Entertainment

A Major 'Walking Dead' Character Is Definitely Going to Die Next Week

walking dead
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This article contains spoilers -- and spoiler-ish theories -- about the most recent episode of The Walking Dead.

When somebody on The Walking Dead expects a challenge to be easy, there's a good chance it won't be. So it was with good reason that we went into last night's episode, "Not Tomorrow Yet," assuming Rick's plan to take on the Saviours was a bad one.

At first things run smoothly: Rick and the others infiltrate the Saviours' compound without much difficulty, killing a half-dozen in their sleep before the guards are roused and a gunfight ensues. But then of course in the final moments -- right when it seems that victory has been clinched -- the tables turn. Some Saviours have survived. And they've taken Carol and Maggie hostage.

It's long been assumed that Negan, the show's new, much-discussed, and as yet unseen villain, would be revealed in the season six finale -- still four episodes away and set to air in early April. Now it's all but guaranteed that we'll be glimpsing him earlier, and very likely next week. Dozens of Saviours are dead. Their survivors have the upper hand. One thing seems almost certain: Negan is about to appear. And he's going to be pretty mad.

So what's the deal with Negan? We know he commands a lot of authority in these parts. The Hilltop Community seems afraid of him. But so far we haven't seen the threat in action. Readers of the comics know he's even deadlier than the Governor before him. A lot of that has to do with the unforgettable way he's introduced. He ambushes Rick and a few others on the road. He brandishes a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, which he calls "Lucille."

Then he kills Glenn.

Glenn from Walking Dead
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Glenn

The death of Glenn Rhys in The Walking Dead books is so notorious that it's on non-readers' radars. It's the Red Wedding of graphic novels: so brutal, so horrific, and so totally unexpected that it's hard to get through without tossing the book away in disgust. For years, fans have prepared for some version of the scene. But it isn't just a matter of when it would happen, or exactly how. It's whether it would even happen at all.

There are several compelling reasons to think it would never come to pass. For one thing, Glenn's death as depicted in the comics -- a slow and graphic baseball bat head-bashing by -- may be too gruesome to show on TV, even by modern cable standards. For another, it's too predictable: the comic death has been talked about since the issue was published in 2012, and the series consistently diverges from the source material in a bid to keep things fresh. And there's the fact that Glenn already "died" earlier this season -- a badly handled fake-out that hardly fooled anyone. Sparing him just to cave his head in a few weeks later would be cruel.

But Negan looms. And when he arrives, he'll surely take a victim. Who will it be?

abraham walking dead
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Abraham

Abraham is a possibility. He's also killed by the Saviours in the comics, though a little earlier and not by Negan's hand. The show has devoted an unusual amount of time to fleshing out Abraham's character this season -- proof to many that he's on his way out. (A lengthy philosophical monologue is often a good way to identify the show's next victim, as Bob and Tyreese showed last year.) Last night, Abraham ended things with Rosita, his longtime romantic partner, bringing to a close a multi-episode arc involving his confused affections. Life feels more or less wrapped up for Abraham.

carol walking dead
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Carol

There was no reason to believe Carol could be the next to die until "Not Tomorrow Yet," where she became the episode's emotional focus. The pre-credits cooking montage found her yearning once again for a return to a non-violent domestic life, baking cookies for the townspeople and hand-delivering them door-to-door. She found romance, for the first time since her husband's death. And she insisted that she stay behind to protect Maggie, a decision that had the opposite effect. Carol's time looks up.

daryl walking dead
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Daryl

A recent rumor that Norman Reedus put his house in Georgia up for sale naturally kickstarted a new theory: Daryl Dixon would be Negan's surprise first victim. And, unfortunately for fans, there's some supporting evidence. Daryl killed a handful of Saviours a few weeks ago; when the plan of attack was suggested, he was the most gung-ho and over-confident.

And the character is so beloved -- you can buy an "If Daryl Dies We Riot" T-shirt at Hot Topic  -- that no death would be quite as shocking. In fact it might be too shocking: the most compelling reason to believe Daryl will survive is that killing him off might stop people from watching. Surprise deaths are supposed to outrage fans, not completely alienate them.

Glenn is the safe bet.  Last night, the former delivery boy took his first-ever life, in cold blood. He swiftly kills many more. Polaroids of head-bashing victims past hang on the Saviours' wall. Glenn scrutinizes them. Then there's the fact that it was Maggie, of all people, kidnapped and held hostage by the remaining Saviours, a turn of events that'll inevitably put her love interest in harm's way. It seems very likely that it will be Glenn's head that meets the spiky end of Negan's baseball bat, "Lucille." Whatever the outcome, a long-awaited arrival -- and a shocking death are both on the horizon.

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Calum Marsh is a freelance reporter who seems to have written more about The Walking Dead than any other subject. Follow him for brains @calummarsh.