NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for The Walking Dead Season 5
Season 5 of The Walking Dead was notable for many reasons. Not only did it branch out in terms of the show’s normal visual style and grim tone, the series managed to do new things with the increasingly familiar formula of Rick and his crew of ragged, sweaty survivors finding sanctuary, seeing it overrun by the undead or the living (or a combination of the two), and then moving on in search of a new place to hang their collective hats until the inhospitable world inevitably tries to eat them once again.
And while there were episodes and storylines that dragged worse than a tattered leg of the eponymous walking dead, the season was, by and large, a success. Under the direction of showrunner Scott Gimple, AMC’s flagship program balanced kinetic action sequences with welcome character turns, while also giving the show something it never had before: A sense of hope.
By introducing Alexandria and making it the rare location where a dynamic story could also take place, The Walking Dead turned its claustrophobic setting into one of its biggest assets moving forward. And with season 6 rapidly approaching, Screen Rant had the opportunity to sit down with the series’ cast and producers to discuss what lies ahead for Rick and the other survivors, and how fan-favorite Morgan will fit into the Ricktatorship version 2.0.
Rick Will Try “Speed Dating in the Apocalypse”
Romance isn’t an entirely foreign concept in the world of The Walking Dead. Glenn and Maggie have made a pretty good go of things, even after superstar couples of the apocalypse, like Shane and Lori, or The Governor and Andrea made the idea of love look about as appealing as curling up with any old sunbaked husk dragging itself across a hot Georgia parking lot.
Still, despite those horrific examples, and the fact that the lucky girl who caught his eye was only made single because of him, a guy like Rick Grimes didn’t get to where he is by being a quitter. As such, Andrew Lincoln addressed the idea of Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) and Rick giving romance a shot.
“He’s gonna try speed dating in the apocalypse. It’s not easy for Rick. He’s met this girl, he kind of likes her, he just shot her husband in front of everybody, and so the first date is going to be quite an interesting conversation.”
Lincoln may have had a little fun at the expense of his character’s rather peculiar courting ritual, but with all the gloom and doom permeating every other corner of the series, the promise of an awkward romance might be just the thing to keep things from being tonally monotonous.
Rick Will Have to Choose Between Brutality and Compromise
After being named Alexandria’s constable, Rick, along with Carol and Daryl, surreptitiously decided the fortified sanctuary was up for grabs, should the naïve residents prove unworthy of the Eden they had built and were living in, on what producer Gale Anne Hurd describes as “borrowed time.”
But Rick’s motivations lie in his need to put his people first. “He’s not necessarily angry with the Alexandrians,” Lincoln says. “He just doesn’t care about them as much as he does his own people.”
And therein lies the conflict for Rick that will be explored in season 6: the need to take on the role of judge, jury and executioner, and the desire to have a peaceful place he can call home.
As Lincoln puts it, Rick must reconcile the two halves of himself in order to make the best possible future for his friends and his family.
“He needs to make this work; he needs for this to be a viable community for his children, but at what cost? I think that is very much explored this season. Are [the Alexandrians] able to come with us? If they can’t, [Rick] has this callous nature and it’s quite easy to just cut them out. It’s a very interesting sort of dance to see where’s the brutal side, where’s the compromising side – the side that’s willing to sort of open his heart.”
Being Loyal to Rick May Mean Acting Against Him
Rick may be the de facto leader of the group, the guy people turn to in a moment of crisis, but that doesn’t mean Glenn, Michonne, or even Daryl are going to follow him blindly. Everyone recalls Rick’s gun-waiving antics near the end of last season, and that’s to say nothing of the infamous ghost-talking meltdown he suffered when the group was still camped out in the prison.
So, needless to say, Rick isn’t always going to be right, which, as Steven Yeun and Danai Gurira put it, means it’s up to the others to help guide Rick to the right decision, even if that means acting against him.
