By Charles Nicholas Raymond
The Walking Dead TV series doesn't have to follow the comics, but an exception was made with Glenn. Here's why his character had to die.
Years after the shocking event on The Walking Dead, many fans are still asking why did Negan kill Glenn. Anyone who read the comics knew that Glenn was going to die eventually. There was one moment before this episode where it looked like Glenn had died, but he miraculously survived. The big Glenn death moment finally came when Negan had the characters trapped and decided to make an example of one of their group. Abraham didn't die with an arrow through the eye, as he did in the comics, but wasn't the only casualty. As is now legendary, Negan took Lucille and promptly ended Glenn's time on The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead had Negan kill Abraham instead of Glenn to throw off the comic book fans, which meant Glenn being the next victim was a genuine shock regardless of how clued-in a viewer was to the on-page TWD storyline. However, the truth is that there was no way Glenn was going to walk away from this alive. He had to die for several things to happen, including Maggie's character journey of leaving the group and the eventual conflict with Negan. Glenn also had to die to make Negan as dangerous as he became. But, when it comes to the storylines, why did Negan kill Glenn at all after he already proved his point with Abraham?
How & When Glenn Died In TWD - Show Vs. Comics
While the Glenn Walking Dead death still shocks fans to this day, the answer to why did Negan kill Glenn is that he 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.
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. So, with Abraham dead, why did Negan kill Glenn and not one of the other survivors? Negan killed Glenn to make a further example, because of Daryl — who retaliated in anger to Abraham's death. Daryl's outburst irritated Negan, so he killed Glenn as well. The tragedy of Glenn's Walking Dead death influenced both the spinoff Fear The Walking Dead and the original series. However, the show put its own twist on the Glenn Walking Dead death by killing Abraham alongside him.
The Walking Dead generally used the same story arcs but kept 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, Negan killed Glenn because his death was the impetus for a larger storyline that still needed to happen in the show. All the way to The Walking Dead series finale, the respective story arcs of the remaining survivors were shaped by this particular tragedy.
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 the answer to why did Negan kill Glenn. 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 CinemaBlend in an interview about his character's iconic death scene:
"It was gory, but it wasn't any more gory than anything that we've shown before. I think what it was was just watching someone that you feel like you know getting killed that way, and getting killed in a way that was not like, 'Oh man, look at Noah getting ripped up,' which is gnarly but it's just happening to him. Whereas, in this instance, it was just like, 'You could've stopped, but you're just gonna keep going and you're gonna rub it in.' And that's probably where probably felt like it was too much."
Moreover, when looking at why did Negan kill Glenn, it 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.
Killing Glenn Redefined Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Career
In the end, questioning why did Negan kill Glenn in The Walking Dead was simply because Negan needed this for his character development. After this, Negan was a wildcard that everyone hated and no one trusted. He slowly became one of the most important characters on the show as time went on. At the same time, Negan killing Glenn helped redefine Jeffrey Dean Morgan's career. By killing Glenn, Negan became as important as anyone on the show, rivaling even Rick and Daryl. That was proven when Negan got a spin-off series of his own with Maggie. Negan said if he could change anything, though, he wouldn't have killed Glenn (via Insider).
"It changed my life. That one scene changed my life, literally, in so many ways. And I still get s*** for it. People remind me daily that Glenn was their favorite character."
By becoming such a major character, Jeffrey Dean Morgan got something he had never experienced before in his career. Negan got a long-term job commitment. He was one of the key characters on Supernatural and died pretty early on. He got a role in the DCU and ended up dying in a flashback scene as Bruce Wayne's dad. "I had a conversation with Scott [Gimple], and it was like, 'You gotta be on it for at least three years if you want to be a part of this show.' I was like, 'That seems like a long time," Morgan said. However, he and Hilarie Burton welcomed their second child, and The Walking Dead gave Morgan a consistent paycheck.
Sources: CinemaBlend, Entertainment Weekly, Insider