7:02pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Walking Dead' Boss Breaks Down the End of Season 10 (For Now)
[The following story contains spoilers for season 10, episode 15 of AMC's The Walking Dead, "The Tower."]
And that's a wrap on The Walking Dead season ten — for now, at least.
From director Laura Belsey and writers Kevin Deiboldt and Julia Ruchman, "The Tower" was originally (and technically still) designed to serve as the penultimate episode of the AMC zombie drama's tenth season. Instead, it's the last episode for the foreseeable future, as the global pandemic has made it impossible to complete postproduction on the season finale in time.
The result: "The Tower," clearly a set-up episode, as Beta (Ryan Hurst) and the Whisperers close in on Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and other survivors while Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) are left on the outskirts of the battle — a battle that won't occur until an as-yet-undated point in 2020, when AMC will air The Walking Dead season 10 finale as its own special episode.
"Everybody did an amazing job on this episode and I hope fans enjoyed it, but clearly, it wasn't our plan to end it here," showrunner Angela Kang tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Everybody in our post department was hustling, but we still had quite a bit of work left before we could deliver the finale. Everyone's really grateful to have work and trying to stay safe with their families, which is the most important thing, and we're all looking forward to sharing episode 16 as its own special airing later."
From a creative standpoint, Kang says the finale is "steadily locked in," to the point that trying to reimagine story elements would be "very complicated" to achieve. Elaborating on where things stand on the production side, Kang says, "We had about a week and a half of work, which weirdly doesn't sound like a lot of time, but in the post world, especially for VFX, you can do so many different iterations within the space of a week or even two days. That can be make-or-break stuff. Everybody was working very hard, but then California shut down and there was still sound work to be done, and other elements that require big machinery to be ported. You can't take a soundstage from Warner Bros. and move it indoors into someone's house in 24 hours."
In terms of story, "The Tower" acts not only as a goodbye-for-now, but also as a big hello to a brand new character: Princess, played by Paola Lázaro, one of the most beloved characters from the later run of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's Walking Dead comic book series. Pink-haired and prone to periodic bursts of questionable sanity, Princess shows up in season ten as Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) continue on the road to meet what they hope is a brand new civilization. After stringing these survivors along for a while (with good intentions, if not exactly well-thought-out ones), Princess receives an invitation to continue along with the crew. The lightest of spoiler alerts here, but if The Walking Dead TV series follows the comic book script, then fans can count on a lot more time spent with Princess moving forward.
"The comic was coming out when Scott Gimple and I were writing the show, and we would still see twists and reveals as we were reading from week to week," remembers Kang. "Princess was one of those very big reveals. She's unlike anybody the group has met in the apocalypse up until that point. It's always a moment like that where we're so excited to read about it in the book, and we can't wait to adapt it. That character really popped for us and all of the writers, connecting to the idea of a funny and bright character that comes in, but one where you wonder if she's a little sketchy at first. We always want to capture the same feeling you have when you're reading: can you trust her? Is she a wild card? Is she a bad guy? That was all part of the calculus."
In some ways, Princess' arrival feels like a dare from Kirkman and Adlard, an almost impossible character to properly adapt from comic book to television — someone so bright and filled with a comic book specific energy that if not approached carefully, could tank the television series. Whether or not the writers room succeeded remains to be seen, but Kang notes that she was very aware of the challenge.
"It was a big part of the conversation," she says. "Here's this character who is tonally very different, and she does feel like a dare. [Kirkman] straight up said he put a tiger in the comics to see if we could do it. So, okay! With Princess, we talked about her costume. She wears a pink jacket and she has purple hair. How do we make that look 'apocalypse-y,' still? It's about finding things that are distressed, and making the purple hair a bit more toned down compared to the comic book cover. Here are some elements [of her costume] that look scavenged. She's bright and funny but she still seems like she's been through some shit. That was part of the calculus of making sure she feels different from our people, but also that you can maybe buy it. Hopefully we managed to tread the line, because it's something we talked about a lot, making her feel three-dimensional and not cartoony."
Beyond Princess, there's all the action in the Alexandria Safe-Zone, as Beta and his horde swarm toward the survivors still reeling from the fall of the Hilltop (not to mention the apparent fall of Alexandria), with the episode ending with the Whisperers and their flesh-eating friends surrounding the titular tower. While we do not yet know when we'll see what's next, Kang can at the very least give us some sense of what's next — and to hear Kang tell it, it's a combination of highs and lows.
"It's huge — and that's why it's not done," she says with a big laugh. "There's a lot of action, as you'll see. We also always want to attend to matters of the heart, and those things are very tied together in hopefully cool ways in the finales. It's a bit of both, and a whole lot of action."
As for how fans will be feeling emotionally by the time the finale lands, Kang offers: "Hopefully good and intrigued. There will be some twists, but also lots of good things. It's an adventure, for sure."
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