim, and moral center of The Walking Dead is a job with a higher mortality rate than keyboardist for The Grateful Dead.
Which brings us to Abraham, a character that was a tad beyond his sell-by date. He was big, strong and, because of his many contributions to the art of social discourse, one of TWD’s more iconic characters.
But both these guys, no matter how beloved, were ultimately expendable and it was high time they were expensed. Glenn will live on with his progeny by Maggie. Also, his main skill — foraging — is also the strong suit of new B-lister Heath. Abraham’s main mission was to get Eugene where we was going, and he did that. And, of course, he had just professed to Sasha that he was ready to settle down with her and raise a family. That’s TWD’s version of smoking a joint and having teenage sex in a Wes Craven movie.
And they were caught up in a broader moment. For Negan to display his dominance, he had to take out the most masculine characters. In addition to wacking Glenn and Abraham, he caged Daryl and completely broke Rick. What’s going to save the group now, if anything, is if the less competent or competitive males and the more timid females to step up.
Obviously, Carol and Morgan are the wild cards: the old-school Team Rick badass (the only character who can compete with Glenn when it comes to growth) and the wizened deadmeat who must be sacrificed for The Greater Good (older, male, black and moral doesn’t portend well at contract renegotiation time). Jesus is also out there somewhere and, as any reformed sinner will tell you, “I didn’t find Jesus — Jesus found me.” Negan. And, hmmm, whatever happened to Enid?
With Maggie sidelined, Michonne is now the leader and she’s going to be torn between helping Rick heal and creating an insurgency. She’s the most compelling character still in one piece and I am counting on her to lead the coming massacre. And now Carl has a chance to rise. Negan just did everything you ought to do to turn an adversary’s offspring into an enemy who will end you.
I also have a strong feeling that we’re going to find out everything that Eugene is capable of. Negan can’t be beaten, but he can be outsmarted and this goofy running joke of a character has outsmarted everyone at every turn so far.
But aside from them, I hope Lucille is just getting warmed up.
Sasha? She’d better prove that she’s even better with her rifle than Michonne is with her katana, or that you care more about her string of losses than Maggie’s (fat chance). Otherwise, in with her head!
Rosita and Tara? Which one’s which again? Does anyone care? Let’s see whose skull fragments fly farther.
Aaron? Billions of people have been eaten by zombies or turned into them, so who cares who’s gay? This is AMC, not Bravo. Time to trade in his Billy Bean baseball card.
Father Gabriel? Spencer? Please be on Chris Hardwick’s couch next week. I could watch their In Memoria over and over.
So keep swinging for those fences, Negan. The season finale will find your own brains spattered from the Hilltop to the Kingdom, but in the meantime, you’re the man we all love to hate: the designated hitter.
(“Vampire bat”? Bitch, please.)