‘The Walking Dead’: Andrew Lincoln on Midseason Premiere Casualties, Negan’s Arrival and ‘Appalling’ Season Finale

walking dead recap carl shot jessie
Courtesy of AMC

Spoiler warning: This article contains plot details for “The Walking Dead” Season 6, Episode 9, titled “No Way Out.”

After an anticlimactic midseason finale, “The Walking Dead” seemed determined to make up for lost time in its 2016 return, resulting in a veritable bloodbath that dispatched Jessie and her sons Sam and Ron in typically brutal fashion — simultaneously satisfying our bloodlust (because no one appreciates whiny kids at the best of times, let alone in a zombie apocalypse) and leaving Carl permanently maimed, after a horrified Ron took a shot at Rick and hit his son in the eye instead.

This precipitated a rapid descent into chaos, filmed with frenetic energy (if not much art) by director and executive producer Greg Nicotero, who made some bold aesthetic choices in the action-packed hour that didn’t always pay off — for one, the climactic montage of the survivors hacking at zombies against a black backdrop inadvertently distracted from the momentum of the bloody battle, likely designed to give each character a “hero shot,” but playing like a cheesy ’80s B-movie that blunted the emotional urgency of the scene.

What the episode did do right — unlike Nicotero’s meandering season premiere — was keep the tension and adrenaline ratcheted up throughout, first in Daryl, Sasha and Abraham’s terse encounter with Negan’s followers out on the road, then through the unfolding anarchy inside Alexandria, which finally saw the compound’s sheltered survivors prove their worth, resulting in a triumphant team effort that even allowed Father Gabriel to make himself useful. The show continues to toy with viewers’ affection for Glenn (as the producers have arguably been doing for several seasons), once again seeing him cornered by a zombie horde only to be narrowly saved by Abraham and Sasha — but after the emotional bait-and-switch of the first half of the season and that frustrating dumpster fakeout, those playful jabs from writer Seth Hoffman felt a little like pouring salt in the wound.

But the episode’s standout moment came from one of its simplest scenes — a terrified father sitting by his son’s bedside, as Rick begged Carl not to leave him. “The Walking Dead” has always been strongest in those intimate, character-driven beats, and as Andrew Lincoln recently told Variety, “it makes me so happy that [the episode] is impossibly huge and epic but then it finishes in such a tender, small, emotional way with a father and a son. When I watched Greg Nicotero film it, it was so moving, because you have the new family outside, waiting in vigil, and then the camera goes inside and you’ve got the inner circle — the originals, the family — and then Michonne at the door, and then the inner-inner circle of the father and son, and I loved the fact that everybody stood together in this crisis, willing this boy to pull through.”

Variety spoke to Lincoln about the emotional fallout of the premiere, how Carl’s injury will affect both him and Rick moving forward, and how the introduction of comic book villain Negan will change the dynamic of the show.

Obviously the biggest moment out of many big moments in the premiere is Carl being shot – which will clearly have lasting repercussions for him both physically and emotionally. How does that experience shape Rick in the back half, and perhaps alter their relationship?

Certainly if we’re going to echo the comics, which I hope we do, I think it marks a very interesting turning point in Rick and Carl’s relationship. If he makes it, which we hope he does, in the comic books he’s disfigured, and you know, he’s a teenage boy. He’s a boy and with one eye, he’s an uncompromising presence, and certainly it’s hard enough parenting an adolescent — so I hear — in the millennium, let alone a zombie apocalypse. It’s not going to be without its problems. I also dig, particularly, the relationship — which is almost a triangle — between Negan, Rick and Carl. I think that’s a really interesting psychological battleground; the father figure and a parent that cares desperately about and would give his life for his son, sometimes can be smothering and not value the son enough or not listen to the son as a true leader in his own right. Whereas someone else may offer that, which is very interesting. All of this ground is the stuff I’ve been waiting for, certainly in that relationship. I think it’s really interesting; it’s touching upon the same moral ambiguity of “The Grove” and episodes like that. I think we’re getting into muddy, deep and dark waters, and as an actor, for my taste, it really excites me, I’m really interested in that area. In short, I think it gets very complicated, very quickly.

Rick also lost Jessie this week; they were only just starting to get close, but they obviously had a connection — how does that affect him when piled on top of all this other trauma he’s had to deal with?

When I read that scene, when all of us did — Sam getting bitten, Jessie getting bitten, me having to chop her arm off and then Ron shooting at me and then shooting my son and then Ron being stabbed by Michonne — we all read it and laughed. We just went, “this is an impossible scene, thank you! How are we supposed to do this?” And I think, like most times on the show when we have to put ourselves through emotional marathons, you look around and everyone just goes in and commits. We’re very fortunate that all of those actors are just brilliant.

It is horrendous. Jessie was one of the first people in Alexandria to touch Rick, to open him up to a viable community and make him empathize with them and their plight. But she also allowed him to open up a part of his heart that he’d kept shut down for a long, long time, and to trust and to dare to even feel that way for another human being after the loss of Lori. So to have to go through this trauma and witness this in such shocking fashion is appalling, but it’s almost like it gets overridden — everything just gets worse and then worse and then worse, so much so that he has to hand what he thinks is his dying son over to someone who he doesn’t know, and he’s powerless. And I think that’s why he just processes it all and channels it all into this impotent rage and just has to get this energy out.

