The next episode of The Walking Dead will not only serve as an ending point for the season, but it will act as a much more important landmark in the life of the series as well. According to showrunner Scott M. Gimple — who will be transitioning to a franchise oversight role after this season as Angela Kang takes over the day-to-day operations — his final episode will serve as a big turning point for the show as the AMC zombie drama transitions into its next phase. We chatted with Gimple to preview the season finale, find out what to expect, and get his thoughts about moving on.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What does it feel like to have your last episode as showrunner coming up and airing on Sunday night?
SCOTT M. GIMPLE: It’s super weird, but we had been planning this for a long, long time. In fact, I started this year talking to the actors and producers and everything about the change, so have been living with it a great deal of time. I just still… I love show-running. I love show-running this show, and it’s definitely tough to let that aspect go, but working on both shows has been awesome. Working with Angela has been awesome, working with [Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg on Fear the Walking Dead] has been awesome.
So, it’s bittersweet, but I love new challenges, and I want to ensure the health of both shows and love doing new stuff. I just didn’t want to divide myself up as much as I might have if I kept show-running. I was working on Fear with those guys last year as I was starting Walking Dead, and there’s no way that I could’ve done the show without Angela’s help and Angela jumping in even more than she has in the past. So, she got some full on-the-job training even more than she had in the past, and it’s a very cool way to pass the baton to someone that I started on the show with.
When I finished my last mix, it was very late, and I was driving through the WB lot and it was empty — it was deserted like the end of the world. And it was very weird driving home that night from the last one. It didn’t exactly feel over, it just felt different. It’s definitely not retirement, which would be super sweet, but it’s just a whole host of different responsibilities and challenges.
Were you on set for the finale? And, if so, what was the vibe like on the set for this episode?
I was there, and it was an intense vibe. It was a very hard season. And kind of everybody is in this episode. It was just intense. People were pretty to the limit this year emotionally. Also, this episode isn’t just like these 15 episodes coming to a conclusion, but Angela and myself and the writers had always talked about this in many ways being sort of the conclusion of the first eight seasons. This show will be very much a new show next year and with a bigger, new narrative. It was something I was really excited about getting into even before season 8. And so there was just a certain weight in the air of the kind of conclusion that we were getting closer to. It was a weird graduation for everybody.
I’m guessing we have this huge battle coming up, but it’s interesting talking to you beforehand about it and talking to some of the actors, because a lot of people have said there are going to be a lot of different things in the finale happening at once. Does that mean a lot of different things within the same battle?
I think it has to do with stuff as practical as plot aspects, things that happen, but also emotional movement between characters. And also I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is all just one big battle. There are some really unusual aspects to that too, that the action isn’t just a large battle, but there are things going sort of around the battle. I don’t even know if I would classify it as a battle. And yet, at the same time, the scope is massive. And I guess with so many people, so many characters reaching the conclusion of the story that we’ve been laying out for them over the past few years in some regards, there’s just a lot going on, and a lot of perspectives that we’re shifting between and some very, very big emotional and philosophical movement between just some unbelievably insane things happening.
Any more Carl letters we should know about? Has he written me a letter? Are you gonna read me his letter now?
I mean, there were a stack of them, so it might even be a fan contest where we will write you a letter from Carl.