Whatever one thought of The Walking Dead's highly divisive season 6 finale cliffhanger, it's hard to argue that it didn't accomplish the intended goal. Even after all these months, the identity of Negan's victim is still a hotly debated topic among pop-culture devotees, and that seems unlikely to change between now and this coming Sunday's season 7 premiere broadcast. No matter who ends up meeting the business end of Lucille, it's sure to be a certified television event.
Part of the fun behind the whole thing is of course just how many possible victims Negan has to work with. There's Glenn, who died at Negan's hands at this point in the TWD comic series, and whose death was already memorably teased around the middle of season 6. There's also Glenn's wife Maggie, who by the time the group arrived at Negan's camp was already in dire straits health wise. Killing not only a woman but her unborn child would definitely go a long way in establishing Negan as the most vile villain in series history. Another possibility is Rick's teenage son Carl, who already lost an eye last year, and has seen more horrors in his young life than most will ever see.
Then again, it could also easily be none of those three. The possibilities are wide open. Regardless of who Negan ends up killing, though, Rick Grimes himself shares some of the blame for their death, at least according to Walking Dead producer Greg Nicotero. During a recent interview with ComicBook.com, Nicotero laid out why Rick is partially responsible for the lost member of his group, and the creative opportunities a major death such as this affords the show.
"That decision was made last year before we ever even got into the finale. That story, that was all sort of broken within the writers room. If you look back at the history of our show, the death of every single character has provided us with an opportunity to change the direction of the show. Even as far back as Shane and Lori and Hershel and Tyreese and Beth. The show is inherently different after each one of those people was killed. In this instance, the introduction of Negan and the death of this person, it really does provide us with a pretty substantial course change because that's really what the season was leading up to last year."
"Listen, Rick Grimes thinks he's got a handle on things. He thinks he knows what's in store for him out there. He thinks he knows that he can take on anybody that comes in his way. The truth of the matter is he can't and he doesn't. The fact that Rick was overly confident because he underestimated the world and the people out there, they pay for it. It's a really unique opportunity to change the direction of the show because our world just got bigger and that's something that we talked a lot about last season. How excited we were to be able to open up the world into the Hilltop and the Sanctuary and the Kingdom and get a much larger view of what the universe of The Walking Dead consists of."
As far as Nicotero's comments on Rick go, it's hard to argue with the logic. Rick had clearly grown far too confident in his group's ability to withstand any challenge put in their path, and defeat any adversary who steps into their way. The ease with which Rick accepts the mission to massacre the Saviors in exchange for supplies from the Hilltop colony illustrates that point.
Rick had become so used to winning that he essentially set himself up for failure, simply assuming that the fire and manpower he had would be enough to take down Negan. In that way, his arrogance can be blamed for them ending up in such a vulnerable position in front of Negan. Hopefully Rick can live with himself, because mistakes or not, his people still need him to lead.
The Walking Dead season 7 premieres Sunday, October 23 at 9pm on AMC.