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There are two major questions heading into Sunday’s season seven finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead: Who will die and who will come out on top in the first battle in the famed All-Out War arc from the comics?
While all signs point to Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) not surviving the season, the latter remains a larger question as battle between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) stretched an impressive 12 issues in the comics. Given the weight applied to this part of Robert Kirkman’s story, it’s unlikely that Negan (and Lucille) will go down swinging in one episode. Instead, the question now shifts to how the finale will set the stage for season eight.
Sunday’s episode is also the first season finale that producers have crafted since the backlash to the months-long cliffhanger created by Negan’s first arrival in the season seven ender. Will producers follow the same track?
“Doing it again in the same way isn’t what we do,” showrunner Scott M. Gimple tells THR. “We did a big cliffhanger at the end of season four. We tried to mix it up and not go back to that because there is a definitive conclusion to the end of the season.”
The back half of season seven has been significantly far more upbeat in its message of hope for rebuilding the new world. That would seem to open the door for a season finale that delivered a message of hope and served as a fitting bookend to the overall season — even if Sasha were to die.
The penultimate episode also set up a hopeful finale as Sasha knew that she would need to die before allowing Negan to use her as ammunition against her friends. While Sasha’s potential death — she’s armed with a poison pill from Eugene (Josh McDermitt) — would leave the show without one of its fiercest characters, it would also give Rick and company an edge in the looming battle against the Saviors.
“We went on pure instinct. There’s so much going on. It has everything you would ever want in an episode of The Walking Dead; it’s got everything in it,” says exec producer Greg Nicotero, who directed the finale.
Adds Gimple: “There is a gathering storm. There’s a lot of story that is promised in the future. The last two episodes bring everything together from this season: there’s unbelievable action, emotion, some romance and some tragedy; there’s a couple weird moments and there’s a couple funny moments. It’s really the entirety of the season compressed in two episodes. It’s sort of a greatest hits, if you will.”
Meanwhile, the episode is also poised to see the long-awaited return to the battle lines for Carol (Melissa McBride), who returned to the Kingdom after learning that Negan killed Abraham, Glenn, Spencer and Olivia, among others.
“Now she has to fight,” McBride tells THR. “This is what she was trying to tell Morgan and trying to convince herself of the whole time — that there is only one way. She’s in it to win it.”
Here, THR challenged the cast and exec producers to preview what to expect from Sunday’s finale — using only three words.
Scott M. Gimple (showrunner): “Everything, everything, everything.”
Robert Kirkman (creator/exec producer): “I’m not sorry.”
Dave Alpert (exec producer): “Oh daaaaa-mnnnnnnnn!”
Greg Nicotero (exec producer): “Best. Episode. Ever!”
Melissa McBride (Carol): “They did that?!”
Lauren Cohan (Maggie): “Light through cracks.”
Tom Payne (Jesus): “Roller-coaster, tear-jerker and heart-warming.”
Ross Marquand (Aaron): “Dark, bloody and terrifying.”
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. Bookmark THR.com/WalkingDead for full coverage leading up to and after the season finale.
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