In many ways, The Walking Dead season 7 has been the most divisive yet. While each season has had its detractors -- particularly the farm-set season 2 -- season 7's audience split began right from the get go, during the premiere episode. Negan bashing the brains out of Abraham and Glenn with his trusty weapon Lucille -- and then proceeding to utterly emasculate formerly formidable leader Rick on top of that -- sent the show off in a new direction, with the group dynamic and relationships being turned upside down.
Another factor of the stark division is Rick's group has been separated geographically, with Rick, Michonne, etc. subjugated by Negan in Alexandria, Carol and Morgan living within -- or just outside -- the confines of Ezekiel's kingdom, Daryl held captive at Negan's compound, and Maggie and Sasha staying up at the Hilltop. Thankfully, Norman Reedus has promised that this particular complaint will be addressed pretty quickly during the second half of season 7, with all the core characters finding their way back together.
Despite the divided fanbase, to say that there is a lot of hype and anticipation going into tonight's season midseason premiere would be an understatement, as promos have hinted this episode will kick off the march toward all-out war between Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom's combined forces and the brutal might of the Saviors. It's an event fans have anticipated since Negan's destructive introduction, and a comeuppance that the despotic ruler has most definitely earned. Still, it's never too early to look ahead, in this case all the way to the season 7 finale. In an interview with ComicBook, Ross Marquand said season 7's ending will be the series' most ambitious yet.
"Oh, god, it was insane. That was the most ambitious episode I've ever been a part of. I think Greg [Nicotero] can tell you better but I think it was the most ambitious sets we've ever done in size and scope and what we were attacking that way. It was insane. Pretty cool."
If season 7 ends in the most logical fashion -- with a climactic battle between Rick's group and Negan -- it makes perfect sense that the crew plans to pull out all the stops in order to make such a fight satisfying for the series' millions of fans. After all, the purpose of building up a irredeemable villain like Negan is to make his comeuppance at the hands of the heroes that much sweeter.
Still, it's important to remember that actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan has said Negan will be a part of season 8, so viewers shouldn't necessarily expect the season 7 finale to reveal Negan's final fate. He might lose the first big battle, but that doesn't mean the war itself will end so quickly.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with 'New Best Friend' @9pm on AMC.