Major spoilers for "The Walking Dead" episode "Heads Up" past this point.
He's baaaack! Certainly a lot of big moments happened in the penultimate episode of this half season, but none bigger than the very first minute of the episode, when it was finally confirmed that Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) is alive and well. At least, for now...
Let's break down just what went down, on "Heads Up."
The Return Of The GlennAMC
I mean let's be honest, this is really the only moment that matters to fans; though there's several other moments they SHOULD be focusing on, for the future of the show -- which we'll get to in a moment. In the opening seconds of the episode, we hear walkers groaning, then Nicholas (Michael Traynor) saying, "Thank you." A gun shot, and then we see Nicholas falling on Glenn.
Only this time, we see the camera zoomed out. As everyone suspected, Nicholas is being torn apart, not Glenn. And also as we figured out, Glenn manages to shimmy out from under Nicholas, and under the nearby dumpster. Once there, walkers grab for him, but he stabs them in the head -- essentially creating a shield of dead walkers around the gap at the bottom of the dumpster.
A full night passes, and the next day the herd has dispersed enough for Glenn to come out from under the dumpster, though he's out of water. "Heads up," someone who turns out to be Enid (Katelyn Nacon) shouts, and tosses him the water... Which he misses.
By the way, in case it isn't clear why this is the title of the episode? It's because of this moment, where Glenn misses the thing he so desperately needs because he didn't see it coming... Something that almost everyone from Glenn, to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) to Morgan (Lennie James) play out throughout the hour.
Anyway, Glenn spends a good chunk of the episode playing the Grimes Gang's favorite game, "what is the world now and are people still important," with Enid as they make their way back to Alexandria. As promised, Glenn has put aside his "good angel" nature and is only bringing Enid back home because that's what Maggie would have wanted... Though by episode's end, he's basically the same old Glenn.
And Enid has totally given up on people. "What’s the point?" she tells Glenn after they find out Alexandria is surrounded by walkers. "The world is trying to die. We’re supposed to just let it."
Glenn disagrees though... As long as you have friends and the walls of Alexandria stand, there's still hope. So they release some green balloons they picked up along the way as a sign to Maggie -- the balloons spell out "Glenn Is Alive" in the sky just kidding they totally don't -- just as, you guessed it, the walls come crashing down. More on that in a moment.
But first let's talk about Glenn's return, and whether it worked... The issue, I think, is that there's been a fair amount of time jumping and economy of story-telling in this season, so in that sense his return and how it played out dramatically make total sense. But unfortunately, the show ran straight into the massively short life-cycle of the Internet.
It wasn't weeks, or even days until fans were demanding to know what happened to Glenn. It wasn't even hours. Minutes after the episode ended, "Talking Dead" host Chris Hardwick had to make a heroic effort not to say Glenn was dead, while still implying he might be dead. The producers, and showrunner Scott Gimple made the more honest choice to not say he was dead and gone, or Steven Yeun off the show, to not lie to fans... But fans then saw right through the lack of subterfuge and decided they were being tricked, anyway.
And also within minutes, fans had already figured out how Glenn escaped, though with some slight variations. Then they had to sit around for weeks, only to have what they already knew confirmed. Anger, perhaps, should have been expected.
Therefore the issue, perhaps, wasn't with the mystery itself; it's with the execution of it. If it had been a little less obvious how Glenn survived, or "Talking Dead" and the entertainment news cycle didn't exist, maybe it would have worked. But it was, and they do... So instead, when "Heads Up' opens exactly how you thought it was going to open, the main feeling isn't joy, it's relief that this long period of Schrodinger's Glenn is over.
It's also why this structure will play much, much better on Blu-Ray/streaming once the season is over... This is probably an argument for a much longer article (and there's more things that happened in this episode, which we'll get to in a moment), but the sixth season of "The Walking Dead," so far, isn't structured for a weekly format.
Sure it's an hour, and sure cliffhangers are a tried and true trope ever since stories were first invented. But this season is perfect for binging on Netflix. It's perfect for watching back to back to back, without the benefit of internet chatter and analysis in between. Essentially, what we're watching right now is an eight hour long "Walking Dead" movie.
I'd argue that the execution is pretty brilliant and fascinating to watch, and I envy anyone who hasn't checked out the season yet who will watch it later. But in the real world, where the show has been broadcast week to week? Well... I'm glad our long, national Glenn-less nightmare is over.
