Time to take off those tinfoil hates, stop analyzing every frame of “Thank You,” and get out from under that dumpster. Yes, the cliffhanger of Glenn’s fate from that episode has been answered.
“Heads Up” wastes no time showcasing the reveal that Glenn is alive, saved by Nicholas’ body and a dumpster, in its opening moments, but, as much as we have all waited weeks to find out Glenn’s true fate, the episode is not solely focused on Glenn’s plight.
And so, just as the show waited several episodes to resolve this cliffhanger, it only seems appropriate to address that plotline after taking a look at how Alexandria is faring at the same time.
The Safe Zone continues to be in stasis for the moment, in need of a plan to get rid of the walkers on the other side of wall while also figuring out what to do in the wake of the Wolves attack.
And as Rick sees it, now is the perfect time to plan. He tells Maggie while she takes watch that the best thing to do for those in and out of Alexandria is to focus on reclaiming the town’s walls from the small sea of walkers forming like a moat outside their gate.
But Rick is still hesitant to unite his group of survivors and the Alexandrians, despite how much they seem ready for his leadership. Other than making his distaste for Father Gabriel quite apparent, tearing down his prayer-circle fliers, “Heads Up” is about giving him him a better idea of the state of these two groups. Ron finally wants lessons on how to fire a gun, but he doesn’t seem to quite understand that live target practice will only disturb the walkers and draw them to one spot. He’s emblematic for Rick of how unprepared the Safe Zone is when it comes to facing the threats outside their gates, as well as their desire for him to take them seriously.
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Morgan, who is somewhere in the middle, without a group to truly call his own just yet, is also a concern for Rick. He’s asked to speak before Rick, Michonne, and Carol about his non-murdering tendencies during the Wolves attack. He admits to letting some of them go because, as Eastman taught him, all life is precious. He questions Rick as to why he didn’t kill Morgan back in King County when Morgan was clearly ready to kill him. It’s the same reason he didn’t kill the Wolves, he argues. He knows people can change; in fact, all of them in that room have changed. He wants to give the Wolves that chance because of his aikido creed, and though he did consider killing the Wolves, he couldn’t give up his belief.
Michonne warns him he may have to, and Morgan gets down to the nasty business of the meeting — do they want him to leave? No one says yes, but Rick asks Morgan if he believes he could truly survive out there. He doesn’t know, and for now, he seems to be an asset Rick believes is worth keeping, rather than throwing out.
But more than ever, Rick believes it’s time to keep things within his group of survivors. He discusses a walker-diverting plan with Michonne, who suggests bringing the Alexandrians into it, too. They’re all in this together, she argues, not quite breaking out in song to make her point but still determined to convince Rick that this sort of tunnel vision will only hurt the Safe Zone as a whole. His resolve is tested, of course, moments later when a smiling Deanna, filled with much more life than before, shows her plans about how to expand Alexandria once they’re beyond this hurdle. And she believes there will be something to look forward to after this, a nice sentiment that will likely come true, though not without bloodshed.
Rick is again confronted by his cautious attitude toward the Alexandrians while attempting to reinforce the wall. Tobin comes across him and offers his help, as well as a few words of assurance. Tobin is up-front with Rick that the Alexandrians were initially afraid of him — his Tom Hanks-in-Castaway beard didn’t help things — and then suddenly life moved faster than any of them had experienced. Tobin doesn’t want Rick to give up on them, though.
NEXT: About that guard tower…
Unfortunately, one of the Alexandrians decides, moments later, to put himself in unnecessary mortal peril. They see Spencer climbing over the fence on a grappling-hook wire, putting him directly above the walkers. Rick calls for him to return, but Spencer keeps moving forward…until his line breaks. The hook loses traction, and Spencer careens into the wall — but on the side covered in walkers. He falls, knocks a few walkers down with him, and then scrambles back to the wire to climb back up.
Tara comes to his rescue and begins firing into the walkers, taking a few down while distracting others. With the help of Tobin and Morgan, Rick is able to pull Spencer up, where he’s more annoyed about losing his shoe than risking the lives of his fellow Alexandrians.
Rick comes away livid from the experience. Not just at Spencer, who wanted to do what Rick and Michonne had in mind to distract the walkers (get outside, grab a car, and drive it away to distract them), for never having made a climb like that. He’s also furious with Tara for firing her gun and possibly luring walkers to a particular section of the wall.
What should have been a quiet time of planning and re-grouping has turned into a frenzied state of chaos, with a healthy dose of suspicion thrown in. Carol and Morgan’s ideologies have been at odds since he arrived, and so she’s keeping a watchful eye on him as he heads over to Denise’s for medical assistance.
He begrudgingly brings her over to the house of his locked-up Wolf (after helping the town doctor restore some of her faith in her own medical know-how). Carol follows the two, first dropping Judith off at Jessie’s house, where she quite clearly enumerates her state of mind when it comes to their safety. Sam, still refusing to come downstairs, asks her if the people who came to town were the monsters and if his dad turned into one, too. He then asks one final question about whether killing turns you into a monster, the not-so-subtle metaphor here posing the eternal question of who the true monsters in this world are. Carol responds: “The only thing that keeps you from becoming a monster is killing,” which is just about as far from Morgan’s “all life is precious” mantra as you can get.
Morgan’s secrets are thrown into the light, though, as Carol trails him to Morgan’s makeshift jail cell, demanding to know who he has locked up in there.
