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Warning to the uninfected: lots of spoilers for The Walking Dead ahead.
Season 6 of AMC’s The Walking Dead hasn’t exactly gotten off to a slow start, and the third episode – somewhat cruelly entitled “Thank You” – delivered blow after blow to fans of the not-so-merry band of survivors. The entire episode was almost painfully suspenseful, but the true moment of heartbreak came when one of the remaining five Atlanta survivors was seemingly devoured alive. Now, Glenn dying on The Walking Dead was always going to be awful, but Glenn dying because Nicholas shot himself in the head and knocked him into a horde of zombies was just unfair. It’s awfully easy to blame Nicholas for Glenn’s death, but the actor behind everybody’s current least favorite Alexandrian has a different outlook. Now, actor Michael Traynor shared his thoughts about why Nicholas did what he did:
We wanted to keep it a little ambiguous, and I feel as though there was just a moment of gratitude because what Nicholas says in that moment to Glenn is in a moment of peace. And I don’t think Nicholas has found any kind of peace since this horrible plague befell humanity. And I think what he’s doing there is saying thank you for this bit of peace and this it of clarity. As far as what his real motivations were, I think there is still room to explore that in the storyline.
As easy and frankly cathartic as it is to rage at Nicholas for bringing about the end of one of the most popular characters of the show, Michael Traynor did manage to effectively show Nicholas’ descent throughout “Thank You” to the point that he would turn a gun on himself. His interview with EW goes into detail about what he personally feels about that performance.
Already in a fragile state of mind after his brawl with Glenn, Nicholas deteriorated rapidly when faced with an advancing horde of zombies as well as zombified former Alexandrians who had died because Nicholas had abandoned them. The moments in which Nicholas lost touch with his surroundings even echoed those of Rick in the wake of Lori’s death in Season 3. If not for Carl and the baby, would any of us really have been surprised if Rick had bitten a bullet for the sake of some peace back then?
Michael Traynor’s explanation of Nicholas’ motivation in killing himself does make sense, but the excuse of “The zombie apocalypse made me do it!” is not one that will provide much comfort to Glenn fans. If Nicholas had to have a suicidal swan song, did he really need to take poor, helpful Glenn down with him?
Of course, there is the slight chance that Glenn is still alive. He wasn’t zombified on screen a la Shane or decapitated a la Hershel or shot through the ponytail a la Beth. So what if Glenn made a callback to his first meeting with Rick, quoted Hershel, and brought out the symbolic pocket watch one last time? He totally might not be dead. In fact, if the zombies were munching on Nicholas’ body on top of Glenn’s, Nicholas may have saved his life.
You can catch new episodes of The Walking Dead on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.