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The Walking Dead: Robert Kirkman explains why Glenn had to die

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Gene Page/AMC; Jordin Althaus/AMC

Who’s responsible for Glenn’s death? It would seem to be Negan. Then again, the guy who played Negan said it was Daryl, then the guy who played Glenn said it wasn’t Daryl. Well, I’ll tell you who’s ultimately responsible: Robert Kirkman.

Kirkman is the guy who offed Glenn in issue 100 of The Walking Dead comic book. That set the precedent in the original source material. Of course, the TV adaptation has transferred deaths before. Tyreese was beheaded by the Governor in the comic book, but that became Hershel on the AMC show. Abraham got shot with an arrow through the eye in the comic, but that fate landed on Denise on TV. (A lot of good that did him!)

While showrunner Scott M. Gimple and Kirkman did put a twist on the issue 100 event by adding two-victims-for-the-price-of-one with Abraham, they ultimately decided to also keep Glenn in harm’s way. We asked Kirkman whether Glenn’s TV fate was sealed the moment issue 100 was printed, and it seems the answer is pretty much yes.

“It’s just that there’s a lot of material that comes from Glenn’s death in the comics,” says Kirkman. “And while we do try to change things up to keep things interesting for the audience, and for me, this is one that there’s so much that comes from Rick, there’s so much with Negan, because that character is someone that he killed, and definitely Maggie is someone that kind of gets put on the trajectory that affects a great number of stories and a great number of characters moving forward. So it was kind of essential that that part of the scene at least remained intact, unfortunately.”

Unfortunately indeed. That’s not to say other outcomes were not considered, however. “We did discuss options,” says Kirkman. “At the end of the day, we were like, pulling the thread on this sweater just pulls too many things apart and it’s too difficult to get back on that trajectory without that death.”

RELATED: The Walking Dead Cast and Crew Pay Tribute to Steven Yeun

The death is especially notable for another reason, as Kirkman notes it was the first time he has killed a character in the comic in which he knew the person playing him on screen — in this case Steven Yeun. “Glenn was actually the first death in the comic that happened after the person was cast,” says Kirkman. “Abraham died in the comic book before Cudlitz had ever been cast as Abraham. There are a lot of other big deaths that happened, but they were all done in the comic before the person was cast, so Glenn was actually the first time while I was writing the comic where I was like, ‘Oh, geez.’”

Kirkman notes that the timing on that made the issue 100 death especially difficult, but one which he ultimately had to carry out. “There’s an extra level to it because it’s lines on paper that Charlie Adlard draws and it’s a character that I’ve been writing so I have a connection to it and an affinity for it because I’ve been spending so much time with this fake character,” says the creator. “But Glenn was the first time there was an actual human being type to it in such an intimate way so it does make things a little weird and more difficult, but at the same time I can’t allow that to change the way that I write stories. I just push through it and stay the course, but I do find myself very hesitant to do character deaths on the show. Especially these days, just because you miss these people and it’s just not a fun process. But it’s something that we all agree the story needs, and it definitely makes the show better and it makes things heightened and cool. It’s tough but we gotta do what we gotta do.”

And now it is done. Again.

Make sure to read our Q&A with Steven Yeun in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here. And subscribe now to receive a free Walking Dead tote! For more Walking Dead scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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