Dead Glenn Rheedemption

For Glenn, forever ago, the TWD Season 11 premiere, and rewatching NBC's Heroes with my mum.

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It did not take me long to make that pun the title of this week’s issue. I am both quite proud of it, and quite ashamed of it at the same time.

I’ve been feeling a little uninspired this week, mostly because my immune system and I have been working together to battle burnout like Vin Diesel and whichever Fast and Furious nemesis-turned-bestie decide to set their differences aside to beat Charlize Theron at their own game.

However, since The Walking Dead officially returns this Sunday to kick off its final season, what else have I really had to think about?

The season premiere became available to stream last week on AMC+, so naturally, I had to get my hands on it. After six extra character-driven episodes, dubbed the “COVID episodes”, at the end of Season 10, I was interested to see how the show would fare during production not only amidst a real pandemic on top of their fictional one, and where they were going to go after trouncing the Whisperers, since this season’s episode order is a hefty 24, rather than their usual 16. AMC are apparently committed to releasing episodes a week earlier than their broadcast dates on AMC+ for God knows why (it’s money).

(Spoilers-ish ahead for TWD S11E01 “Acheron: Part I”)

After a supply run to a military base proves insufficient to feed all the survivors in Alexandria, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) takes a group out through Washington, D.C. for more supplies from her old settlement—where she lived during her Season 10 absence from the main storyline—that’s been taken over by a violent group of survivors called The Reapers. She takes Daryl (Norman Reedus), a handful of Alexandrians, as well as Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the man that killed her husband, Glenn (Steven Yeun). Meanwhile, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and his group—Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), and Princess (Paola Lazaro)—have been captured by stormtrooper wannabees in a place called The Commonwealth. We’ll get to them another time.

Glenn’s death has reverberated through four seasons of the show and is still, obviously, a sore point of contention between Maggie and Negan. Many fans—myself included, at least in 2016—have attributed his murder to a significant turning point in the quality of the show as well. I literally stopped watching TWD when Glenn died, but I was glad I did because I get to rediscover the show again now, amidst a zombie-free pandemic.

As much as I’ve long awaited the return of my beloved Daryl Dixon and his now sheathed biceps, I’ve been waiting for a proper Maggie-Negan showdown for ages. Knowing that Negan’s fate has diverged from his comic book counterpart’s so far, anything could happen. And anything could happen to Maggie, by that same token. Her character is no stranger to suffering—from losing her farm, her father, her sister, then her husband? And now the place she’s called home has gone and her new home under siege? Yeah, they’re making my girl suffer.

Maggie’s group finds themselves seeking shelter from a raging storm inside abandoned DC Metro lines, everyone looking to Negan to navigate the tunnels. There’s a point where Negan and Maggie’s animosity comes to a head which I find quite interesting—long story short: Negan brings up Glenn to push Maggie’s buttons, and Maggie reveals that she is not the same woman any of them knew anymore.

It’s so funny that these two were Thomas and Martha Wayne in Batman v Superman (2016). Imagine them doing Flashpoint together. That’d be sick. But Maggie and Negan? Sick and twisted.

Negan says he lives in Maggie’s head “rent-free”, an aphorism I was shocked to discover existed in a universe where the world ended sometime in 2010. It almost made me laugh, the same way Siddiq (Avi Nash) in the previous season made use of the phrase “on point”. But I digress. Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan sparred in this scene so well—Negan riding off his “I Killed The Alpha” brownie points from last season and Maggie emboldened by her long-held and very understandable rage. Negan may live in Maggie’s head “rent-free”, but Glenn lives in Negan’s head “rent-free”, too. He’s expressed regret for killing Glenn, attributing it as the catalyst for all his suffering. Negan thinks he’s the centre of the universe, the centre of his universe, whilst everyone around him—Maggie, especially—sees him as nothing more than an incorrigible inconvenience. He’s not much of a threat anymore as he is the annoying guy no one really wants to be around.

