Spoiler Alert: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the “Thank You” episode of The Walking Dead.
Is he or isn’t he? You know… Glenn. Is he or isn’t he still alive after Sunday’s devastating episode of The Walking Dead, in which the suicide of Nicholas, the one-time coward Glenn had taken under his wing, resulted in our hero falling into a pit of hangry walkers? Theories abound post-ep, and showrunner Scott Gimple’s official statement on the matter, offered during Sunday’s Talking Dead aftershow, did nothing to squash the confusion. In case you missed it, Gimple’s statement read:
“Dear fans of The Walking Dead, this is a hard story to tell, and when we were planning to tell it, we knew our friends over at Talking Dead would be talking to you about it, and knowing you’d all be talking and feeling and commiserating, I knew we should say something about it, lest our silence say something we didn’t mean to say or not say. So I will say this: In some way, we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn, or parts of Glenn again, either in flashback, or current story, to help complete the story.”
Still confused? Yahoo TV went to TWD executive producer Greg Nicotero for more answers, because he has an extra special role in the events of “Thank You.” And while we still don’t know definitively whether or not Glenn lives, we did get a bit of a vibe from the EP/director/special FX make-up whiz’s thoughtful responses. Let us know what you’re thinking about the current state of Glenn-ness after you read on.
You’re aware you’ve caused viewers to spend all night and all morning concocting every possible theory and justification of how Glenn can still be alive?
[Laughs.] I love that. Keep doing it.
Scott issued a statement during Talking Dead last night, indicating we will see Glenn again in some way. What would you add to the discussion?
I think Scott did a very good job of saying that what’s important for us is, we want the audience to experience this storyline and go on this journey on their own. Just like in Game of Thrones where people debated about Jon Snow for weeks. I love the idea of having the audience be able to speculate on their own.
That sequence was very, very carefully choreographed, and very carefully written to allow the audience to draw their own conclusions and their own expectations. People come up with alternate scenarios… that’s even more exciting, because the people are invested in the show and invested in those characters. I mean, Glenn is one of my favorite characters, and one of the most beloved. I think going on the journey, that’s sort of what The Walking Dead is about. As gut wrenching as it is to be put through this, I’m very delighted that the audience is going on this journey with us.
You were a part of this storyline and Glenn’s possible death scene in a way that nobody else was, playing one of the walkers in the pit that surrounded the Dumpster Glenn and Nicholas were on. Did you specifically choose to be a walker in that scene because of what was happening in the storyline?
I was involved from the very beginning [with] choreographing the entire action, the specific camera angles, the way that we shot it, the way that we choreographed it. It was probably the most complicated practical shot that we’ve done in the series to date. We have 180 extras in close approximation to the actors, [we’re] rigging the entrails to explode at the right time, getting the walkers going in, and getting people screaming and blood spurting. I really just felt that it was important for me to be able to orchestra it from the trenches.
When we did the shot, I had two or three stunt people on one side. I had three extras on the other side. It was very specific, because I was puncturing the blood bag that had all the intestines and all the viscera in it. I basically directed all the walkers around me. “People to the right, as soon as you see blood, you reach in and pull this way. You see blood, and you pull that way. When you see blood, you reach in and grab the intestines. When you see blood, you push on the stomach where my hands are so that the blood will bubble and roll out.” We did the shot in one take. That was it… we had one shot at it. It was very, very carefully choreographed between Scott Gimple, and myself, and Michael Slovis, the episode director, because we wanted to make the [scene] provocative. We wanted to make the scene interesting. We wanted people to come to their conclusions about it, whether they were in denial, or whether they’re smart, or whether they’re on the trajectory. Either way, they’re invested in this character. It was very important for me. I felt that the best way to guarantee success would be to be on my knees in the shot, right there sort of pulling the trigger.
This is probably going to be the most dissected and re-watched scene in the show’s history.
I would agree with that. I had… listen, my Instagram last night was filled with a lot of “F–k yous,” and “How could you?” and “I hate you.” I take it all as a compliment, because that means the people are passionate about the show. And in terms of analyzing it, I still have on my iPad, I have recordings from the video, from different angles. I think we had four cameras on it, one on a crane above us, and then we had three other cameras, including one on the ground and then one looking across my shoulder onto Steven’s face when the blood erupts. Even sort of being in the middle of it for me, feeling like those 180 [walkers] were searching over my shoulder, hearing the screams, and looking at the blood erupting, it was pretty wild. It was definitely an experience that I won’t forget.
October 31 marks the fifth anniversary of the series’ debut, so an episode, and a storyline this big feels especially appropriate right now. Was it planned to coincide with that anniversary?
