By Lissa Harris
WARNING: SPOILERS DEAD AHEAD!!!
Glenn is alive. This big fat cat was let out of the bag in Sunday night’s episode of The Walking Dead. Glenn’s fate was one of the best cliff hangers this season, but Sunday night’s cliff hanger came in at a close second. Since this big reveal, the virtual world has imploded in an attempt to either laud or vilify Glenn’s escape under a dumpster after he used Nicholas’ body as an edible shield.
This was one of the show’s most dramatic moments but not one of its most important.
A few weeks ago I argued for the paramountcy of episode 4, “Here’s Not Here,” the relatively slow-paced back-story on how Morgan had acquired his “all life is precious” ideology.
The debate between “kill or be killed” and “all life is precious” has been the show’s meat and potatoes all along, so to speak, and as we head toward next week’s mid-season finale, the writers’ are gearing up to serve us the main course.
Last Sunday’s episode 7, “Heads Up,” gives us a variety of ways to look at this issue. Here’s how Morgan, Rick, Carol and Michonne discuss Morgan’s decision to let some members of the Wolves gang live after they attacked him. Rick argues with him: “Do you really think you can do that without getting blood on your hands?” Morgan’s painfully honest answer is: “I don’t know.”
There is a brief exchange between Sam, the son of Dr. Pete, the killer in the season 5 finale, and Carol, TWD’s resident Grinch whose heart is three sizes too small. Sam asks Carol, “If you kill people, do you turn into one of the monsters?”
But Carol misunderstands the questions and answers him the only way she possibly could. “The only thing that keeps you from becoming a monster is killing,” she explains.
In another scene, Rick and Tara save bone-head Spencer, who is trying to exit Alexandria via a zip line that eventually, inevitably, snaps. Deanna, former leader of Alexandria, asks Rick why he bothered to save Spencer instead of using him as a decoy to save the others. Rick explains that he saved Spencer because he is her son and he values Deanna’s friendship.
“Wrong answer,” Deanna tells him, implying that she thinks Rick saved Spencer because he’s really a good person who values human life.
Does this mean that when push comes to shove, Rick subscribes to Morgan’s philosophy that “all life is precious”?
I would say that the show’s writers lean toward Morgan’s side of the debate. Each scene described above would suggest it. To me, this is the episode’s big reveal. Oh sure, they have nine more episodes to play with our emotions and keep us flip-flopping on the ideological scale between survival of the fittest and respect for all living things.
But we know where our beloved characters are going to land. Even amid the terror and the fear that comes from their dire predicament, their humanity depends upon their ability to show compassion and trust toward their fellow human beings. They are prepared to accept the possibility that their good will may be taken advantage of, rather than allow their connection to each other to be overruled by dread and hatred. As The Walking Dead has shown us since the very first episode, their vulnerability is their greatest asset because it creates inexhaustible courage. And with limitless bravery, our heroes can face any obstacle, even a church tower collapsing on their wall.