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Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet seen The Walking Dead episode "Say Yes."
Perhaps more so than in any previous seasons, The Walking Dead's seventh year has been blistering on an emotional level, getting stingy on the good-time adventures in order to usher in the tension-defined Era of Negan. It's an era that Team Family brought upon itself last season, and characters and fans are both still suffering from the losses of Glenn and Abraham in the season premiere, with tonight's episode showing audiences just how heavy that albatross is around Rick's neck. While he and Michonne are returning from their hunt, he invoked Glenn's name while delivering a classic Rick speech.
I haven't been sleeping. Thinking about what we lost. Thinking about my friends. Glenn saved me. Right at the start. I couldn't save him. It's normal. I know that. [sighs] Being stuck on it. We went through something. This...this doesn't cure it. We're gonna fight them. That's what happens next. And we're gonna lose people. Maybe a lot of them. Maybe even each other. Even then, it'll be worth it. . . . You asked me what kind of life we had just surrendering. It wasn't...it wasn't a life. What we did back there, what we're doing now - making a future for Judith, for Glenn and Maggie's baby, fighting the fight - that's living. You showed me that. You can lose me. Yes, you can. I can lose you. We can lose our friends, people we love. It's not about us anymore. It's about a future. And, if it's me who doesn't make it, you'll have to lead the others forward because you're the one who can.
It should come as no surprise to viewers that Glenn's name came up in the episode, as Rick's talk with Michonne was in response to her overwhelming fear of losing Rick when she thought he had been overtaken by walkers, not realizing it was just a deer. A death scare will forever be linked with Glenn's miraculous dumpster escape, so it was nice to hear his name again after being reminded of him just earlier. Let's hope that parallel ends there, though, and that Rick doesn't end up getting bashed over the head in the coming weeks.
The Walking Dead is not a show that lives and dies by the practicality of its situations and choices, but Rick's speech was about as sensible as anything any character has ever said or done. Glenn saved him, but he couldn't save Glenn. And while that's a crippling admission that could be made every day and obsessed over, doing so will offer little to the overall survival of the human race. So even though the cards are far more stacked against everyone in this situation than pre-apocalypse life, the only thing for Rick to do is move on and continue justifying Glenn having saved him in the first place (back in the series' second episode).
It's neither groundbreaking nor hard to wrap one's head around, of course, as it's perfectly natural to want to make the world better for one's kids. But it's one of the only absolutes left in a time where civilization is hanging on by just a tear-slicked eyelash, and it needed to be said, with Michonne feeling all the better for having heard it. (They're both all the better for a couple of elbow-nudging reasons, too, but we won't get into those while talking about Glenn.) I wonder if Rick's words were, in part, a way for showrunner Scott Gimple and the rest of the creative team to speak directly to fans in that respect, to say this show is about more than just one character or narrative strand, and no matter what happens, viewers CAN get over whatever happens if they choose to.
Though plenty of protagonists have bitten the dust on The Walking Dead, the show doesn't often do a lot to bring those past tragedies up. Or at least that was the case in the past; Glenn has been at the center of several callbacks, some visually direct and some less so. It's kind of a slight to everyone that hadn't gotten touching namechecks over the years, but I'm all for it. Especially since it wasn't just Glenn getting the attention.
Abraham has come up in different ways as well, and tonight's episode gave him a pretty important shout out in an interesting an somewhat similar way. When Rosita heads to Hilltop, Sasha is at Abraham's grave, which seems like the perfect setting for some major negative drama to go down between the two women. Instead, they form a partnership to take Negan out together. I'm not sure if Abraham earned that, but it was a nice touch anyway.