We’re all still waiting to find out who will die at the hands of Negan and Lucille in that big Walking Dead cliffhanger. But what comes next? It’s not who dies, but what happens to those who survive that will define season 7 of the zombie drama, which premieres on AMC on Oct. 23.
We spoke with Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman to get some scoop on what to expect when the show returns, and he promised big things in a much bigger world.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We’ve talked a lot about the cliffhanger, but let’s get into what happens after that is resolved. What can you say about how season 7 is shaping up?
ROBERT KRIKMAN: I mean, the word is epic. The show is expanding. We’re introducing the Kingdom, we already have the Hilltop, we’re going to be exploring more of the Saviors and the Sanctuary that they live in and more of what goes on around Negan, what his average daily life is, which is extremely interesting.
What we’re finding is there’s a lot of civilization out there. There are smaller groups here and there that actually have been thriving and it gets to be a little exciting because we’re going to be seeing how they’ve been surviving, and a lot of them have been getting by in a much different way than Rick and his group. So we’re meeting these people that have lived in this apocalyptic situation for as long as Rick Grimes and his crew, who we’ve been following since day one, but we haven’t seen their evolution and their progression. And so some of them grow to be like Negan’s group, some of them grow to be like Ezekiel’s group, some of them grow to be like Gregory’s group at the Hilltop, and the differences between these groups, and their ways of life, is going to be a lot of fun to explore this season.
We’re all focusing a lot on the mystery death and who it might be, but obviously the big thing is the impact that death has. What is this death going to do to the group? And how is it different from previous deaths, because obviously they’ve experienced loss before, but this definitely feels different?
Well, seasons 1 through 6 have been about Rick and his group learning to live in this apocalyptic world that we’ve built, and by season 6, they’re extremely capable and they feel like they can handle anything. Even going into the finale you kind of see how almost arrogant they are in their abilities, and this confrontation with Negan just shuts that down completely and opens their eyes to how naïve they were — how they hadn’t really anticipated what could be out there and what they could be facing.
Because they had dealt with hardship, and loss, and come across insurmountable odds that they had overcome. They kept encountering groups along the way that weren’t as prepared as them. Alexandria, to a certain extent, is kind of their downfall because they encounter these people that are completely unprepared for this and they’re like, “Oh my God, we’re the s—. Like, these people know nothing about what they’re doing, and we have to teach them and we have to show them our ways and our ways are best.”
That built them up in a way that blinded them to the fact that there are other people out there that maybe survived worse, and maybe did worse things to survive those things, and are maybe more prepared than they could ever be, because there are a lot of lines that Rick and his group won’t cross that Negan and his group have had in their rearview mirror for years. So it really changes things. It’s not just a death, it’s a fundamental shift in their outlook on this world that’ll change everything.
How is the blame game going to work? Are people going to be blaming themselves? Are they blaming others within the group? Is it going to cause divisions?
It’ll introduce a new level of fear for these characters that hasn’t really been present since the first couple of seasons. That fear’s going to affect them all in different ways, but it will be pushing them apart in a lot of different ways as well, so there’s going to be a lot of division in the group and a lot of conflict.
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