The Walking Dead fans got a two-for-one last night as the AMC hit series aired its Season 8 finale, which transitioned smoothly into the Season 4 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead. And this wasn’t just a juggernaut leading into a spin-off show for a ratings boost. Instead, core members of The Walking Dead cast picked up right where “Wrath” left off and joined the secondary series for a send-off of one of the flagship show’s main characters. Yes, if you missed the news, Morgan (Lennie James) is off to clear for Fear.
But before we get to the premiere “What’s Your Story?”, there are some questions to clear up for The Walking Dead and its story so far. Luckily, the powers that be have already answered (sort of) some of those questions. In a chat with Variety, former showrunner Scott M. Gimple, who’s now the chief content officer of the franchise for better or worse, stressed that new showrunner Angela Kang is taking the show in new directions in the years to come. She’s been with the series since Season 2 and has taken on more responsibility over the last year, so Kang is up to speed with the story and where it’s going.
Gimple said the following about where The Walking Dead will go after the Season 8 finale:
“I’ll just say that the show evolves in a huge way. They’ll be dealing with things we haven’t seen them deal with before and dealing with each other in ways we haven’t seen before. What they have planned is — it just feels new. It feels like an evolved show. This very much lived in the world that Rick began with. It was so informed by the pilot. It just takes this quantum leap forward in the stories that it tells.”
Two major plot points that are to come next season include not so much a rehabilitation of Negan, but the making of the menace into an example for the “New World” Rick and Michonne are building. But the other arc is the flipside of that; Maggie, Jesus, and Daryl have formed a cabal that aims to undermine this plan and exact vengeance for Glenn and others killed by Negan, likely by killing Negan himself. In my own personal opinion, The Walking Dead continues to make missteps by showing their hand and trying to have it both ways: Rick gets to, ostensibly, kill Negan, giving fans a thrill … but a moment later, he simply says, “Save him,” in order to bring back the excellent Jeffrey Dean Morgan and use his bat-wielding villain as a “lesson.” Gimple elaborated on both points as follows, starting with Negan surviving:
“When I read it in the book, it was shocking to me and it was something that resounded with me. I really liked it when I read it because it was unexpected. It was the right thing for the character, it was the right thing for the world. For what Rick wants, for what Carl wanted before him, it really was the only way forward. The fact that it’s nice to see something like that in an age when everything seems so combative and so aggressive was just the frosting on the cake.”
As for Maggie’s dark turn–and Lauren Cohan‘s uncertain future on the show– he had this to say:
“When we did do that, and what Lauren does with that scene is like Michael Corleone,” Gimple said. “It’s so cool. … It was there when Rick said, ‘Save him.’ It’s funny. We were worried when we were shooting it because the emotions when it’s ‘Action’ are real. We thought, ‘Is Danai going to get hit?’ It was difficult because they didn’t want to sit there and have to meter themselves. As far as the other stuff with Lauren, we’re talking about that and we’ll be talking about it soon, but that is in the episode so we plan to tell that story.”
Meanwhile, on Talking Dead (courtesy of THR) comic book creator Robert Kirkman also chimed in about Rick and Negan’s fate:
“This is a huge turning point in a long series of turning points for Rick. This is him finally realizing that he has to choose a different way. Every major conflict in the history of The Walking Dead has ended with a huge death or someone dying and this is him choosing life and turning over a new leaf and deciding that there’s a different way forward. To have that moment where he’s slashing a throat and saving a guy’s life, to have it so heightened, it marks time in a very important way and shows that from this point on the stories are going to be very different.”