As fans around the world lament the loss of Glenn Rhee on The Walking Dead, creator Robert Kirkman says his fate was sealed long ago.
The Walking Dead television series has always more or less followed the story from the comic books. There have been diversions and slight changes, of course. For example, Daryl and Merle Dixon don’t exist at all in the comics. But for the most part, the two stories have been the same.
One area where the show producers like to change things up is when it comes to deaths. Comic book fans may know a certain death scene is coming. To keep them on their toes, producers will often have a different character die instead.
When it came to Glenn’s death in last week’s premiere, though, things were mostly the same. Having Abraham die too was a change. But Glenn’s death was verbatim from the comic book.
The Comics Sealed Glenn’s Fate
The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman tells Entertainment Weekly that was by design.
“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.”
All Options on the Table
Kirkman is also a producer and writer on The Walking Dead TV series. He says he and the other producers did consider killing someone else. “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.”
Killing a Friend
Killing Glenn was actually particularly hard on Kirkman. The Walking Dead began airing on AMC in 2010. The comic book issue where Negan kills Glenn didn’t come out until 2012. “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 [Michael] 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.’”
“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.”