There’s a moment in The Walking Dead’s fifth Season 6 episode, “Now,” in which Deanna—an ex-congresswoman who once ruled Alexandria but whose main job these days is ordering everyone to shut up and listen to Rick—makes a haphazard attempt at slaying her first zombie. She plunges a broken glass bottle over and over into her enemy’s decrepit torso, seemingly expecting it to die.
“Come on, you son of a bitch,” she growls, blood splattered across her face as she stabs and stabs at everything except the damn thing’s brain. Frustration and despair set in as this, the wisest woman in Alexandria, keeps stubbornly, pointlessly plunging into nothing—an exercise roughly equivalent to what it was like watching “Now,” a gloom-and-doom filler episode in which nothing quite happens, though not for the characters’ lack of trying.
Maggie and Aaron’s expedition to find Glenn is cut short by a herd of walkers. Carl’s plan to find Enid is stymied after Jessie’s son Ron rats him out to Rick. Even Deanna’s son Spencer, a steaming pile of white male entitlement whom I was certain would be walker meat by episode’s end, manages to escape “Now” unscathed—and with a belly full of contraband crackers, to boot.
And of course, Rick and Jessie’s steamy garage makeout session is chastely cut off before either of them gets too handsy. (Or realizes that it's been, like, a week since Rick shot Jessie's husband in the head. Boner-killer, for sure.)
Instead, “Now” forced characters to stew in their own guilt, selfishness, and grief over the impending end of their worlds. In the Alexandrians’ case, the episode was ostensibly meant to give us one last glimpse into the psyche of this dysfunctional, spoiled little town before its walls cave in from the weight of 5,000 walkers. (If the intended effect there was to make audiences wish horrible deaths on most of the town’s useless, whiny denizens, then it succeeded.)
The episode’s only significant emotional arc (besides Tara and Denise’s budding romance—mazel tov) came with Maggie and Aaron’s ill-fated attempt to rescue Glenn. Both characters are wracked by guilt—in Aaron’s case, for starting the chain of events that led the Wolves to Alexandria, and in Maggie’s, for allowing Glenn to leave her behind.
“I’m pregnant,” Maggie reveals to Aaron, before breaking down in sobs. “If I had gone, maybe I could have helped him. I don’t know if he’s alive.” (Neither does anyone else, we learn.)
“He would have shown me by now, that’s what Michonne said,” she continues. “I just want to see his face…I don't get to know what will happen, why it happened, what I did right or wrong. Not now. I have to live with that. You do too.”
Her pregnancy, presumably, is why Maggie suddenly quits her mission at tunnel’s end—despite the way she doggedly fought her way through similar and greater risks when hunting Glenn after the prison fell. (Even at the expense of finding Beth, her only living relative whom she never saw alive again!) That babies outweigh little sisters and husbands in the zombie apocalypse is a reasonable assertion—but how this show plans to handle another Judith, whose sole function is to occasionally gurgle her way into life-threatening danger, will be another miracle altogether.
The ongoing “suspense” of whether Glenn is alive or dead will likely endure for another two or three episodes, long enough to carry us through to the midseason finale—but it’s getting harder and harder not to feel insulted by the mini-hype cycle the show seems to want to create. (Possible spoiler alert): Steven Yeun has already been seen on set multiple times since his “death” episode, “Thank You,” wrapped, and The Hollywood Reporter’s sources say Yeun recently signed a new deal to remain on the show.
It would take a superhuman feat of storytelling for Glenn’s “death” to come off as anything but a craven stunt at this point: If Glenn is really dead, then he was given an abominably anticlimactic end. (The man once took out a walker while bound and tied to a chair—but Nicholas’s incompetence is what killed him?)
And if he isn’t, if Glenn is actually alive, then the show has spent the last few weeks creating artificial suspense over nothing—even going so far as to remove Yeun’s name from the credits.
Show runner Scott Gimple has also gone on record saying that we’ll see “some part” of Glenn again—giving fuel to rumors that he’ll return as a zombie. (Which is ridiculous.) We’ll be here watching either way—just don’t string us along for nothing, Walking Dead.