By Dalton Ross
February 10, 2017 at 09:00 AM EST
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Credit: AMC

The wait is almost over as The Walking Dead midseason premiere airs Sunday, Feb. 12 on AMC. But what is it exactly that we have been waiting for? We know Daryl has escaped the Sanctuary and Rick is once again ready to fight, so what’s next?

We went to executive producer Greg Nicotero (who also directed three episodes in the back eight, including the premiere and the finale) for answers.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start big picture. Daryl has escaped and Rick has dusted himself off and is ready to fight again. What does that mean in terms of what type of show we’re going to see in the back half here?
GREG NICOTERO: Listen, the first half, we’re watching our hero being ground into the dirt. It’s never a comfortable situation to see your heroes reduced to subservience. The way that The Walking Dead works is we spend time lining up the chess pieces and setting the stage, and I would say the season 7 midseason premiere is going to feel very much like The Walking Dead that people have come to know and love in terms of the band is back together. We’ve seen Rick stand up, and we know now that he’s going to fight. Daryl is back with the group. They’ve taken as much s— from Negan as they are going to take, so it really feels very much like the seeds of war have been planted, and now they just need to figure out how to pull it off.

You guys have established these communities in the first half of the season, and the assumption is that we’re going to start to see them connect now. So what’s going to happen as these communities start to come together?
I think we’re pretty clear in understanding that you can’t do it alone. Last year, I think the cardinal mistake that Rick made was he underestimated Negan and his crew, and now knowing that the Hilltop is there, now knowing that the Kingdom is there, I think Rick has an opportunity to solicit these groups to band together and go up against Negan. He didn’t have that option last year. Now the cards, at least, appear to be stacked a bit more in their favor, and that’s a pretty outstanding opportunity.

What do you want to say about any new groups that we might be meeting?
We’ve teased this mysterious stranger that was at the lake and followed them back to Alexandria, so we don’t know much about that group. We don’t know if they’re good guys. We don’t know if they’re bad guys, but in the storytelling fashion of The Walking Dead, we always like to introduce these communities so that later they play a bigger part. If they just showed up, it would be a little more jarring, so the community that Tara came in contact with, she left promising them that she would never tell anyone about them, and then she returns to Alexandria and realizes the toll that was taken by Negan. There’s a lot of interesting storylines that are crisscrossing, and I think these communities will certainly play a part in the future of the show.

Yeah, it was interesting having Oceanside in there because it is much different, and introduced much later in the comic.
It’s fun. It’s exciting. One of the challenges is we have a lot of people. We have some fantastic actors, like Andy and Norman, and we have Melissa and Lennie, who are at the Kingdom, and I want to see more of them. I want to see more of these great characters. And now with Steven Ogg and with Xander Berkeley, we have some terrific performers and some really great people, and they’re all captivating to watch. That’s the fun part of the second part of the season is really getting a chance to see these characters interacting more and making the effort to band together, to try to take some steps to protect themselves.

Do you have any special zombies you’ve cooked up in this second half?
Oh, for sure. I think one of the most ingenious walkers is coming up in the second half, something that we’ve never done before. The minute that you see it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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Episode Recaps

The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

  • TV Show
  • 10
  • TV-14
  • Frank Darabont
  • AMC
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