As the old saying goes, a cat has nine lives. In the zombie apocalypse, former pizza boy turned wise leader Glenn Rhee had a thousand.
The comic books already sealed his fate. It was ultimately a matter of time to see if television would follow suit. After six years on The Walking Dead, we're giving thanks to Glenn Rhee and Steven Yeun, a cinnamon roll too precious for this world who managed to survive against all odds.
It's rare in television for good-hearted characters to not only survive in an apocalypse but also become a fan-favorite. Maybe we're often a pessimistic bunch and it irks us when someone can seem so damn honestly good, especially in a world when it's an eye for an eye, blood out for blood.
Sometimes we want to know what dark and tortured issues makes a person tick, what makes them sane or insane in a dog-eat-dog society.
Often goody characters also come with on-the-nose warning signs of their imminent peril. We never feel like our growing admiration is trusted in the hands of writers who will unpredictably cast aside our heroes to the wolves.
But somehow Glenn defied everything that literally stood in his way, not only from a writer's perspective but in this ridiculous world known as the zombie apocalypse.
I get to be the funny guy with the one-liners, I get to be the romantic male in the group, and I've been able to be a bad-ass on occasion. Actors only dream of an opportunity like this. - Steven YeunPeople survive differently; it can make them be a mayor of crazy town, become an unforgivable monster, or live and lead with others day-to-day. Glenn definitely fell into the latter group, but his way of life was more than simply existing. Level-headed, humble, and good-hearted, Glenn was a beacon of how people can choose to persevere if they actively chose to. He was a genuine light in the darkness.
Community made him mature. Love means sacrifice but it also symbolizes stability; where you love, you have hope. His relationship to Maggie didn't break him, no matter their accumulation of losses. She made him realize that being walker bait wasn't cool; it was time to grow up and consider the future, whichever is however long it lasts and what they forge with the right mindset and their own hands. They were each other's equals; giving strength to one another and being each other's guiding light.
The Walking Dead has proven surviving a zombie apocalypse not just a game of brawn. Being physically fit and wielding weapons certainly ups your odds, but a good portion of using your brains comes into play too. A lot of heart goes into persevering.
When shit hit the fan, Glenn thought about who he wanted to be when the dust settled. The danger that surrounded Glenn didn't stop him from being his own moral compass. Early on he accepted that every friend or foe has something to offer, and holding onto his humanity separated him from the enemies. He remained sane, diplomatic, helpful, and resilient. This is a whole other kind of courage that's very rare not just in The Walking Dead universe but the real world.
And let us not grow weary of doing good. For in due season we will reap if we do not give up. - message Glenn sees in Father Gabriel's churchTime after time Glenn's composure was tested. He's lost his cool and questioned whether his fairness to not mercilessly kill was worth it. But his obstacles only re-enforced his strength. His focus to rebuild shone through because of his dedication to not harden or hold grudges; to not cause violence for violence's sake; to be living examples of the wisdom and blessings he received by his family. For every person the group lost, he used a piece of them forward. He observed dire situations and saw the thru-line of what kind of person he wanted to be.
Glenn was so lovable and respected primarily because of Steven Yeun who played him. Unlike Rick, Glenn didn't have the freedom to run to the edge of Crazy Town and return back from the brink. Unlike Carol, Glenn wasn't someone who was a quiet yet significant force of nature. Unlike Daryl, he wasn't a gruff bad-ass decked out in leather jackets riding around on sick cycle and acting all mysterious.
Glenn had a good heart, and that's not easy to come across as too melancholy, kooky, or naive. Yeun's humble abilities carried a significant honesty to his character's downfalls and triumphs. Glenn was a steady stream of finding the good within the bad, ugly, and just plain atrocious. He smart, wise, charming, funny, hopeful, and realistic. Yeun did it all with an underrated genuine heart and kindness. His character's transformation is one of the most remarkable arcs of the series second none to Peletier and Grimes.
It's difficult to say goodbye to someone who provided such a reasonable, and calm presence in such a grim, bloody chaotic world. He is one of the most layered and respected members of the original and evolving Atlanta clan, and it will be nearly impossible for the impact of his character to be fulfilled in the future. As fans of the pizza boy, his admirable positivity and ability to think of others before himself will always be with us. To Glenn and Steve, for everything, I give a humble Thank You.