Alexandria is at a crossroads. Rick is learning to admit his own faults in this new order, apologizing to Tara, though still holding onto his conviction that she could have died. They’re stuck with each other, she reasons, and so that means they have to help. Rosita is trying to do her part by helping to train the Alexandrians (and Eugene, who can’t quite handle it) in the ways of the machete. The Safe Zone is coming together, and Rick may have to finally learn to take them all into his circle of trust. In that sense, Deanna doesn’t believe Rick is giving the right answer when he says he saved Spencer instead of deciding to make a break for it himself in the confusion and gotten a car to enact the plan. She says Spencer was at least trying, while Rick argues he could have tried at the expense of her son. But that’s not the type of answer or plan she wants to hear from their leader.
Whatever the plan was, a new one is sorely needed. In the midst of the afternoon, a prayer circle in one corner of town and Ron possibly deciding to kill Carl in another (he stole bullets from the armory), Maggie spots a burst of green balloons floating into the air. It’s a sign of Glenn, of hope, of a future.
And then the guard tower, which has been shifting all episode, finally crumbles, collapsing to the ground and taking a chunk of the wall with it. Well, that sure puts a damper on the whole “Glenn’s alive” news, huh?
NEXT: The Glenn of it all
Saved by the Dumpster
Speaking of Glenn, let’s address the dumpster-sized elephant in the episode. Yes, Glenn is alive, four episodes after his possible death ended “Thank You.” Saved by the body of Nicholas and an overnight stay in a dumpster (pushing the season forward in time beyond a single day for the first time), Glenn remains among the living.
I’m of two contrasting minds with this discovery. All along, I knew Glenn couldn’t really be dead. The scene was shot so oddly and in such an obvious fake-out manner in my mind that his death would have felt cheap at that point. So I’m happy to have Glenn still alive on the show because I think there’s much more to be done with his character and really Maggie could use a few more episodes without a death in the family.
But Glenn’s possible death and the way it was presented present so many problems in my mind I don’t know where to begin. Taking Steven Yeun’s name out of the credits for the sake of a twist and Scott Gimple’s letter on Talking Dead both fly in the face of what I think a TV show should be able to accomplish on its own. If you can’t tell certain story lines solely within the confines of the show, there might be an issue with the plot’s beats, structure, or its mere existence. (ASIDE: Yes, being one of the biggest shows on television with its own after show adds some pressure on the show’s producers to provide information in a way incongruous to almost any other show, but there’s still the question of whether this was handled the right way, and, for me, it was not. END ASIDE)
Then there’s the reality of the show’s threat level to consider. If Glenn can be spared from a situation in which a walker should have at least accidentally scratched him, then what does that say for the lives of the core characters? Does that mean players like Rick, Carol, Daryl, and Glenn are safe until the end of the show or until certain comic moments are translated to the screen? Maybe, maybe not, but Glenn’s escape from such proximity to so many hungry walkers sucks some of the tension out of future encounters for me.
Like I said, I’m happy to have Glenn alive. He’s one of the characters I like most among the longer-lasting ones, and I feel he deserves so much more attention and development. So it’s nice to know he’s around for at least a little while longer. But his sustained life comes at the expense of good storytelling, mangled by a poorly handled cliffhanger that put the show in a lose-lose situation.
In the context of the story, however, I am interested to see how, if at all, the ordeal affects Glenn beyond “Heads Up.” He comes out from his hiding spot the next day, the walkers having dissipated, only to find he’s not actually alone. Enid throws him a water bottle, which he misses, but wants nothing to do with him.
He follows her into the nearby building, trying to learn about Alexandria and specifically about Maggie, but Enid isn’t interested in lending much help beyond a water bottle.
He eventually finds her running away outside the building, and his chase leads him down the very alley were Michonne almost became walker food. He finds David transformed into a walker, and after putting the walker out of its misery, he makes another discovery. David’s note to his wife, Betsy, which Michonne refused to take, lies legible on the ground. He picks it up before continuing on his search — the Talking Dead that followed “Thank You” included Damon Lindelof making the great allusion to how much David and Glenn’s journeys mirrored each other.
Glenn eventually finds Enid hiding out in a diner, trapped in by a few walkers shuffling by the front doors. She pulls a gun on Glenn, threatening to kill him unless he leaves, but he calls her bluff and grabs the gun. Glenn tells her she’s coming with him back to Alexandria, in some sense because Maggie wouldn’t want him to leave Enid behind.
So the two head out, finding one of the balloons from the quarry plan. Enid begins blowing them up as Glenn talks. And despite her reticence to say much of anything, he pushes her on her behavior. She’s scared, having been orphaned by walkers (just as so many of them were), and so she refuses to become attached to anything or anyone so she doesn’t have to lose them.
“You honor the dead by going on, even when you’re scared. You live because they don’t get to,” he says, and the two continue on their way back home. As they reach it, however, they make the horrifying discovery of the walkers surrounding the place. The mere sight saps Enid of any hope she may have built up, believing they’re meant to let the world just die. Glenn stops her and says they aren’t going to let the world die. He isn’t going to let her die, either, and not just because it’s what Maggie would want. He tries to calm her, advising that the walls are still up, so they can figure out a way in and learn the rest.
Of course, that pesky tower coming down presumably offers a perfect way in for them — and for the walkers.