Maggie, on the other hand, has found that despite all the horrors she’s seen on the road and the loss she’s experienced at the hands of Negan and TWD villains of yore, she still wants to live and build a worthwhile life for herself and her son, Herschel (Kien Michael Spiller). She wants a future for her and her son, and no one—especially not Negan—will take that away from her.

As much as the show is trying to redeem Negan, and I think they’re aware of how ultimately futile their efforts are, the spirit of Glenn Rhee isn’t letting anyone get off scot-free. Everything that he stood for fuelled those who remained, even to their own dying breath or mysterious disappearance. I think a lot of characters on the show—be they alive, deceased, or mysteriously taken by helicopter people—find some form of solace in his memory. I remember Steven Yeun recounting his wife’s reaction to Glenn’s death; that he died in a very Glenn way—still not thinking about himself. Glenn never thought of himself, and now everyone thinks of him all the time.

Glenn wasn’t the only member of the affectionately dubbed Team Family that died under Negan’s baseball bat that night, strongman and real redhead Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) did, too. I feel like neither the audience nor the cast got to mourn Abraham properly. I thought he was hilarious.

I think The Walking Dead has had a very bizarre relationship with its female characters; villainizing them all at some point or another—like making Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) the nagging shrew, Andrea (Laurie Holden) the traitor, Michonne (Danai Gurira) the paranoid leader, Carol (Melissa McBride) the reckless mutineer, and now Maggie the “vengeful widow”. That’s what they wrote in her promo poster. Vengeful Widow. I personally love how much smoke she’s got for Negan. He deserves it. I hope he gets merked and I hope Maggie is the one doing the merking. There’s a part of me that thinks Glenn may not want her to kill in his name, but he’s not around to say so anymore. And it isn’t just for Glenn she’d be getting revenge for, Negan has hurt a lot of people both physically and psychologically. Lest we forget his harem of wives back in Season 7! Or the hot iron he’s pressed to the faces of those that disobeyed him! What was that all about?

It’s about power. It’s not exclusively a gendered issue, but God forbid the Girlbosses girlboss their way through the apocalypse. The men on the show are revered for being violent, for making the “hard choices”, for living in the moral gray. But when the ladies give it a go or have existed that way quietly, by comparison, it’s suddenly a bad thing.

I guess I’m more annoyed that they’re trying to redeem Negan and make Maggie seem like the bad guy. That’s the thesis of this long-winded email. I hope they reach a resolution that’s satisfactory to the story. I know Lauren Cohan has teased that Maggie will make a lot of bad decisions this season, that things will get worse before they get better and I’m so excited to see that on-screen. As much as I’d hate for Maggie to suffer more, I’m glad Cohan said that. It reminds me to be less precious with my own characters when I’m writing.

Between my mum and I, I think we’ve rewatched TWD a total of six times in the past year alone. Both in and out of order. Out of order usually means we start somewhere in the middle of Season 5, right before the gang reaches Virginia and after they lose Emily Kinney’s character, Beth.

This pocket in Season 5 brings me an odd sense of comfort. I find myself overly sentimental towards certain combinations of characters and the costuming choices of that era. I think it applies to a lot of long-running shows or franchises I consume. With The Walking Dead, it’s Season 5 where their clothes are tattered and everyone looks like they Jake Gyllenhaaled (not showered). It’s where Glenn has taken to wearing long-sleeved shirts exclusively, and where Daryl has opted for the opposite (thank God, for that.) It’s almost perfect; they’re all together, all on the brink of going insane, and then they get to some real shelter. A lot of people can’t stand Season 5 for how long the gang spends on the road, and how, in my brother’s words, some episodes felt like anime filler episodes.

Season 11 will be a long ride, but I can’t believe this’ll be the last one. I hope Rick and Michonne come back. I hope Glenn appears, in grand Walking Dead tradition, as a figment of someone’s imagination. I hope Negan gets merked. I’ve said that already, haven’t I? I’m guessing this is what people felt like when Game of Thrones was ending. I just hope this series finale won’t share the same fate that dragon show did.