“Loyalty is a tough word because, yes, they’re loyal to Rick, but I don’t think Michonne and Glenn are just mere followers,” Yeun says. “They’ve definitely crossed lines before, and Glenn has challenged Rick plenty of times. Ultimately he sides with Rick because he trusts him, but at this point Glenn would be hard-pressed to go along with a plan that he thinks is dangerous.”
Gurira seconds that notion by calling to mind Michonne knocking Rick out when he was busy pointing a gun at a group of shocked Alexandrians.
“With true leadership you believe in a person but you challenge them, you step up when you feel you need to, and both Glenn and Michonne did that last year. So it’s like we believe in him, but we know that he cannot make every decision entirely.”
Perhaps it’s producer Gale Anne Hurd who best sums up the idea of loyalty by pointing out a little bump on the noggin kept Rick from falling victim to his greatest enemy: himself.
“[Glenn and Michonne] would never betray Rick, but they would keep him from doing something stupid. He was waiving a gun; he was a threat to himself, to them, and to the community. You know that’s what that loyalty means.”
NEXT PAGE: What is Going On With Morgan?
We Will Find Out What’s Going On With Morgan
Lennie James’ Morgan has been a standout character since his introduction in the series premiere. But the world of television is a weird, competitive place, and as Gimple pointed out during the interview, actors like Lennie James tend to get snapped up very quickly, which explains Morgan’s intermittent appearances on the show.
Fans were quick to realize that in his most recent appearance, Morgan was in an emotionally and psychologically different place than when we last saw him in the season 3 episode ‘Clear.’
Gimple says there is a story to that, one that he and James have been excited to tell for over a year now.
“I think it’s fair to say we need to find out how Morgan got from here to there,” Gimple says. “So one way or another we weren’t just going to jump that story. There must be some answers there and there will be.”
The Series Will Continue to Stretch Stylistically
According to Greg Nicotero, “The premiere for season 6 is probably one of the most bold that we’ve ever done in terms of the structure and the storytelling. I’m so close to it because I directed it, but to me it sings in a completely different way.”
If those words sound encouraging, it’s worth noting that Nicotero also directed ‘What Happened and What’s Going On?‘ an episode that, love it or hate it, was nonetheless an interesting departure for the series in terms of the way it was shot and edited.
And that’s something Nicotero wants to bring more of to the show.
“We’ll never do the same episode twice. We owe more to our audience. The exciting thing about the first episode is the story structure and the pacing. We’re planting seeds that we want the audience to dig through and find so that by the end of the episode they will have put together this little puzzle that we have created for them. It’s very much like the Tyreese episode where … you’re like ‘Oh, that’s what that visual meant.’ The first episode of [season 6] is taking that to another level.”
The Wolves Won’t Be the Group’s Only Adversaries This Season
Naturally, Gimple wouldn’t go into specifics of what kind of threat would be coming to the survivors in Alexandria, but he was willing to point out that the Wolves, who were introduced late in season 5, won’t be the only menace the characters face.
From the sound of it, season 6 will be looking to explore the idea of privilege and power in the apocalypse.
“There’s a lot this season,” Gimple says. “There’re a lot of left turns and weird things. [The survivors] are in a place where they can keep surviving; they have these walls. So what do they do? What do they do with this power? They have what a lot of people in this world don’t have. That’s a big part of this season.”
So, who or what that threat will actually be is anyone’s guess at this moment. A word to the wise, though: just don’t bother asking Hurd when Negan is going to show up.
She’s not saying.
After coming off of a banner season, The Walking Dead looks set to capitalize on the storytelling and stylistic elements that made season 5 a success. With the promise of a peek into Morgan’s recent past and a threat beyond the looming Wolves, season 6 may have enough surprises on hand to keep the story as fresh and engaging as possible.
The Walking Dead season 6 premieres Sunday, October 11 @9pm on AMC.
Check out a preview below:
Photos: Gene Page/AMC