The Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple takes us inside the season finale, including Sasha's fate, Rick's threat, and one scene that did not make the final cut.
The Walking Dead ended its seventh season with a bang — several hundred actually, thanks to all the firefights going on throughout Alexandria as five different communities engaged in all-out war. There was a lot going on as Sasha sacrificed herself to attack Negan (unsuccessfully) as a zombie, the Scavengers turned on the Alexandrians, Rick stood up to Negan with a vicious threat, and the Kingdom and Hilltop soldiers showed up in the nick of time to drive off the Saviors.
We spoke to showrunner Scott M. Gimple to get the inside scoop on the episode, including the importance of Rick’s stand against Negan, how a Fear the Walking Dead episode took a classic comic moment “off the table,” and intel on a scene that was filmed for the finale but did not make the final cut. Read on for more and also make sure to check out our interview with finale director Greg Nicotero.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You had the flashbacks with Abraham, you had Maggie’s big speech about Glenn and the decision he made back at the end of the first episode to save Rick and how that set everything in motion. Even more so than other season finales you guys have done, this one really was all about things coming full circle, wasn’t it?
SCOTT M. GIMPLE: Oh, believe me, I’m all about the circles. I think I try to do that with every finale. [Laughs] Maybe every episode. But we knew where we were ending, more or less, from early on. We didn’t have every single piece locked down, but we have what the pieces are going to be. Every year it’s been incredibly satisfying to reach the end of the circle, which in this case, some of the most powerful stuff in the finale had to do with Sasha and Maggie at the end of the premiere.
Was Sasha’s fate sealed the second you decided that Abraham’s fate was sealed?
It was in the mix. There’s always room for unsealing or mixing up plans. But at the very least, you regret deeply that this is going to be a big part of Sasha’s story, the loss of Abraham and the thirst of revenge and making the world right, her journey throughout that whole thing, who that made her, and also her being there for Maggie, and yet having this other agenda. At the very least, we knew what her story was going to be. We had somewhat of an idea where it was going to end. Sonequa [Martin-Green] and I were talking about that from the beginning of the year that it was definitely a possibility.
Obviously some pretty big changes with the Sasha thing in terms of what happened to Holly in the comics. Did any of those changes have to do with the fact that Fear The Walking Dead already used that zombie prisoner exchange stunt from the comic?
I would say the difference was always going to be there when we finally made it with certainty on Sasha’s fate. I also knew that Holly was very much a victim of Negan in the book. And that wouldn’t be the case here. That it was her choice. This was something that Sasha was doing. So that butterfly effect sort of took things further. I will say that it was a big moment for the book that we weren’t going to do once it was done. It might have changed. Certainly, the circumstances behind it changed. The purpose of it changed. I wouldn’t have been surprised if more had changed beyond that as well.
[The Fear episode] sort of took it off the table, but I don’t know if so much of what was happening in that moment was changing anyways. So much of it was predicated on Negan using Sasha as leverage. In the book, Holly is basically an ambush. And on Fear, it was something out of desperation — didn’t have a choice but to do it that way. But the story was about Sasha getting the final word. And I will say, that all that stuff is floating around in our head about how that’s going to change. We knew we had this Eugene story that was independently predicated on poisoning Negan. And all this stuff was flowing together.
And I love that Eugene and Sasha were playing off each other. Because they’re completely different characters. You have one character that is sacrificing herself to strike a blow against the Saviors, and you have another guy who’s like, “Cool. I’m a Savior!” I mean, they’re complete and total opposites, and yet they’re friends. A lot of story strands came together in really cool ways I felt.
I think for a lot of people the moment of the episode was Rick’s speech back to Negan where he gets right in his face and says, “You’re all already dead.” We talked about the bookends earlier, but is this the ultimate example of: Here’s where we were, and here’s where we are now?
Exactly. And that’s where the whole season basically started. In that teaser. Those guys face to face. Andy’s performance was spectacular. Just so wonderful and powerful and emotional. I was thrilled with it. I was thrilled with what [director] Greg Nicotero did with the episode as well.
I always love hearing if there was anything that didn’t make the episode. Was there anything notable that you either filmed or talked at some point about having in the finale that did not make the final episode?
There is a lovely scene with Rick and Carl with Michonne and I’m hoping I put it in the deleted scenes. I’m pretty sure I did. That sets up that moment a little bit between Rick and Negan. And I don’t feel we needed to set it up. But it was a lovely scene that kind of did. It was strictly about time. This was already an hour and a half episode. This was sort of a long scene and it wasn’t 100 percent necessary, but I really did like it and I believe it will be included as part of the deleted scenes.
That scene in my mind absolutely did happen in the show. You just didn’t see it. And I think about that a lot. I think there are a lot of scenes that go on that we don’t see. And I could have followed any one of those characters throughout the whole day. It’s actually a very flummoxing sort of part of this. When you have an ensemble show and you want to have beginnings and middles and ends of each character’s story, you could easily tell those. It’s just a factor of time and also wanting to also keep things moving along and not overload the audience with information. Maybe in the future, we’ll be doing ensemble shows where we do all 18 characters and take a deep dive. [Laughs]
Make sure to also read our Q&A with finale director Greg Nicotero and keep an eye out for interviews with other key cast members. Also follow @DaltonRoss on Twitter for all the latest Walking Dead updates.