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The Walking Dead showrunner explains impact of next death

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Gene Page/AMC

A lot of people have died on The Walking Dead. I mean, a lot of people. And that’s not even including the people that are no longer people (as in, zombies). So what makes this next death — which will finally be revealed when the show returns for season 7 on Oct. 23 — different?

We asked showrunner Scott M. Gimple to explain the significance of the impending demise, as well as to shed light on the relationship between Alexandria and the Hilltop in light of this latest development and where the show goes from here. Read on to discover what he had to say about all that and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know you like to break things out into eight-episode chunks. So, let’s talk about the first half of season 7. What is the theme moving forward for the next eight episodes?

SCOTT M. GIMPLE: I will say that they’ve got a key into a new world in [the second half of season 6]. Now, they discover that this new world is not at all the world that they thought it was. And they’ve had a devastating loss. So, that place they thought they lived in is shattered. And the people that they even thought that they were — they’ve achieved a certain level of peace with the world, of confidence in their abilities, of knowing what they can do and If we stick together, we can do anything — that does not prove to be true.

So, how do they go on? That’s really the question. And beyond that, you have this horrible event that shows that it’s Negan’s world and they’re living in it. How do they live in it? How do they go on in that situation? And it breaks them apart, in a lot of ways, emotionally and even circumstantially. You know, to put it in a tiny, tiny bite, how do they go on?

Obviously there have been a lot of big deaths on this show, but this one already feels different.

Yeah, well, this isn’t somebody being attacked by a Walker, it isn’t random, it’s purposeful. It’s extremely purposeful. Negan said in the finale that this is him showing them what the consequences are if they won’t do what he says. Not only do they have this terrible loss, but they lose their autonomy. They’re under someone’s thumb now, in every way. And the consequences of that, of trying to defy him, are laid out in front of them in just the most horrible way.

They’re powerless, they lose all of their power. At every opportunity up to this point, they’ve been parlaying that power. And their power was fighting together. That’s what episode 609 was all about. That was the great victory that they had, last season. They went, “Holy crap, if we do this all together, we can do anything!” But that isn’t true. It’s a bigger group and they are fertile and they are relentless and ruthless. And the death is evidence of that. But they’re moving into a whole new reality. And it’s not the reality they want to live in but they have to.

What does this do to the relationship with Alexandrians and the Hilltop? They took this job from the Hilltop. They said, “Give us all your food and we’ll get rid of this Negan character.” Now that this happens, what does this mean between the relationship between Alexandria and the Hilltop?

It means a great deal. Gregory is a very slippery character. And who knows what he’ll do? He’s about preserving himself and the Hilltop. But, ultimately, the Hilltop has new information, too. They didn’t know that there were more Saviors. They thought that that outpost was the Saviors. It’s not, so they suddenly go, “Oh s—, we’re in a whole different world, as well.” It makes their situation incredibly fraught.

And Gregory is incredibly worried, like, “Well, wait, did they know? Did the Saviors know that we had a deal with Alexandria? Are they going to come here and kill us?” So, there’s a bit of a panic, and it definitely makes the relationship between the two communities suddenly very different.

Check out an exclusive video with Jeffrey Dean Morgan below, and for more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.