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'Walking Dead' Toys With Fans Concerning Glenn Rhee's Fate

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

"The Walking Dead," has been toying with its fans. AMC's show about a zombie apocalypse either did or did not kill off the much-loved character Glenn Rhee. And people have been left in suspense for yet another episode. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is here to talk about this. Hi, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.

INSKEEP: And let's remember, a couple of weeks ago, Glenn is standing on a dumpster, he's surrounded by zombies and then he falls into the crowd of zombies. So what's going on here?

DEGGANS: (Laughter) So a spoiler alert, we're going to talk about some of the things that happened on Sunday's episode - so know that if you're listening further. Glenn was with another character; they both fell into a group of zombies. And fans have analyzed this scene like the Zapruder film. There was a close-up of his face and there was scenes that showed someone getting attacked by zombies but we don't exactly know who it was. Now, last week's episode focused on two different characters in the past - it was a totally different story. And Sunday's episode showed his wife, who's in a different location, finding out that he might be dead. She thought she was going to go after him but decided not to, and we have a clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE WALKING DEAD")

LAUREN COHAN: (As Maggie Greene) I'm pregnant. He didn't want me to go out there and I said yes. And if I would've gone - if I was with him, maybe I could've helped him.

INSKEEP: OK, the music suggests he's dead but we still don't know. Is the show just toying with fans beyond what's acceptable?

DEGGANS: Well, so far, fans seem to be playing along. I mean, "Walking Dead" is the most watched show among young viewers, but it's in its sixth season and they needed to shake up the story, give people a reason to buzz about the show. Now, Glenn is a beloved character. He rose from being the typical Asian-American sidekick in the first season to being this really strong, heroic, stereotype-shattering male lead. And I've got to tell you, I've got a friend who's a TV writer, who's Asian-American, and after the episode aired where Glenn fell off of the dumpster, she sent me an email and she was in tears. She couldn't believe that this character had been killed off because he was such a symbol of what you could do with an Asian-American character on television. So I think the longer that they draw out this resolve in the story, the more fans are going to demand a compelling and a surprising resolution.

INSKEEP: But, you know, when you talk about a show in its sixth season doing this extreme thing, I'm remembering the phrase - jumping the shark - where you do something crazy to keep a series going a little further. Is it possible that "The Walking Dead" is nearing its end?

DEGGANS: If they stick the landing - they stick the ending and they make it really satisfying for fans, then it won't be. They're taking a huge chance and, frankly, it's great to see a show in its sixth season roll the dice like this.

INSKEEP: NPR TV critic Eric Deggans, thanks very much.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.