Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “The Walking Dead” episode 605, titled “Now.”
After last week’s divisive, Morgan-centric flashback episode, the Nov. 8 installment of “The Walking Dead” brought us back to the present, catching up with the Alexandrians in the immediate aftermath of the Wolves’ attack, and allowing us to see Maggie’s reaction to Glenn’s absence, which prompted her to load up on weapons and sneak out in search of her husband. Lauren Cohan has some thoughts on Glenn’s fate and Maggie’s motivations in Variety‘s Q&A, which you’ll find below this week’s recap.
Despite episode 603 leaving Rick in a fairly tenuous situation, with the RV being overrun with walkers as they ambled towards Alexandria, our fearless leader managed to make it back to the not-so “safe zone” on foot, although everyone was troubled by the fact that Glenn, Daryl, Sasha and Abraham remained MIA. (Maybe some people cared about Nicholas too, but it’s doubtful, right?)
No one was more concerned than Maggie, who was joined in her expedition by the equally stubborn Aaron, who felt responsible for leading the Wolves to Alexandria after losing his pack in one of their traps when he and Daryl were out recruiting last season.
While Maggie initially insisted she was motivated by practicality — telling Aaron, “If he’s alive, he’s hurt or trapped, maybe taken. If he’s alive, he needs my help, that’s why I’m doing this. And if he’s dead, I don’t wanna be waiting on him” — it soon became clear that grief and guilt were driving her mission, as she confided that she was pregnant, which was part of the reason why Glenn insisted she stay behind during the group’s ill-fated attempt to lead the herd away.
“I just want to see his face,” she tearfully admitted to Aaron, finally vocalizing the heartbreaking helplessness she felt at not only being unable to help Glenn, but also being oblivious about his ultimate fate. “I can’t. I don’t get to know what will happen; I don’t get to know why it happened; what I did right or wrong… not now. I have to live with that. You do, too.”
As curious as we all are about Glenn’s fate, a part of me would be far more satisfied if we never got to find out — that would certainly be a bolder narrative choice than either making his death a fake-out (which, in my opinion, would fatally undermine the show’s credibility, given that he was entirely surrounded by walkers and the dumpster couldn’t have provided that much cover to prevent them reaching in to scratch him), or by bringing him back as a zombie, which only really serves to twist the knife for Maggie and the rest of the group.
In a world like “The Walking Dead,” it’s both realistic and probable that a loved one might die or go missing without giving any clue as to their fate — leaving their partner ignorant as to what happened, why, or what could’ve been done to change it. It leaves a sliver of hope, certainly, but also a lingering scar, a lack of closure that would haunt the rest of the group forever. Death is often arbitrary and meaningless, and while the show has rarely been ambiguous about the fate of its characters, it would be somewhat revolutionary for the writers to refuse to answer the question and leave Glenn’s fate dangling, since TV is usually so eager to spoonfeed its audience instead of allowing them to interpret a scene for themselves (which is why we’re still discussing the “Sopranos” series finale almost a decade later).
If the first four episodes of the season focused on death and destruction, “Now” put the focus on fresh beginnings as the survivors attempted to adjust to the new status quo. Alexandria’s innocence has been shattered, but that’s arguably the only way any of the sheltered civilians have a chance of surviving from this point on, with Wolves and walkers at their door.
At first, the Alexandrians seemed ready to give up, with many inhabitants trying to raid the food storage locker because they didn’t want to spend their last days on rations, while one neighbor was apparently so driven to despair, she slit her wrists and reanimated in her house as a walker, prompting Jessie to put her down.
Everyone from young Sam to Spencer clearly agreed that things had inexorably changed in Alexandria following the brutal attack, and a newfound practicality seemed to emerge. Jessie took the opportunity to remind both Rick and her neighbors that “this is what life looks like now,” but that doesn’t mean they can’t forge a future together in spite of their circumstances — leading to a long overdue kiss between her and Rick, which probably won’t go down well with her older son Ron, who earlier asked Rick to teach him to shoot, for reasons I’m guessing are unrelated to defending himself from walkers.
Despite the show’s many recent losses, the episode managed to cling on to an air of optimism — mostly because Maggie refused to give up on Glenn, resolutely scrubbing his name off Alexandria’s remembrance wall at the end of the episode. Tara also shared a moment of sweet intimacy with new doctor Denise, and Rosita pushed aside her worries about Abraham’s safety to offer a pep talk to Spencer, who clearly needs it after almost giving in to his own sense of despair when confronted with the body count in Alexandria and his own inability to fight back. But did he volunteer to relieve her from watch duty out of the goodness of his heart, or could that have been his blood dripping down the wall as Deanna walked past the fence at the end of the hour?
Much like Nicholas in episode 603, Deanna went through much of the episode in a state of shock, barely able to comprehend the violation of her sanctuary so soon after losing her husband. But when she came face to face with a Wolf-turned-walker, she finally got to work out some of her aggression and grief with a broken bottle (although she apparently failed to absorb the lesson that you need to aim for the brain instead of the heart). But, after unsuccessfully trying to fit the square pegs of Rick’s group into the round holes of Alexandria’s way of doing things last season, this week she finally acknowledged that the Alexandrians don’t need her optimistic brand of leadership — they need Rick’s practicality if they hope to survive what’s ahead.
No one quite epitomizes practicality and optimism the way Glenn and Maggie have over the past few seasons, so Variety spoke to Lauren Cohan about what’s ahead for her character with Glenn still missing and a baby on the way.
