Chances are, even if you don’t watch The Walking Dead, you’ve heard your friends, family, and randos on the internet complaining, mourning, and theorizing about the season six finale of the show. But before we go on, now’s a good time to give you a serious spoiler alert.
The season six finale ended with Negan bashing the brains in of one of Rick‘s group, but we didn’t find out who that person was until last night in the season seven premiere. Prior to the premiere, it seemed fans were of two minds regarding the cliffhanger: one was that it would be nothing more than a disappointing and obvious ratings grab, and the other was that the season premiere would just be nuts and intense. Negan himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, promised fans at Denver Comic Con this year that the wait would most certainly be worth it. Still, it was a move that was a bit of a head-scratcher, especially since that cliffhanger didn’t exist in the show’s source material, issue 100 of The Walking Dead comic.
The producers of the show finally explained why they made the choice they did on last night’s Talking Dead. Apparently, this episode was two years in the making. While the comic book only shows Negan killing one of Rick’s group, Glenn Rhee, the show chose to take a different route: killing off both Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz). Of course, the brutal deaths weren’t the only stomach-churning moments. We also saw Rick pushed so far by Negan that he was willing to chop his own son Carl’s arm off. So why the cliffhanger and plot change? According to Gimple, it was for our benefit. Seriously.
Entertainment Weekly quotes the show’s producer, Scott Gimple, as saying that not only did they want to depict something so horrific that it would break Rick, but it would break us, the audience. That’s right. Just like we’ve always suspected, Scott Gimple wanted to break us. “Not in a way that is in any way to hurt them,” Gimple explained on Talking Dead, “but for them to believe that Rick Grimes would be under the thumb of Negan. That he would go through an experience that would do that to him. That the audience would go through the experience too, so that they would believe that Rick could do what this guy says.”
It’s cruel, but it sort of makes sense. By keeping us in the dark about who died, we entered into the season premiere feeling far more scared, worried, angry, and vulnerable than we would have if we knew who Negan killed. That cliffhanger made the episode start on an incredibly tense note, so by the time Rick was ready to hack off Carl’s arm, we not only believed that Rick would make a choice like that, but we felt the impossibility and cruelty behind the choice Negan forced him to make.
So why the dramatics? Apart from creating damn good television, it’s to signal a turning point in the show. Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman have been saying for a while now that the show would have a distinct “before Negan” and “after Negan” feel to it. Kirkman even promised (threatened, maybe) that they still have, “a lot more to do,” and that they were, “setting the stage for a lot more to come.” So while the cliffhanger seemed cruel and like a cheap ratings grab to some, after seeing last night’s episode it is clear that the tension they created was a vivid narrative choice.
The frightening aspect to this is, of course, that we have only completed the season premiere. We have an entire season of craziness ahead of us. If we start the season with something this intense, how will this season end? We’ll have to watch to find out! The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC!
What did you think of the premiere? After seeing the episode, do you agree with their choice to keep Glenn and Abraham’s death a cliffhanger, or did it feel cheap to you? Tell us your thoughts on the premiere in the comments!
Feature Image: AMC