With the second half of The Walking Dead‘s suspense-filled Season 6 starting Sunday, fans are understandably aflutter over what may be in store for the survivors. After all, who can blame us for being a little paranoid after the whole Glenn “is he dead or not” debacle of 2015?
You remember, right? It was that excruciating stretch of time when fan favorite Glenn (Steven Yeun) lived — or at least we hoped we was living — in a state of limbo as AMC danced all around his fate.
The biggest factor working against fans’ favor, of course, was the incredibly gruesome scene in which Glenn appeared to watch as his entrails were ripped out and eaten by a ravenous throng of walkers. Also not hopeful? The fact that the producers removed his name from the opening credits.
Those factors, coupled with zero social media activity on Yeun’s account, were enough to drive anyone stark raving mad.
Of course, as we all now know, Glenn survived by rolling under a dumpster. Yay! Glenn’s alive! But booooo, producers tortured us for weeks on end. I think that adequately captures the most prevailing sentiments upon learning Glenn avoided a grisly death.
And while it would be easy to be irked at AMC for toying with our emotions, Yeun — who is opening up for the first time about Glenn’s near-death storyline — insists their intentions weren’t malicious. In fact, they were actually trying to honor the The Walking Dead experience for fans.
For starters, he says, they were simply trying to do something authentic. They decided on a certain path, and then they pursued that path singularly.
“I was all gung-ho and in for it, and whatever anybody wants to say about the execution — people might be bummed about it or be fine with it, and I have my own personal opinions about it — but the core of it all is really that we went for something, that we tried something, in a time when we’re getting drudged-down, safe versions of everything,” Yeun told EW.
Naturally, not everyone was going to be fan of their approach. But really, what else were the network, producers and cast supposed to do? Make it abundantly apparent Glenn wasn’t dead? Wouldn’t that have taken even more away from the viewing experience?
“We tried for something that could have been dangerous, and to some, it was,” Yeun acknowledged. “And to some, they didn’t like it, and things became polarizing to an extent for that move. But I never felt like our heart was at a place where we were trying to deceive the audience. Never were we like, ‘People are going to go crazy for this!’ It was more just like, ‘Let’s tell this story and make it compelling and make it purposeful.'”
Showrunner Scott M. Gimple also defended the decision to EW. “This is a smart audience that has been through almost six years of this show now, and it’s very difficult,” he pointed out of maintaining any mystery. “The audience are seasoned survivors now.”
As far as Yeun’s radio silence on social media goes, he says that was an intentional choice he made (once again) with the fans in mind.
“We live in a place where you can deduce what’s happening on a show based on whether the actor is present in a city or somewhere. And so, for me, again, it wasn’t coming from a place of, I’m going to deceive the audience. It was coming from a place of, I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody on how you’re going to consume or take in a storyline. So the best way to do that is to literally say nothing, and just get off the accessible grid.”
The reality is that fans weren’t duped nearly as much as they could have been. If Gimple’s original vision had come to fruition, Yeun would have appeared on Talking Dead — an act most fans consider to be a telltale sign of a character’s demise.
But, according to Yeun, the powers that be couldn’t come to a consensus about doing so and thus that idea was scrapped. Even if it hadn’t been, however, Yeun still stands by the team’s decision to protect the viewing experience for the fans.
“I think the intentions were always just to create the maximum digestion of the story,” Yeun said, “if that makes sense.”