All The Walking Dead heroes, male and female alike are easy to identify with, but in very different ways. The most recognized men of TWD – Glenn, Daryl, and Rick – aren’t just unwashed versions of Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus, and Andrew Lincoln. They mean far more than that to fans.
The Walking Dead’s fans often wonder, how they would stack up in an apocalypse. Would they be heroic like Andrew Lincoln’s Rick, Steven Yeun’s Glenn, and Norman Reedus’ Daryl? Or, would they be more of a liability like some of the other The Walking Dead characters. Worse yet, would they perhaps be dying in the first season like so many of the great early characters who died in the forests or on the road?
In The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, and Steven Yeun were a sort of masculine trinity for the first six seasons. Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, and Steven Yeun each had something unique to offer the group of survivors and the viewing audience. If there had been only one hero, only one guy everyone relied on for everything, neither the survivors in The Walking Dead’s plot nor the show itself would have endured for seven seasons.
Steven Yeun had been around since the first season of The Walking Dead. Glenn helped Rick, portrayed by Andrew Lincoln, escape the zombie hordes after Rick fool-heartedly rode a horse into a major city during a zombie apocalypse.
The Walking Dead’s Glenn was from his first episode a hero, saving Andrew Lincoln’s protagonist character Rick Grimes from certain death. All this as Norman Reedus was building Daryl Dixon from the ground up since Daryl was not in The Walking Dead graphic novels at all.
Steven Yeun doesn’t feel that way about it though. Steven Yeun said he felt Glenn never got to shine on The Walking Dead, as some of the other stars perhaps like Norman Reedus or Andrew Lincoln. Steven Yeun told Vulture he felt Glenn wasn’t highlighted enough.
“I never felt like he got his fair due. I never felt like he got it from an outward perception.”
When Steven Yeun’s Glenn was brutally killed in the premiere of The Walking Dead Season 7, fans were almost as crushed as poor Glenn. It was devastating. Thrill List describes how much fans loved Glenn.
“[Steven Yeun’s Glenn] is second only to Daryl [Norman Reedus] in terms of audience affection, making his death really count. Steven Yeun has been with the series from the very beginning, and it’s a testament to his fine work that, even though his murder-by-bludgeoning followed the source material to the word, the execution was absolutely shocking.”
Yes, The Walking Dead fans loved Steven Yeun as Glenn, but does Steven know that? Steven Yeun finally opened up to Vulture completely about his feelings about Glenn’s demise on The Walking Dead.
“I truly feel like people didn’t know what to do with Glenn. They liked him, they had no problems with him, and people enjoyed him. But they didn’t acknowledge the connection people had with the character until he was gone.”
Did The Walking Dead viewers take Steven Yeun’s Glenn for granted? Steven Yeun told Vulture he felt that was the case. Then Steven Yeun explained that Glenn was missed horribly the moment he was gone.
“But this one felt gratuitous because one, it kept going, and two, I think they took away someone that I didn’t realize I had made such a connection with until they took him away.”
Some The Walking Dead fans perhaps took Steven Yeun’s Glenn for granted, but it’s also possible that many identified with Glenn heavily. Steven Yeun’s Glenn was younger and less experienced than Andrew Lincoln’s Rick and Norman Reedus’ Daryl.
Steven Yeun’s Glenn was neither a police officer like Andrew Lincoln’s Rick nor a tough biker with wilderness survival experience like Norman Reedus’ character. The Walking Dead’s Glenn was starting from a place that was similar to most modern Americans.
It’s possible that connection Steven Yeun speaks of isn’t that of just a heroic TV character. Glenn’s death on The Walking Dead symbolically killed the viewers, at least the ones who identified with Steven Yeun as Glenn. It was like saying, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, the best case scenario for the average mortal who adapts as quickly as Steven Yeun’s Glenn did is six seasons.
The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon is more reminiscent of American folk hero legends than he is most people in the contemporary society. Norman Reedus has created an amazing character, and the one everyone admires, but few who are honest with themselves would expect to be like Daryl Dixon in an actual emergency.
The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun knew the perception of Glenn was different than the perception of Norman Reedus’ Daryl.
“Well, we don’t need to give the shine to that character. There’s all these other characters who are so cool! I’d always hear people go, ‘I love Glenn, he’s my favorite character.’ But the merchandise would go one way. That really might be the market, so I’m not going to sit here and be like, ‘Why didn’t they make Glenn merchandise?’ But there was a disparity.”
Perhaps the reason The Walking Dead fans were so crushed when Steven Yeun’s Glenn was so horribly killed was that he was the character that best represented them.
“They didn’t know what Glenn was, and only in his death did they realize, ‘Oh, that’s what he was. That’s the connection I had, and that’s why it hurts me so much to see him die.’”
Steven Yeun finally expresses that very point. The point is that Glenn did represent the real actual self of The Walking Dead viewers. Not the heroic ideal, but the real hero in real human beings.
“A lot of the other characters are awesome characters, but they’re exactly that — they’re awesome and they’re to be in awe of: I wish I was that guy or that girl. With Glenn it was, I think I’m like that guy. You take that guy out of the equation and you do it in such a brutal fashion, there’s got to be some gut reaction to that.”
In The Walking Dead comics, it was more apparent that Glenn represented the reader even before Steven Yeun was cast.
The Walking Dead was first a graphic novel, or comic. Rick was the hero, and far more central to the plot than he is in The Walking Dead television series. Glenn, however, was Rick’s balance. Rick had strength and experience, but Steven Yeun’s Glenn, much like in the comics was fast, agile and very smart. Norman Reedus’ Daryl was not in the comics.
Glenn in The Walking Dead Comics was most like the readers. Glenn was young, bright, perhaps slightly geeky, and a city kid. It would be easy to imagine that before the apocalypse even Steven Yeun’s Glenn read a lot of comics.
Andrew Lincoln’s Rick, or the Rick of The Walking Dead comics, would have been the one comic book readers identified with. Rick’s son Carl perhaps, but not Rick. Rick was the hero of the comics, but he and Norman Reedus were not like the target audience for The Walking Dead comics.
Norman Reedus’ character Daryl Dixon was not in The Walking Dead Comics, but his character was needed for the on-screen version. When the zombies stopped being two-dimensional and became live action, it was pretty obvious that Glenn and Rick were going to need some help, if the group was going to survive.
Steven Yeun told Vulture the real secret of Glenn in The Walking Dead. Steven Yeun’s Glenn represented the viewer. That is why it hurt so bad when he was killed so brutally.
If that is so, then what would killing Daryl Dixon as portrayed by Norman Reedus mean. Reedus’ Daryl represents something beyond a human hero. Norman Reedus has, for many seasons now, represented something more like a demigod. Norman Reedus’ Daryl is far more proficient than any ordinary person would be.
RELATED REPORTS FROM THE INQUISITR
If The Walking Dead lets Norman Reedus’ character Daryl die, the message would clearly be, abandon all hope of anyone’s survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
[Featured Image by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images]