If there's anything The Walking Dead loves more than taking a slow stroll toward an inevitable build-up to conflict, it's expressing just how "epic" the series is going to be in seasons to come. This has been a consistent part of showrunner Scott M. Gimple's gory run on the series, as it seems every season's premiere and finale (and now, midseason premiere and finale) comes with not only a detailed post-mortem but also a tease of how the show will expand and improve as time marches on for the survivors of the zombie apocalypse.
During season 7 alone, Gimple and others working on the show were asked questions regarding the series' relentlessly grim tone and need to reiterate just what a bad guy Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan is. The response was that fans would see Rick smile in the second half of the season, and that the tone wouldn't be so dour. To his credit, Gimple delivered the Smilin' Rick Grimes he promised, as well as a near-standalone episode that helped lighten the mood considerably – right before things headed for war. Seeing as how he's made good on recent assurances, Gimple has decided to up the ante recently, teasing not only – what else? – an epic season 8, but also the chance for The Walking Dead to reach a second impressive milestone.
Gimple was joined by the rest of the show's cast at Palyfest 2017 (via EW), where he mentioned he's already hard at work on the season 8 premiere – which will be the show's 100th episode – saying it's less about celebrating hitting the first century mark than it is "setting up the next 100 episodes."
But before he can focus too much on what season 8 will bring, the showrunner had to do his duty as hype man for the season 7 finale. Seemingly aware the outcry following the divisive season 6 finale, which ended on a mostly derided cliffhanger, Gimple stressed that season 7 will be a far more straightforward affair, something that reaches a conclusion and turns the page for what's to come:
“The end of the season is very much the end of a chapter. It’s very much a conclusion that promises this epic story ahead. It’s about setting up this giant, epic tale to come, not only in season 8, but beyond.”
To a certain extent, Walking Dead fans have been here before. The show is known for selling (or overselling) its intentions for the season(s) ahead, only to deliver something that doesn't really match the grand design of its creators. Still, the series may have an ace up its sleeve in season 7 with Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan, a villain who successfully brought Rick and the rest of the main survivors as low as they have been in years, meaning a powerful conclusion to this season may be the fresh start the show needs in order to usher in the "epic tale to come."
With just a couple weeks left in the season, fans won't have to wait long in order to find out if Gimple is at least half-right.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with 'Something They Need' @9pm.