You'll Put Someone's Eye Out With That ThingGene Page/AMC
Oh, Ron (Austin Abrams). You're taking the wrong lessons from Rick. You're learning what last season Rick taught everyone, to take what you want -- and not this season Rick, who is learning to hope again. And you're taking advantage of that, tricking the man who murdered your father into teaching you how to shoot again... Along with his very trusting son, Carl (Chandler Riggs).
This episode, Ron not-so-subtly asks to try shooting with real bullets, and when he gets denied goes ahead and steals some from the armory. And when the episode ends, he's trailing not too far behind Carl, with a gun about to be pulled out and shot.
"You’ve got to be strong enough to wait for your moment," Carl tells Ron, coaching the teen into making sure he calmly waits to take revenge on Rick. And aptly enough, Ron is aiming to take his vengeance by also taking out the kid who, he thinks, stole his girlfriend Enid. That would be Carl.
So here's the thing: I know all hell is about to break loose in Alexandria, and the comics and show often differ significantly. But there's a pretty big moment from the comics I'm pretty sure we're headed towards in some form. If you're brave, do a search for the time walkers invaded Alexandria, and check out what happened to Carl.
Spoiler: this is one of the comic's Red Wedding moments, where at least this reader almost gave up picking up the book for good. It's that horrifying. Let's see if it plays out the same way next week!
Do The Spencer ShimmyGene Page/AMC
This week's "Stupid Idiot" award goes to Father Gabriel (Seth Gillam) of course, for putting up signs calling for a prayer circle (that Rick hilariously tears off a gazebo wall without even slowing down), but only because he always gets that award. Second in line though is Spencer (Austin Nichols), who still feels bad about accidentally letting the Wolves in at the beginning of the season, and robbing the pantry a few weeks back.
He decides to make up for it by throwing a grappling hook over the walls and dropping down outside... Except he barely makes it halfway before dropping into a pile of walkers. Tara (Alanna Masterson) rescues him by blasting him free, but not only does it rile up the herd, but it wastes bullets and leads to a crisis of faith from Rick.
All episode long he's been trying to win people's trust back -- "Things moved slow here... And then things just started moving fast. Too fast. But don’t give up on us," one denizen tells Rick as they metaphorically and literally repair the walls -- but his moment yelling Spencer takes him back a few steps.
Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) though has turned into a ray of sunshine, making plans for after they get rid of the herd and believing in Rick so hard. We'll see how she feels after next episode, if she's still alive.
Morgan's SecretGene Page/AMC
Morgan is also grappling with his own crisis of faith. As Rick starts to open up to the idea of hope, Morgan is closing himself off. Confronted by Carol (Melissa McBride), Rick, Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Morgan admits he did let some of the Wolves free -- "I didn’t want to kill five people I didn’t have to kill," Morgan says, to which Carol practically screams, "They burned people alive!" -- but doesn't know, at all, what the right move is anymore.
Walking through events, he asks Rick why he didn't kill Morgan the first time he met him, or the second. Which seems to be a kindness, and because Rick didn't kill Morgan he was able to save Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) last season from a walker herd. But because he saved them, Aaron dropped his backpack, which contained pictures of Alexandria... Pictures that were found by the Wolves and enticed them to attack, killing dozens.
So what was the right thing to do? Should Rick have killed Morgan, dooming Aaron and Daryl? Should Morgan have left them to die, saving Alexandria? Or were they all doomed to begin with?
“Making [the choice] now," Rick asks, "do you really think you can do that without getting blood on your hands?”
After a pause, Morgan simply says, "I don't know."
And that's the crux, right? Rick has been so certain for so long... Morgan's way might be superior just because he's not certain he's doing the right thing. He does it anyway, but at least there's a moment where he tries to make sure he'll still be human later. That's the experience he went through with Eastman, and that's what he's trying to bring to Rick.
We'll see if it sticks.
The Walls Break DownGene Page/AMC
All episode long, the group hasn't noticed the burnt out church right outside of the Alexandria walls has been slowly cracking apart. And just as the metaphorical walls start to break, so does the physical one as the steeple breaks off, knocking down the wall.
And so the stage is set for the mid-season finale. Alexandria invaded by thousands of walkers, Glenn and Enid trapped outside, Ron tracking down Carl to shoot and possibly kill him... And Morgan's Wolf, who has threatened to kill them all, inside the walls as well.
Yeah, not everyone is making it to February alive.