Variety: We see Maggie seemingly acknowledging the likelihood that Glenn is dead while she and Aaron are in the sewers, but later she seems to regain some hope – what’s behind her change of heart?
Cohan: I think we’ve known Maggie as a character who perseveres with hope, and I don’t think this is any exception. He’s not back but he’s come back and we as a group have come back from worse things, so when there is an option, always hope.
So Glenn knew Maggie was pregnant before he left, and that was why he wanted her to stay behind?
Yeah, he did know; they knew – that was a big part of the reason why she stayed.
Does she honestly think that things could’ve been different if she’d gone out with Glenn and the rest of the group, or is that just a coping mechanism to deal with how helpless she feels?
I think it’s a bit of both – she’s spewing her what ifs to Aaron and that’s definitely a consideration. They promised each other that they would never be apart again, and that’s a fact. And how the hell do you deal with that? It’s horrifying. This show really takes us through the wringer. [Laughs.]
She and Aaron had a lot in common this week – is he going to continue to be a confidante for her moving forward?
I think they have a kinship, those two. I think she recognized his goodness when she first met him and that definitely continues. They’re sort of on a shared journey here with guilt and blame and as we saw, Aaron’s really struggling in this episode with his part to play in the attack on Alexandria. So I think there’s a sibling-ish kinship.
What stopped her from going out of the sewers behind the herd – was it that she felt like it would be a suicide mission with the walkers so close, or was it that she wanted to protect Aaron, since he seemed to be as kamikaze as she was?
Kamikaze, that’s such a good word for this episode! I’d like people to be able to take what they will from that, I think it’s a cocktail of motivations.
Is she going to tell anyone else in the group that she’s pregnant in the immediate future, or are there people who already know and we just haven’t seen it on screen at this point?
I like the idea that there’s a life around what we see, around these slices, so things will unfold as we go, I don’t want to spoil that.
Have you been paying attention to the fan reaction to Glenn’s apparent death online?
It’s been really, really overwhelmingly difficult to see people. I know for Steve [Yeun] and the whole cast really, it’s a group grief, a world consciousness, almost. There are fan reaction videos of people that film themselves watching the episodes. And I cry all over again watching people’s reactions, because oh god, Glenn, not Glenn. He’s the epitome of goodness and hope.
Scott Gimple said we’d see Glenn again in some form – do you think the answer will be satisfying to fans? Was it satisfying to you as an audience member when you learned about it?
To say “satisfying” would be a disservice to any storyline on “The Walking Dead,” because it is never, anything that happens – and I’m not talking about Glenn’s fate – anything that happens is so complex and side-swiping that it’s just… it’s never tied up in a bow, and that’s what I love so much in the show … We get the constant punch and the constant visceral feeling, but on such a slow burn. It’s like a volcano brewing and wreaking havoc, but life sprouting through the ash, that’s how I feel about “The Walking Dead” and what Scott Gimple does, and I’m in constant awe of the vaults of that man’s mind. It’s incredible, it’s like all the universities of the United States exist in his brain, and what’s coming this season, it’s a wonderland. I’m literally a fangirl for the scripts of this show.
How would you describe Maggie’s trajectory for the rest of the season? Will we see her trying to be more cautious because she’s pregnant, or is she still going to be taking risks like we saw in this episode?
It’s going to be a war between all her desires and resistance. If you take war and potential loss of husband out of the equation and you just look at motherhood, and you just look at relationship with Deanna and you just look at new world having just lost sister and father, even if you took all those things away and just look at motherhood, it’s such a journey ahead. I’m so excited to get to explore and portray the ultimate hero, which is a woman bringing a child into the world. Every single day is a discovery in pretending to do this, let alone actually doing it. [Laughs.] It just makes me love my mom and my aunties and everyone who’s had a baby ten times more. It’s a righteous job, and the responsibility to bring life is heightened by the loss of life that we have. I want people to take what they will from the choice of pregnancy.
Now Deanna has finally seemed to snap out of her shock, will Maggie be the one helping her acclimate, or does it fall to Rick to show her the ropes when it comes to defending herself?
It’s a good symbiosis – it’s the symbiosis that Maggie and Glenn had when one’s down and the other’s up. The water keeps finding its balance and Deanna is up in time to shore up Maggie again and the group, and that’s the beauty of these people. Even though Deanna’s new to the group, the core group has all been together as long as they have that [they have this] understanding what people need without having to say it, and you get to take out the family drama because nobody sweats the small stuff anymore, so it’s cool.
Having lost Beth and Hershel and potentially Glenn in such a short time, is she going to be able to keep that sense of hope and optimism alive, or will that be challenged by everything she’s going through?
Maggie is this person who will not give up, it’s innocent until proven otherwise, so as we see at the end of this episode, I’m taking his name off that wall, as is Aaron.
You’ve also got a horror film coming out in January, “The Boy” — what drew you to the film?
I heard someone say once that if you’re afraid to do it, that’s a sign that you should, and I read that script and I felt so disturbed and so unwanting to go down that road psychologically that I realized I had to. It’s such a great story and it was undeniable and I had to do it.
There’s something so inexplicably creepy about porcelain dolls…
We imbue them with so much life and love. I have the same stuffed animals I’ve had since I was a child and they’re so meaningful to me, and I know they’re not real, but it’s the love you give something that makes it real – I sound like I’m reading from “The Velveteen Rabbit,” but it kind of is. That’s a big part of what becomes so disturbing about “The Boy.”
Finally, is there anything you can preview about next week’s episode of “The Walking Dead”?
If these episodes have been any sort of inkling as to the depths of emotion we’re gonna feel this year, then keep watching…
“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.