The Walking Dead has provided little hope for its main characters in season 7, faced with the challenge of surviving Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the murderous leader of the Saviors whose brutal, tyrannical rampage has made him one of the show’s most dangerous villains. His actions have been the main driver of season 7’s intensely bleak tone in the first half, which has stung deeply since the shocking season premiere.
Negan’s relentless grip on the course of the season continued in 'Service,' when he made an earlier-than-promised visit to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the others at Alexandria. The seventh season of The Walking Dead has yet to escape Negan ominously hanging over everyone as an existential threat. But executive producer Scott M. Gimple promises that things will be quite different by the end of the season’s second half, which is expected to premiere in February 2017.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with ComicBook.com, Gimple hinted that the second half of season 7 could experience a significant shift in tone from the first, a hugely encouraging sign for viewers who stuck with the series in the wake of the visceral carnage of the season premiere and wish for things to change for the better. His comments indicate major changes for Rick, who has succumbed to Negan’s presence as the villain has asserted himself in Alexandria. It’s likely that Rick will be dramatically different in the second half of the season.
Gimple also said that the structure of the episodes in the second half of the season will be more mixed than the first half, in addition to big changes for the characters and tone:
"I will say 7B's vibe is very different from 7A's vibe. The ending of 7B is very different than the beginning of 7A," Gimple said. "Just the vibe in 7B, I was just talking about it with Andy [Lincoln] last night. It's just a very, very different half season than the half season that preceded it. Even with structure, what we're doing right now with the episodes and seeing where everyone is at, the structure is very, very different than the back half. There's a lot more variety to the structure. It's just a very, very different situation, but 6, 7, 8 ... Wow, we're really close, aren't we? I would say the end of 7A is very different than the beginning of 7A. That's the thing that kind of launches that different tone of 7B."
Rick relinquished control to Negan in front of the group in 'Service' when he told them he’s “not in charge anymore.” But there are still four more episodes, some of them extended, for Rick to potentially turn things around and resist Negan’s rule, if not get rid of him entirely. Episode titles like 'Sing Me A Song' and 'Hearts Still Beating' to close out season 7A of The Walking Dead can at least give a sense of hope for how season 7B will unfold.
There does not appear to be an end in sight for Negan’s reign of terror over Rick and the group. But Gimple’s comments on the back half of season 7 should be encouraging for those who have remained through the ups and downs of what's been presented so far. At this point, a major turnaround for Rick against Negan would be highly rewarding.
Season 7 of The Walking Dead continues Sunday night with 'Go Getters' @9pm on AMC.