The Walking Dead has always boasted a bleak atmosphere - it is set in the zombie apocalypse, after all. But it sounds like we’re in for the show’s darkest period yet, courtesy of new villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his band of Saviors. We already know that at least one of our regulars is going to get the boot - or the bat, as the case may be - in the season 7 opener, and the question of who that might be has loomed large ever since he took his first fateful swing in the season 6 finale.
While the jury’s still out on just who we’ll be saying goodbye to as a result of that moment of madness, there’s no doubt that the impact of his or her death will be just as brutal as the deed itself. The scene has already made people who've seen it cry, after all, and according to actor Norman Reedus (who plays Daryl Dixon, a character who may or may not have just been eliminated from that chopping block), it’s put a major damper on everyone both on and off-screen.
Reedus spoke to EW about how the cliffhanger has impacted everyone - characters and actors alike. He described the cast’s regrouping after the off-season as “exhausting” and “no fun” because of the axe hanging over their heads, adding, “It was definitely not a joyous reunion."
Reedus, whose character has been a central, fan-favored element of the show since its inception, told EW that the Saviors shake-up is one which has virtually destroyed whatever foothold the Alexandrian survivors had firmly found amidst so much chaos before because “it’s a brand new world right now.” The “Ricktatorship,” which has had its own ups and downs along the way but has always emerged on top, is no more: “It’s a complete change of power. Our whole world has been turned upside down.”
The group has never been completely immune to struggle, and factions have certainly formed here and there within the spectrum of survivors, especially during their more nomadic times. Ultimately, though, solidarity has been a lynchpin in their success against whatever adversity - be it among the living or undead - they faced along their paths. That’s not going to be the case anymore, as Reedus explains.
“[This death] affects the group completely differently. You know, everyone, it affects them differently. Some relinquish power. Some accept it. Some fight it. There are people questioning it. There are people pointing their fingers. There are people blaming themselves. Other things happen that completely destroy people. Negan has come in and completely shaken up everything. Loyalties are broken, belief in one another, belief in ourselves. Each individual is completely broken, and they don’t all handle it the exact same way.”
That’s not a confirmation of his own status, but given Reedus’ obvious familiarity with the fallout that follows the death of Negan’s as-yet-unnamed victim, it might be enough to draw an inference that Daryl will be safe from the spike-swing (for at least the first episode). Which means maybe Jeffrey Dean Morgan wasn’t kidding when he said that no one sharing stage with him would be the first to bite it. Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes was already cleared, but Steven Yeun’s Glenn Rhee was a chief suspect, based on the comics’ version of the scene, and he was also among that group during the discussion ... which means the odds that Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) might get the brunt of all the brutality may have just increased even more. That would certainly explain her cryptic, but emotionally significant, discussion of the season to come.
The Walking Dead season 7 returns to AMC on Sunday, Oct. 23rd.