While the Glenn Walking Dead death still shocks fans to this day, there was a reason why Glenn (Steven Yeun) had to die in The Walking Dead season 7. In the comics, specifically The Walking Dead #100, Negan and the Saviors had Rick and his allies at his mercy. To demonstrate the consequences of crossing the Saviors, Negan brutally executed a member of Rick’s group, Glenn, by bashing his head in with his trademark weapon, Lucille. The TV version of the story headed in the same direction when the conflict with the Saviors in season 6 led to a direct confrontation with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). As in the comics, Negan picked his victim, whose identity was kept secret until the season 7 premiere. Negan’s victim was revealed to be Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), which caused Daryl (Norman Reedus) to retaliate in anger. Daryl’s outburst irritated Negan, so he executed Glenn as well. The tragedy of Glenn’s Walking Dead death continues to influence both the spinoff Fear The Walking Dead and the original series.
The show put its own twist on the Glenn Walking Dead death by killing Abraham alongside him. The Walking Dead doesn’t always adhere to the source material. The show generally uses the same story arcs, but is able to keep viewers in suspense by killing off different characters. There was never a chance Glenn would be spared due to this inter-canon disparity, however. Not long after the episode aired, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman explained that Glenn’s Walking Dead death in the comics was far too important for it to be replaced with anyone else [via EW]. In other words, it had to be Glenn because his death was the impetus for a larger storyline that still needed to happen in the show. Indeed, even in Walking Dead season 11, the respective story arcs of remaining survivors – in one way or another – continue to be shaped by this particular tragedy. Here’s why Glenn had to die in The Walking Dead.
Glenn’s Death Was Too Important A Catalyst For Future Stories
Kirkman pointed to material in the comics related to Rick, Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Negan as reasons for why the controversial Glenn Walking Dead death couldn’t be changed. According to Kirkman, so much happened to these characters as a result of Negan’s decision to kill Glenn, and that was why it was « essential » that he die in the season 7 premiere. It’s true that, though the death of any character would have affected Rick and the others, what happened to Glenn was particularly meaningful for Rick and Maggie. Glenn, who had been at Rick’s side since season 1, had become his most trustworthy and dependable ally. Losing Glenn was a big blow for Walking Dead then-leading hero Rick Grimes, and it’s what set up his story for both Walking Dead seasons 7 and 8. Seeing Glenn meet such a horrendous fate is what fueled Rick’s hatred for Negan and led to his revenge-driven crusade to end their servitude and defeat the Saviors. Likewise, committing the said atrocity was essential for Negan himself to transform throughout the series.
Glenn’s Walking Dead death also had a similar, but longer-lasting impact on Maggie, who grew stronger and more determined. Glenn’s death was a tragic but defining moment for Maggie. Another character deeply impacted by this story was Daryl, and how it affected him was actually an addition made to the show, since Daryl doesn’t exist in the Walking Dead comics. Daryl’s guilt over Glenn haunted him through season 7 and resulted in a powerful, emotional scene with Maggie, who told him that she didn’t blame him for what Negan did. So as sad as Glenn’s death was, there’s so much that wouldn’t have happened if a different character had been killed in his place on The Walking Dead.
Why Glenn’s Death Was So Brutal
The brutality of Glenn’s Walking Dead death, just like in the comics, was actually intended to be upsetting – not just because of the sheer gore, but what the character represents. As Glenn actor Stephen Yeun says, it’s not just the gratuitous violence that made the incident so impactful. Rather, it was the fact that The Walking Dead gave such a brutal death to a character with such deeply-established roots in the series. Here’s what Yeun told Cinema Blend in an interview about his character’s iconic death scene:
Moreover, Glenn’s death gave Walking Dead’s Negan arguably the best story arc in the entire series, with the question of Negan’s redemption remaining a point of contention among long-time viewers – a debate that could get settled in the spinoff Isle of the Dead. Indeed, years after Glenn’s death, its brutality remains cemented in audiences’ minds. For better or worse, there’s no doubt that Glenn’s fate forever changed The Walking Dead’s savage universe.