8:07pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead' Producers Explain Deadly Season 6 Cliffhanger
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season six finale of AMC's The Walking Dead, "Last Day on Earth," and the comic book series that the show is based on.]
AMC's The Walking Dead wrapped its sixth season Sunday by introducing dreaded villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who definitely killed a key member of Rick's group of Survivors. Rather than depict Negan savagely beating someone, the series shifted its point of view to that of the victim — ending season six with a cut to black and only the horrific sounds of the slaying.
"The end of the story is what people saw," showrunner Scott M. Gimple said Sunday on Talking Dead. "When we reveal who was on the receiving end there, that's going to be the start of another story. The kickback effects from that — what it makes everyone into, how they react, how the world changes for everyone — that's the next part of the story."
Gimple was joined on the post-show talk by exec producer and comic book creator Robert Kirkman. The showrunner confirmed that Negan did indeed beat one of the 11 survivors to death.
Following a 90-minute episode in which the Saviors herded Rick's RV into precisely the area that they were holding Daryl, Michonne and Rosita, Eugene and company were lined up on their knees as Negan was introduced.
That means the victim is either: Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) or Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green).
"I'm feeling oddly great," Kirkman said on Talking Dead when asked how he felt after watching Negan make his long-awaited debut. "I'm excited about where it's at. What's happening in the show is extremely sad and extremely distressing but I think it's going to put us into a good place for season seven. I'm excited because I get excited about these things — I'm a bit of a lunatic that way."
Sunday's season finale played out nearly scene for scene from the shocking 100th issue of the comics — in which Glenn winds up falling victim to Negan's beating with Lucille, his baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire.
The AMC series brought to life Negan's "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" selection process and shuffled things around in terms of the order with which the villain landed on his potential victim. The producers noted that the shuffle was by design as they knew diehard viewers would replay the moment over and over in a bid to determine just who met their maker during the hour. But that doesn't mean that producers didn't plan
"There's some hints there, I'll say that," Kirkman confirmed.
While producers would not hint at just who was killed off Sunday, Kirkman did hint that whomever the victim is, is "beloved to everyone."
"As upset as people probably are at Negan's introduction and how he's coming in and killing somebody who is very beloved to everyone — from his perspective, he's the hero of his own story like most villains and if we had been following him all this time we'd be 100 percent on board with that," Kirkman said of Negan.
Star Morgan, meanwhile, said it was both a blessing and a curse to join the series at this point in time. "As a fan of the show, it's a bummer that someone is leaving the show but as the guy playing Negan, hey, it's gotta happen."
As for what to expect from season seven, Gimple promised to deliver something special to viewers who may be "jammed up" about the cliffhanger.
"We have to do an episode that justifies it to you," he said on Talking Dead, where he compared the cliffhanger to what those other series have done including Lost and Star Trek. "We have to do something so great and so intense that you're like, 'OK, fair play.' And that's the challenge we have and we're going to deliver you something fantastic."
For his part, Kirkman compared the ending to how readers of his comic series feel. "If you read the comic book series, pretty much every issue ends with a cliffhanger — and sometimes the trades [of the collected issues] so it's like a six-month break if you're just reading that to find out what happens next and I think that's a lot of fun."
He stressed that the bulk of this 90-minute installment was about "tearing Rick Grimes down" and called that the conclusion to season six. "So while it does seem like a cliffhanger, that's the conclusion," he said. "The story of who died, of what comes next, of who Negan killed and what comes after that, that's really the story for season seven."
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