9:15am PT by Josh Wigler, Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead' Star Andrew Lincoln Previews "WTF" Season 8 Finale
Rick Grimes is a man of many words, at least when he wants to be. The same can be said of Andrew Lincoln, the actor who has brought the Walking Dead protagonist to life since the very first moments of the series. In recent episodes, both Lincoln and Grimes have been more men of action than words — violent deeds over vivid dialogue.
In that regard, speaking toward Sunday's season eight finale, called "Wrath," Lincoln continues the current arc of his character. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Lincoln clearly doesn't need a Carl-sized letter to preview what's in store for the end of "All-Out War."
"I can do it in three letters: WTF," says the actor, when asked to weigh in on what's ahead. "It's unbelievable."
Sunday's final episode of the season brings the brutal conflict between Rick's Alexandrian army and Negan's Saviors to an end. Fans of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's comic book series on which Walking Dead is based have an idea of what to expect in the inevitably bloody battle, though those same viewers should proceed with caution. If Carl's (Chandler Riggs) death earlier this season told us anything, it's that the creative minds behind Walking Dead aren't afraid to radically shake up the status quo, even when it massively deviates from the source material.
"One of the things I love about the storytelling in the finale is that it was always going to be a bit tricky in how we tackle the war. That was always going to be a big decision, since it's such a big part of the comic books," says Lennie James, whose character Morgan will leave The Walking Dead in favor of Fear the Walking Dead as of Sunday's finale. "We had to be very respectful of our source material, but we also have to realize we're telling a very different version of the same story."
For her part, Pollyanna McIntosh (Jadis) offers a tease that's just as ominous about the show's potential to deviate greatly from the comics' arc: "The surprises do not stop coming. There's always more to know. I think that's definitely true of this finale."
Scott M. Gimple, whose five-season tenure as showrunner ends with the coming finale as he moves onto a role overseeing the greater Walking Dead franchise for AMC (Fear and other possible spinoffs included), is coy when it comes to the subject of how "Wrath" mirrors the events of the comics.
"If I said it mirrored [the comics] super closely, that would provide a lot of answers," he says. "Aspects of the comics are there, and then there's some other stuff in there and some big left-hand turns to the comics."
"It's totally the same, and no it's not at all the same and it's completely different," Gimple adds, clearly poking fun at his own cagey description. It's not all smoke and mirrors, however: Gimple confirms that the finale will provide closure on the bloody image of Rick against the tree ("It will indeed," he says) and closure across the board on a broader level.
"It closes down every character's story pretty much in some tragic ways and in some sad ways, and even some hopeful ways to a degree," Gimple tells The Hollywood Reporter. "There's closure, in every iteration of what that means, in the finale."
While Gimple stops short of addressing any looming major deaths ("I shan't say one way or the other," is all he will offer), there's the matter of a couple of outgoing castmembers, including Lauren Cohan (Maggie), who is starring in ABC pilot Whiskey Cavalier in the midst of contract disputes with AMC.
"This episode doesn't really address that in any way," Gimple answers when asked if the finale will provide a satisfying ending to Maggie as a character, if this is indeed Cohan's final episode. "There is closure for Maggie, and it's a big part of her story, but I shan't say anything about the meta of it just yet."
There's no question that the finale marks the end of the road for Morgan Jones at the very least, as the character first introduced all the way back in the series premiere will leave for Fear the Walking Dead. Looking back on his time on the flagship Walking Dead, James promises a "fantastic" end to that chapter in Morgan's life.
"The way we've handled the war, and all of the turns in the war that will lead to victory for one side or the other, is all handled really fantastically," he says. "The surprise and the revelations that happen in the finale have all been well earned. It's a fantastic slow burn. The challenges that the battle between Negan and Rick have brought out in both men have been absolutely fantastic. The way the lines have been blurred between who is right and who is wrong has been spectacular storytelling. It all pays off in this final episode."
What are your predictions for how the eighth season will resolve? Sound off in the comments section below and keep checking THR.com/WalkingDead for more coverage.