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Continuing its annual Comic-Con tradition, AMC’s The Walking Dead used its massive Hall H presence to debut the first footage of its upcoming season and announce a return date during its panel Friday.
Season five of the zombie drama based on Robert Kirkman‘s best-selling comics will return on Sunday, Oct. 12, at 9 p.m., followed by its Chris Hardwick-hosted companion, Talking Dead.
Showrunner Scott M. Gimple will be back for his second season at the top of AMC’s ratings juggernaut, which will see The Wire alum Seth Gilliam join the cast alongside newly promoted series regulars Andrew J. West (Gareth), Alanna Masterson (Tara) and Christian Serratos (Rosita).
The series, which again has a big presence at Comic-Con, including a nearby hotel decorated as Terminus — the “sanctuary” where Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group were reunited and held hostage in a rail car in the season-four finale. Season five picks up immediately after Gareth unknowingly reunited Rick with nearly everyone in his group, save for Carol (Melissa McBride) and Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman).
The panel opened with a parody clip featuring Rick and Glenn (Steven Yeun) bearded and playing cards — still trapped in the Terminus trailer, chowing on the remains of one of the group’s members alongside a bald Daryl (Norman Reedus) and an aged Maggie (Lauren Cohan) — before unveiling the season-five trailer, seen here:
Producers, meanwhile, offered that the upcoming season would be much darker. “Once they lost the prison and Hershel, all bets were off. They did find out that you can’t come back from the things you’ve done,” Gimple said, noting that the group is now much more formidable having done unspeakable things. “This season is going to define these characters.” Gimple stopped short of confirming if the people of Terminus are cannibals but said the upcoming season will feature the backstory of how that community was crated.
Kirkman said this season is going to be “pretty close” to the comics, with Terminus on the surface seeming like a “major departure” before the AMC show gets back on track with the events in the Image/Skybound title.
Exec producer Gale Anne Hurd also teased that season five would feature multiple locations beyond Terminus, including some “possibly” inspired by the comic book that may have a more suburban feel (THR won’t spoil the comics here though). “You’ll see us take some pretty big leaps with the characters and set pieces — bigger than ever,” she said.
EP Dave Alpert also confirmed that Gilliam would indeed be playing Father Gabriel, a key character from the comic series, while EP and VFX mastermind Greg Nicotero also previewed the evolution of the walkers on the series, with slack jaws and sagging skin. “There’s a lot of really cool landscape we’re going to explore,” he said.
In the trailer, the so-called “Termites” leader Gareth appears to offering Rick’s group an ultimatum in order to survive at the camp, with Bob’s life seemingly hanging in the balance (watch the trailer above).
Following the trailer debut, Yeun said Glenn — despite the dire situation the gang finds themselves in — retains hope, while his onscreen wife Cohan (Maggie) noted that even if there were a cure, nobody will ever be the same.
Co-star McBride said Carol is “prepared to do anything,” and is coming to terms with the new world. “She’s come to a place of courage to do those things; she’s a very empathetic character,” the actress said of her character’s journey, which included having to kill youngster Lizzie last season. “In her center, she feels justified. If it weren’t for that, what’s the point of living?” In another of the panel’s more light-hearted moments, moderator Hardwick presented McBride with flowers in a nod to Carol’s “Look at the flowers” line to Lizzie before she was killed. (McBride then presented them to co-star and friend Reedus.)
Emily Kinney says Beth, who resurfaces in the trailer above, comes back stronger than ever, though the young actress couldn’t say just where her character is in relation to the rest of the group. “She’s taking all those things she’s learned and taking a different kind of strength into season five, and she’s going to have to use everything she’s got,” she told fans.
In another surprise for fans, co-star Chandler Riggs made his Comic-Con debut, taking the stage with a huge can of pudding in a nod to season four.
Fan-favorite Reedus, meanwhile, confessed to being as awkward as Daryl can be. “I’m a lot like him. We’re both cut from the same cloth, just from different parts of the world, maybe.”
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