I honestly don’t think so. I think that was just a, I don’t want to use the word “happy” coincidence, because that would be a little cheeky on my part. It’s just a lot… I will give 100 percent credit to Scott Gimple and our writers, because Scott agonizes over every single word in the script. I respect the hell out of him for being that passionate about it and sticking to his guns. There have been decisions that have been made, and there will be decisions that will be made on the show, that are going to be unpopular. It’s never, they’re never comfortable.
I want to give a special shoutout to Michael Traynor, because I always looked at Nicholas’s transformation in the first three episodes of [Season 6] as if he really didn’t want to be a coward. He really wanted to turn things around. He kept stepping up and saying to Glenn, “I’ll do it. Let me know what I can do.” He got himself there and then it was just… they ended up in the same town where he had betrayed his group. He had run away scared. I love the moment where they find his friend. They even say his name, Will, and talk about how old he is, which we never do on the show. We never really do a lot of relating a walker to who they were before. I thought that was a great moment for Nicholas. I know a lot of people hate him because of his gunshot, the results of his gunshot, and what we saw on the show. But I look at it as, when he said “Thank you” to Glenn, he was basically saying, “I could have died a coward, but by you not turning your back on me, you saved me.” There was one beat… I don’t know if I should talk about it… There was one beat that didn’t end up in the episode. Scott might be mad at me for bringing it up, I don’t know, but I thought it was interesting. They were counting the bullets as they were getting to the dumpster. At one point, Glenn’s like, “Keep track of how many bullets you have left.” When the walkers are advancing, you could hear Nicholas counting down when he’s shooting the walkers, “Five, four, three, two…” in his head, consciously trying to keep track of how many shots he has left. In this world, listen, we’ve very clearly established the idea that nobody wants to be walking around as a corpse. That if you have the opportunity, if all else fails, that seems to not necessarily be a cowardly way out. That’s why Nicholas looks Glenn in the eye, and says, “Thank you.” I feel like Glenn redeems Nicholas at the last moment. I’m sure other people will look at it differently. [But] that’s how I like to interpret that moment.
Glenn is obviously the focus of the episode, but there were a lot of other heroic moments, too. Michonne, as always, was a real leader, and Rick… the physicality of the whole episode, with him running to the RV and encountering that group of walkers. And then the scene in the RV was one of Andy Lincoln’s best performances. We rarely see fear on Rick’s face, but you do here.
When the Wolves enter… and later when Rick pulls the jar of baby food out of the dead Wolf’s pocket. That harkens back to when he met Aaron, and Aaron brought baby food to show them that he had good intentions. The fact that that symbol of the good intentions was then put into the pocket of a killer… it’s a very nice subtle thing that the writers did that I thought was great.
And it’s just a different moment when our heroes are trapped in that pet shop in town, to see that desperation and commitment to getting back to Alexandria to protect those people.
Some viewers were confused about Rick’s hand injury, about whether he cut himself or was bitten. I thought he cut himself. Can you confirm that?
Yeah, when he comes upon the walkers on the street, there’s one walker that had a machete buried into his shoulder. He stabs the first walker, and breaks the handle off of the knife. That second walker attacks him, and when it lunges at him, he puts his hand up and his hand gets cut from making contact with the machete that’s sticking out of the walker’s shoulder. So he didn’t get a bite, he got cut from the machete. I think it ends up happening so quickly that it was, I think for some people it was a little bit hard to follow, only because it was just over before it started.
Seeing Rick with a hand injury brings up concern for fans who’ve also read the comics or know about the major events from the comics. Could this injury turn out to be possibly even worse than it appears?
I can’t say.
Talking Dead included a preview of next week’s “Here’s Not Here,” a 90-minute episode that will unfold Morgan’s backstory. Is there a special reason the episode is super-sized?
There’s just a lot of story to tell. Morgan’s a great character, and I know that there are a lot of people that, out of the gate, wanted to know how he became that guy. How did he become the guy that went from the unhinged character in “Clear” to the “all life is precious” guy? There’s some fantastic moments [ahead], and I think there’s just a lot of good story to tell there. I think, if anything, the biggest challenge of our show is consolidating these stories into 44 minutes. We could do two-hour episodes every week with the amount of story that we want to tell.
Does it feel like you’ve been doing this for five years?
We don’t even know how to comprehend it. I went to London over the weekend to do a little publicity for The Walking Dead. It’s still amazing to me that people are so devoted to the show. I think a lot of that is because we’re devoted to the show. We’re devoted to telling a great story. Those stories aren’t always the most comfortable or the happiest stories in the world to tell. People will be upset and people will be angry. The bottom line is we respect our audience, and we want to take them on a good journey.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.