How The Walking Dead Made Glenn's First Kill As Emotional As Possible

Warning: spoilers ahead for Episode 12 of Season 6 of The Walking Dead.

There aren’t too many characters left on The Walking Dead who have been around since Season 1, and most of those who have survived have a lot of blood on their hands to explain how they managed to do so. Considering that Rick, Daryl, Carol, and even Carl have killed people, the reminder in the most recent episode that Glenn had never taken a human life was genuinely surprising, and it made Glenn’s first kill an unexpectedly emotional moment in an action-packed hour of television. According to director Greg Nicotero, he went the extra mile to set up actor Steven Yeun for his big scene.

But when we shot that scene with Glenn it was really important to me as a director to do everything I could to lay down the groundwork for Steven Yeun to just have this emotional moment. So we made really beautiful fake prosthetic heads. We had a dummy on the cot, and we put a ring on his finger and laid his hands across the dummy’s chest. So when Steven came up, he saw the hand with a ring on it and this head…It’s not in the shot. It was done purely as a device to get Steven to the next level.

Creating beautiful fake prosthetic heads for actors to stab off-screen isn’t exactly the most effective way to pull great performances, but in adding an extra layer to the dummy by giving it a wedding ring and presenting it as a real human in a possible relationship, that really drew out the right results. Nicotero revealed his trick in his chat with Entertainment Weekly and explained how Yeun brought such nuance to a scene that could have felt out of place.

Of course, Steven Yeun has more than proven himself a great actor over his six seasons of the show, so he definitely already had the chops to change Glenn from the hopeful man who had never taken a life to the killer willing to do what is necessary to protect his family. Even if it meant taking out someone who might have had a family of his or her own. The realistic dummy giving something for Yeun to focus his energy on really elevated the moment.

On the one hand, we have to feel a bit bad for Glenn that he had to break his streak of choosing not to kill. There aren’t many characters who can still see glasses as half full, and Glenn may lose that ability after this episode. On the other hand, however, his odds of surviving the season may have just increased. On The Walking Dead, the moral compasses tend to be the ones to die the most gruesome deaths, so Glenn getting some human blood on his hands may be enough to spare him from being killed off for a little while longer. There’s been enough foreshadowing in the second half of Season 6 to guess that Negan is going to be taking a good guy out of the game, but perhaps Glenn’s odds of surviving just increased.

Unfortunately for Glenn, Maggie’s odds of surviving have seriously dropped. To see just who will fall victim to Negan in Season 6, be sure to tune in to AMC on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET to catch new episodes of The Walking Dead.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.