Season 6 of The Walking Dead may have been its most controversial season yet. Between the mid-season death of a beloved character that -- to just about no one's surprise -- turned out to be just one big fake out and the season-ending cliffhanger that left fans wondering who will meet Lucille, the show put its audience through the ringer even more so than usual.
While readers of the comic book may think they know what's coming at the beginning of season 7, the TV adaptation of The Walking Dead has certainly deviated from its source material in the past and may very well do so again. It seems that for now the only people who really know who is going to be on the receiving end of Negan's bat attack are the show's cast and crew, but even they didn't know until season 7 started shooting.
That insight comes from Negan himself, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Morgan has already expressed that fans who complained about the cliffhanger are "going to be really wishing that the cliffhanger had never ended after the first episode back." Now in an interview with EW, Morgan says that the cliffhanger's resolution was just as much of a shocker to him and most of the rest of the cast as it will be to audiences at home, since season 6 ended for them in the same spot it did for everyone else:
"I don’t know that anybody knew on that particular evening, and if they did, no one has copped to me. But I certainly didn’t know. I’ve seen interviews where Norman has said, 'I know,' but I honestly don’t know that anybody really knew what was going to happen until the first script came out. Maybe during the summer people found out some stuff. I didn’t find out whom we were going to kill until I saw the first script coming back this year."
Morgan goes on to explain that the opening of season 7 is an emotionally gruelling one, and that if the cast of the show had to think about it over the summer, it would not have been good for their psyches:
"It’s a heavy deal. It was heavy when we shot it last year and it’s only gotten more intense this year, I think. That first episode back was crazy. It was just crazy. What you’re asking of these actors to put it on the line like they do, and then this scene in particular, especially if they had the summer to dwell on it, it’s a lot. Then I go blowing in like a hurricane, just dance around on my tiptoes swinging Lucille around — it was 10 days of hell, I believe, for everyone involved. Hard work, but it went well beyond that. I mean, you’ve been around, you see these relationships that these guys all have with each other as well as the crew, and everyone is so invested and so passionate. And that ending — or this beginning, I should say — is jarring. It’s a reset on The Walking Dead world and it’s f—ing Negan’s world now, you know? It’s a lot."
After the mid-season fake out in season 6, some Walking Dead fans were pretty vocally displeased about being played by the show's writers, and many of those same fans were feeling déjà vu with the season's cliffhanger ending. Morgan says that those fans should relax a bit and put their trust back in the show:
"I certainly understand the audience being pissed for a day or two, but to dwell on it as much as they have, I think it’s good for one. I think by the time October rolls around all those people who are like, 'I’m never watching Walking Dead again. I feel cheated,' they’re going to be the first ones lined up in front of their television. And I’ll say this, you have to be careful what you wish for, audience, because you’re going to get those answers answered and more, and you’re probably not going to be happy with it."
The Walking Dead has killed plenty of beloved characters in its 6 seasons on the air, and there is no doubt that it will continue to do so in the season to come. If Morgan is correct, the opening blow of season 7 may end up being the show's most gut-wrenching scene yet. It will certainly be one that fans will be talking about afterward, and that, more than anything, is what the show's writers are counting on.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC for season 7 on Sunday, Oct. 23rd.