About the only thing that The Walking Dead creative team and the fans can agree on about the show’s season six finale cliffhanger, is that it was divisive. Where the fans (accurately) say that the episode’s decision to not reveal the identity of Negan’s victim was cheap, those involved say that it was artistic and important to the show’s narrative, with the only real reason behind that being, “You’ll understand in October.”
Now, whether you loved or hated the cliffhanger is pretty unimportant at this point, and when everyone tunes back into the show later this year with its seventh season, it’ll be interesting to see just how well the reception to the show is again now. In a series that is known for its hit-or-miss seasons, The Walking Dead‘s creative team better hope to God that this isn’t a miss.
Speaking with EW though, showrunner Scott Gimple says that the cliffhanger was done for the audience themselves, and that he wasn’t surprised by the backlash to it either:
“All of this is on behalf of the audience. I wasn’t surprised. It’s a very passionate audience and I wasn’t surprised that there was some of that. I guess I was surprised how intense some folks got. But passion is passionate and if they have it for the show, after six years, I guess we’ve just got to take our lumps.”
With all of that being said though, Gimple still very much stands behind the decision:
“I believe in what we’re doing. I believe in the story that that cliffhanger is the lynchpin of, and those story aspects that invite an audience to engage with their imagination, and to think about things and discuss things.
It seems like the choice came from wanting to subvert fan expectations as well, for those who came into the episode thinking they knew what was going to happen:
“People were like, ‘Oh, well, here’s what happens when Negan arrives on the scene. And the expectation was, ‘Oh, it’ll be this way and that’s the way it should be and that’s the way it is in my head.’ And I understand that. But it’s also a question of trying to do things that fulfill the spirit of the story and the spirit of the comic, without it being exactly the comic.”
Not to split hairs here, but I do think there is a difference between subverting expectations though, and cheating your audience of a full scene. In a season filled with two unnecessary mysteries, the first being Glenn’s idiotic survival under a dumpster and this, it’s hard to think of last season without thinking of its flaws. For a season that was also meant to introduce the most iconic and beloved villain from the source material as well, that’s not exactly what you want to happen either.
The Walking Dead season 7 will premiere on AMC on October 23rd.
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