In the six seasons AMC has broadcast The Walking Dead, enough characters have died to fill a small city (or at least a township). But one scene from early in Season 6 was easily the most traumatizing, controversial "death" the show has ever broadcast.
Spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 6 past this point.
We're talking, of course, about the death of Nicholas (Michael Traynor), which caused the "death" of Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun). In Season 6, Episode 3, "Thank You," Nicholas and Glenn are trapped by a herd of hungry undead walkers, and forced to seek refuge on top of a dumpster. Nicholas has struggled with redeeming himself after attacking Glenn in Season 5, as well as causing the death of Glenn's friend Noah (Tyler James Williams).
So when faced with impossible odds, Nicholas looks directly at Glenn, says, "Thank you," and shoots himself in the head. And then Nicholas falls on Glenn, knocking him directly into the herd. And then all around the country, everyone screamed as nice guy Glenn was seemingly ripped to shreds.
...Except he wasn't, of course. It was a fake out: Nicholas was ripped to shreds, not Glenn, as his dead body protected the former pizza boy from becoming dinner. The earnest optimist Glenn used the opportunity to crawl under the dumpster and hide until the herd dissipated; and once the truth was revealed, fans were, how you say, not very pleased at either possibility. With the release of The Walking Dead: The Complete Sixth Season hitting disc and digital on August 23, TVGuide.com is exclusively revealing a bonus feature titled "Guts and Glory" which delves deep into how this painful scene came together.
The biggest question still lingering for fans: what did Nicholas intend? While some behind the scenes folks believe, "It's not a malicious act... it's just utter terror," Yeun disagrees.
"That really might have been the best for Nicholas to sacrifice himself for Glenn," Yeun muses. "That he would knock him over and land on top of him, and then be a literal distraction so he can crawl underneath the dumpster. So in the end, maybe Nicholas is a hero."
Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd agrees with Yeun, saying, "I tend to look at a glass and see it as half full. I'd like to believe his last act truly was heroic, rather than cowardly."
Traynor falls somewhere in between. Mainly, he's not even sure Nicholas knew what he was doing. "There's a thousand different thoughts, a thousand different pinpoints of panic," Traynor recalls, though afterwards his thoughts turned more towards the fans, than Nicholas. "You want it to be good, you want that fan reaction like, 'ah, god, I hated him but why did he do that? Because I wanted to continue hating him.' You know?"
To find out more of what the cast and crew thinks, as well as the surprising story of how Producer Greg Nicotero directed the whole scene while in zombie make-up, be sure to watch the video above.
The Walking Dead: The Complete Sixth Season streets on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD on August 23 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.