[MASSIVE SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 7 premiere ahead.]
The Walking Dead fans finally got the answer to a question that they had been wrestling with for seven months, when the season 7 premiere revealed just who was chosen to die at the hands of Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) barbed wire baseball bat, Lucille. However, while the mystery victim from the season 6 finale was revealed to be Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), viewers were in for twice the brutality that they were expecting when Negan then went on to kill Glenn (Steven Yeun) almost immediately afterwards, in response to Daryl's (Norman Reedus) attack on him. The possibility of there being multiple deaths in the premiere had previously been rumored, but actually seeing two fan-favorite characters go out within just minutes of each other proved to be even more heartbreaking than anyone had prepared themselves for.
Glenn's death had been predicted by fans for several years leading up to last night, since the character's death at the hands of Negan came at the exact same time and in nearly the exact same fashion in The Walking Dead comics as it did in the TV show. It was clear though, with the addition of Abraham to Negan's initial kill list, that the creative team behind The Walking Dead were trying to kill two birds with one stone so to speak - by subverting fan expectations with Abraham's death, while also giving comic book fans the moment they'd been wanting to see for several seasons now.
While appearing on the post-season 7 premiere edition of Talking Dead, The Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple and executive producer Robert Kirkman discussed their decision process behind the two deaths in the episode, and revealed that they've actually had the pair killing planned for about two years now:
“I think the hardest thing about it was thinking while starting the script, ‘Well, what would break Rick?' It was all in the book, in issue 100. But looking for a way to break the audience too. Not in a way that is in any way to hurt them, but for them to believe that Rick Grimes would be under the thumb of Negan. That he would go through an experience that would do that to him. That the audience would go through the experience too, so that they would believe that Rick could do what this guy says.”
Of course, as fans of the show will know, it wasn't just the murders of Abraham and Glenn that eventually led to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) being broken by Negan, but also when he was almost forced to cut off Carl's (Chandler Riggs) arm off near the end of the episode. It was a purposefully, emotionally torturous episode of the show meant to break down not only the lead heroes, but also the viewers themselves. Judging by the reactions from fans on social media and in comment sections so far, it looks like they at least accomplished their goals in that respect with the episode.
Next week, fans will luckily be in for a bit of a lighter episode with the introductions of characters like Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his pet tiger, Shiva, even as Morgan's Negan continues his reign of terror on the central group. After being told for months by the show's creative team that the deaths needed to be kept for the premiere episode though, the premiere didn't do much to explain why exactly the cliffhanger was needed from a storytelling standpoint. So with that being said, seeing how tactful The Walking Dead is about dealing with the ramifications of Glenn and Abraham's deaths, while also keeping the season from being a non-stop misery train, should prove to be an important determining factor in season 7's overall success.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with ‘The Well‘ at 9pm on AMC.
Source: Talking Dead