Olyphantscare

I was rewatching Season 4 of The League the other day and I completely forgot that Timothy Olyphant had a small guest-starring role as a white sushi chef that accuses Nick Kroll and Stephen Rannazizzi of reverse racism. What I was most impressed with was the reminder that The League is almost entirely improvised, and that Olyphant is as adept a comedic actor (no, duh, he used to be a stand-up) as he is a dramatic cowboy in his assorted roles as slutty cowboys. Just look at him:

So You Think You’re A Petrelli

In an attempt to hang on to my mid-2000s nostalgia, my mother and I are about to finish NBC’s Heroes in its entirety. Yes, it’s another round of What Are My Mum and I Watching Right Now! I remember very distinct moments from this show, but if you asked me before this if I remembered what the show was about, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

Heroes follow a group of strangers that discover they’re all connected after an eclipse bestows or activates superhuman abilities inside them and how it affects their relationships to their loved ones and to each other, all the while, of course, trying to save the world.

I vividly remember three scenes: Jessalyn Gilsig as Claire (Hayden Panettiere)’s biological mother whose superpower is Johnny Storm fire dying engulfed in her own flames in a special prison cell; Jessalyn Gilsig, Claire’s biological mum, and Claire in a terrifying game of Russian Roulette, and Sylar (Zachary Quinto) being tricked into thinking he’s a member of the Petrelli family.

I remember a lot of Jessalyn Gilsig on this show even though she was just a recurring role. Her, Jayma Mays, and Dianna Agron all had recurring roles on Heroes prior to their respective unhinged yet brilliant performances on Glee. Agron even plays a cheerleader! Just like Quinn Fabray!

I think the Sylar Petrelli subplot was hilarious. It’s very soap opera-like. Only this show managed to pull off a long-lost brother storyline about a guy whose signature move is to slice people’s skulls open to steal their powers. Whilst the Petrellis are an upstanding, influential, Italian-American family in New York, they are also a family full of superpowered individuals. Their matriarch Angela (Cristine Rose), gifted with precognitive dreams, manages to manipulate former serial killer Sylar into believing that he is her long-lost son. She literally exploits her own mommy issues for personal gain! And they aired it on NBC! Wild!

What has also been a treat for me is watching Ali Larter play three different characters in the span of four seasons. Her portrayal of Niki Sanders, her alter ego Jessica, and her estranged identical triplet sister Tracy Strauss has been so much fun to watch. I found out that Larter posed for the cover of Esquire in 1996 as fictional starlet Allegra Coleman, a creation of writer Martha Sherill commenting on the phenomenon of Hollywood ingenues.

Heroes is quintessentially noughties. Though it ended in 2010, everything about it was informed by America’s attitudes towards its own power and need to assert itself into other countries’ business out of fear that they’ll lose that power. It’s a very on-the-nose allegory for post-9/11 American exceptionalism and paranoia, as well as an almost naively idealized version of the American dream. The entirety of Season 3 turns our titular Heroes into fugitives because people without powers consider them dangerous and a potential terrorist threat. That sounds pretty American, doesn’t it?

We’re on the 4th and final season right now. Heroes got canceled at the end of its fourth season, and the traditional and preferred use of the word canceled, by the way. Like, NBC didn’t want to make another season canceled. Not “canceled” canceled, although I’m sure people have tried to “cancel” cancel it. Season 4 is a different beast, and I’m not sure I mean that in a good way. We got some great recurring roles this season though; Jayma Mays briefly returns as Charlie, the diner waitress with an eidetic memory. A young Tessa Thompson plays one of Claire’s sorority sisters with the ability to become invisible. Ernie Hudson plays a cop that’s hunting down an amnesiac Sylar that gets tricked into coming to a circus run by Robert Knepper’s Samuel Sullivan. Oh, and the No Ragrets guy, Scottie P, from We’re The Millers appears as a boy who has the power to control the flow of life and death. It’s not perfect, but it’s still a watchable season.

Save the cheerleader, save the world is still so, so catchy.

That’s all for this week! Sorry for the Thursday! I think given the state of the world and how that’s affected my brain, this might become a Wednesday/Thursday affair. Bear with me.

All my love, Ari.