Spoilers ahead for the premiere of The Walking Dead. If you haven't been spoiled by this point, way to go. Now go watch the episode.
Its been nearly a week since The Walking Dead's explosive Season 7 premiere, and the fandom still hasn't recovered. After anticipating and wishing for the answer to last season's controversial cliffhanger, TWD fans quickly ate their words as we watched two fan favorite characters be brutally killed. Glenn's death was particularly devastating, as it shocked audiences and featured a heartbreaking conclusion to the Maggie/Glenn relationship. But now it appears that the death was similarly difficult for Walking Dead creator and writer Robert Kirkman.
Fans of the Walking Dead comics will know that Glenn died at the hands of Negan in issue 100, in a nearly identical way to his on screen death. This was apparently an especially hard issue for Robert Kirkman to write since Steven Yeun had already been cast in the TV series:
Glenn was actually the first death in the comic that happened after the person was cast. Abraham died in the comic book before Cudlitz had ever been cast as Abraham. There are a lot of other big deaths that happened, but they were all done in the comic before the person was cast, so Glenn was actually the first time while I was writing the comic where I was like, 'Oh, geez.'
Well this is interesting. You'd think after the myriad horrors that Robert Kirkman has written for the Walking Dead comics, nothing would really affect him at this point. He's seen (and wrote) it all. But now it appears, via his interview with EW, that having a real life person associated with the role gave Kirkman a moment to pause. Before writing the most significant death in the series' history.
Robert Kirkman's trepidation about killing Glenn also comes from how long the pizza delivery boy's tenure in the comics and TV series was. Glenn was one of the only original characters from the Atlanta camp still around, so he had an affinity for Mr. Rhee and his significant character arc. Kirkman elaborates:
There's an extra level to it because it's lines on paper that Charlie Adlard draws and it's a character that I've been writing so I have a connection to it and an affinity for it because I've been spending so much time with this fake character. But Glenn was the first time there was an actual human being type to it in such an intimate way so it does make things a little weird and more difficult, but at the same time I can't allow that to change the way that I write stories. I just push through it and stay the course, but I do find myself very hesitant to do character deaths on the show.
Robert Kirkman may have collectively broken America's hearts, but at least he knows it. Kirkman's emotional reaction to the OG survivor's death echoes all of ours. From the original cast, we now only have four survivors: Rick, Carl, Daryl, and Carol. While Carol has been dead in the comics for quite some time, it should be interesting to see how Kirkman's affinity for the original cast affects his writing moving forward.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC.