Even if you've never seen The Walking Dead, it would be hard to have missed all the publicity that got stirred up in the wake of last year's season finale. Fans and critics alike were vocally dissatisfied with the way the episode ended on a controversial cliffhanger — because instead of leaving viewers with some kind of satisfying climax, it stopped right in the middle of the action with everyone wondering exactly which character would meet their maker by Negan's barbed wire bat Lucille.
Many complained that the series was taking advantage of the audience, but even they were unprepared for would happen next in the season 7 premiere. To add insult to injury, the first episode back in the fall was one of The Walking Dead's most violent to date, leaving some fans feeling slighted again and ready to call it quits with the zombie thriller. It's true the ratings haven't been as high this year compared to season 6, yet the series has also managed to course correct itself a lot.
While The Walking Dead will always be a horror drama, a lot of viewers say they love the series for its realistic characters and their plight to survive. And in ComicBook.com's live After the Dead recap show tonight, executive producer and director Greg Nicotero says that people might get a little more of what they've been missing in next week's season 7 finale:
"I think our momentum continues forward, and seeing where we are now, and these various groups of people, it really builds to a very different finale than we've done in the past. It was a blast to shoot, and we all went on pure adrenaline and pure instinct. And it was really, really a great experience. I mean this Episode 7x12 was a great experience, too, because I really felt like I had a great chance to allow Danai [Gurira] and Andy [Lincoln] a chance to play with their characters a little bit. And there were certain takes where we went really big and really over the top, and then we sort of dialed it in as we went."
If you've missed the characters actually fighting back and winning, it sounds like the season finale might be more your style. Nicotero reminds fans that "These episodes are really fulfilling this journey that we dragged our audience down in these deep, dark places in the first half of the season, to serve this redemption." Basically, in order for Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the gang to escape from the darkness, they had to reach their lowest point.
It may not make viewers return or be satisfied, but Nicotero maintains the entire season 7 story arc was all part of their master plan. He just wants fans to know one thing:
"It's really important that our audience understands that, listen, sometimes you're watching something that might be uncomfortable, but there is a means to the end. The satisfying aspect of these episodes is because we built to it."
Whether or not people take his comments to heart, it's true that there's no greater feeling while watching a favorite series than seeing a beloved character come back from the brink and triumph. For in watching them achieve victory against all odds, it lets us feel that we've been with them all along the way.