The Walking Dead’s greatest character death scene that ended up not being one, the day Nicholas said ‘Thank You’ to Glenn Rhee.
Breathing slows to a crawl, the mind wants to act but the body won’t obey as death is fingertips away. Picture The Walking Dead’s Nicholas on top of a garbage dumpster, frozen in place. One wrong step and agony is promised from every corner. Walker arms outstretched, reaching for their dinner like a juicy steak being teased in front of a lion. Nicholas realizes his present company has no answer for his fate, no exit door, no rabbit to pull out of a hat. Glenn attempts to reason with him amidst the chaos but it might is well be white noise. The nihilistic, rapid decay of Nicholas’ mind is in full swing.
An ‘impulsive’ decision has already been pre-made, Glenn just doesn’t know it yet. Still hopeful, Glenn pleads with Nicholas to “Look at me!” but the days of bravado are over. All that stares back are lifeless eyes that have seen their destiny. The journey has come to its final stop as Nicholas is in acceptance of his imminent departure. No end to stay the whole movie, he’s leaving this theater on his own.
He politely whispers “Thank You” to the last person he’ll ever see, then shoots himself point blank. All the while, Glenn is powerless to save Nicholas from himself despite being inches away. A crimson mask of misery paints Glenn’s face, stunning him. Before Glenn can fully process and react to what has happened, a forsaken Nicholas falls directly into him. The two take a spill off the dumpster into the abyss. In that moment, it appears Glenn is about to meet his maker as a ravenous horde tears every limb and organ.
“Thank You” in Retrospective
The scene was some of the best camera work ever done on a Walking Dead episode, as you watch the dead feast from Glenn’s own viewpoint. Michael Slovis [Breaking Bad] directed the chapter with now-showrunner Angela Kang [Terriers] penning the script. It wasn’t the first time the series has dealt with a character feeling the way Nicholas did, as Andrea experienced similar emotions in season 1 episode 6 [“TS-19”].
It is one of the rare times however, that a character went through with the it despite not having a walker bite. If you recall back in season 4’s premiere, Clara, a destitute woman Rick Grimes meets in the woods, stabs herself to be with her undead husband.
Despite viewers being familiar with the possibility of the dire concept on The Walking Dead… “Thank You” was jaw dropping all the same. The scene was exceptionally powerful, definitely above the call of duty of a regular television episode. From Nicholas’ ominous ‘Thank You,’ to pulling the trigger without warning, to the sudden realization for the viewer that a series original had ‘met their end.’ Although Tyreese’ final episode was brilliant with The Governor’s iconic return, this scene would top it in terms of shock value.
Glenn fans were traumatized from the event to such an extent, they seemingly appeared to will him back on the show through massive social media backlash. Of course, it’s probable Glenn surviving the dumpster horde was always planned. Or at least some kind of audience testing ground. As he was not featured during the ‘In Memoriam’ spot on Talking Dead falling the episode. This all lead to obvious, immediate speculation and theories that Glenn had survived under the dumpster.
The ‘Glenn pulls himself under the dumpster’ theory becomes reality
It was amusing to see photoshops of the theory circulate online, until the show actually went with this exact idea verbatim! Which inevitably damaged the scene’s overall credibility a fair bit. A good portion of fans now remember the scene more for Glenn’s escape rather than the spectacle and picturesque horror.
Nowadays, anytime a major character death is teased on The Walking Dead, you’ll find no end of YouTube one-liners and memes that start off, ‘He slipped under the dumpster!’
No cheating fate for Glenn Rhee
If it was indeed a testing ground for future character deaths, bringing Glenn back did not work out the way fans hoped. As Glenn would again be at the receiving end of a shocking moment in season 7’s premiere. Negan unexpectedly took him out as a second victim post-Abraham, seemingly out of nowhere! The show had been promoting just one person would be chosen by Negan for months after season 6’s cliffhanger.
It stayed true to the comic, as Negan’s Lucille picked Glenn there too. Although season 7’s character death for Glenn Rhee after Abraham was an instant jaw-dropping scene on its own… It’s still second to the perceived dumpster end for him. As TWD creator Robert Kirkman once mentioned, the bigger the character, the more grand and impactful the end scene.
Ironically, in terms of television twists and cinematography… The character end scene that never was, still reigns as what would have been the show’s greatest.
“Thank You” took place in The Walking Dead season 6, episode 3. Purchase “Thank You” digitally on Amazon to relive the whole sequence that led up to Nicholas and Glenn Rhee getting trapped in the first place.
Negan fans, be sure to check out the pros and cons of letting Sanctuary’s former head honcho out of his cell in Alexandria!