But the wonderful thing is, even all of that trauma gets overridden by the fact that everybody stands shoulder to shoulder and fights alongside each other, and they become brothers in arms, and it is like the last stand, and everybody’s reunited and it is our “Magnificent Seven.” And I think that’s the genius of the writing — you kind of go “no! What?! No!” I would love to see a bar watching that episode. I don’t want to see the episode, I just want to see how people watch the episode with lots of people because it’s ridiculous, what happens, but it makes me so happy that it is impossibly huge and epic and all those things but then it finishes in such a tender, small, emotional way with a father and a son. But when I watched Greg Nicotero shooting it, it was so moving, because you have the new family outside, waiting in vigil, and then the camera goes inside and you’ve got the inner circle, the originals, the family, and then Michonne at the door, and then the inner-inner circle of the father and son, and I loved the fact that everybody stood together in this crisis, willing this boy to pull through. I find it moving talking about it, because … I don’t know because I won’t ever watch it, but I hope they didn’t use the snot takes in the bedside scene, because there were quite a lot. Even the camera guys were going “wipe your nose.”

Rick began the season determined to keep his distance from the Alexandrians and demonstrating a very “us versus them” mentality – how will that position evolve in the back half of the season now that they’ve been through this gauntlet together?

It’s a massive watershed episode, and it marks a real change in Rick’s leadership and his feelings about Alexandria, the people within it, and also their future. It’s a huge, huge departure from where he’s been… The final moments of the episode can almost be day zero, it’s almost civilization begins from this point, for the first time. Because I think the key thing that’s been missing for so long is hope. It’s the first time that Rick, in spite of the trauma and the carnage, [Carl surviving] has given him his first feelings of hope since he was shot two years ago.

We’ve seen Rick’s core group very fractured in the first half, as has been the case in previous seasons — will we see more of a united front in the remaining episodes?

Yeah, the back eight is exciting, and we move very quickly. It’s different and we’re gunning towards one of the best, most appalling and brilliant season finales we’ve ever attempted. It made me physically sick when I read it, and if we’ve done it right, you will [be] too. You’re gonna be made nauseous! The story moves very quickly, you see very much a unified front, but what happens is, loosely speaking, so much of the stories for the last couple of years have looked inwardly, towards group dynamic and how we assimilate, whether or not we can or can’t, and that question is not in doubt anymore. We turn our eyesight outside the walls, and in one direction we see an incredibly exciting, beautiful, optimistic vista. In the other direction, we see hell. [Laughs.] The world opens up and the world just got a whole lot bigger.

Speaking of expanding the world this season, our group is going to have contact with a lot of different factions, between Hilltop and the Wolves and the Saviors – how would you say that affects Rick’s leadership style?

One of the great things I like about playing Rick is that he began — six years ago in my life — as the visible embodiment of law and order, and he’s used to being in situations as a cop, when [dealing with] people in heightened situations of duress and stress, he’s a natural person that people would look to in this environment. But he’s been pushed in so many different directions and… in a place that has no law and order, seemingly, and the goalposts keep changing, how do you reevaluate that, and what is society now? I think that’s always been the thing, it’s changed his moral compass continually. I think there’s always been a righteous father and husband – he used to be a husband – in all of this, but he’s been pushed and pulled and tormented and tortured by the fates and lost his mind. He’s been on this incredible emotional rollercoaster, and I think where you find the man now is … he’s a leader that has everything, but with that confidence comes possibly hubris. There’s a tendency to believe — and they are an incredibly powerful, dynamic group of survivors, but everywhere else you look, anyone else who’s left is equally as self-sufficient. We’re gonna meet somebody… we’re gonna meet a few people, a lot of people — more people than you can imagine in the back eight — and a lot of different ways of surviving, some good, and some very, very bad.

How would you contrast Rick’s leadership style with Negan’s?

I can’t really go into great detail about that, but all I know is that from the comic books, he’s an incredibly funny, incredibly charming and lethal leader, and I know that we’ve got Jeffrey Dean Morgan who is all of those things, and … all I will say is, I think people will be very happy when they see his entrance.

What makes Negan different from other enemies they’ve faced in the past, like The Governor?

He’s unashamedly psychotic. [Laughs.] He’s unapologetic about his means, his ways of getting his points across and getting things done. He’s absolutely unapologetic, I think that’s the closest I can answer that.

“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

What did you think of the midseason premiere? Were you glad to see Jessie and her sons bite the dust? Weigh in below!

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  1. torrak says:

    Really,

    The next morning, Jenner shows the group the clinical results of Test Subject 19, a person (later announced to be his wife) who was bitten by a walker and volunteered to be observed as the infection progressed. The time-lapse MRI video demonstrates the disease attacking the brain, similar to meningitis, ultimately killing the victim. Brain activity is restarted a few hours later, simultaneously reanimating the body to mere basic functions. Jenner explains that the brain stem reanimates anywhere from a few minutes to 8 hours after death, and adds that the conscious human traits do not return.

    Reanimating the body to basic functions: Means they have to drink liquid or die in 3 to 7 days. Why don’t they go to Wisconsin in the winter: Frozen Zombies They need air to breath: Put a plastic bag over their heads. They need to eat: Zombie’s will starve to death.

    All of these things plus many more are needed to keep the brain stem going. Oh and by the way if you only chop off the top of the head the brain stem is still working. And they can bleed to death, and if the heart stops no blood or oxygen to the brain stem. So shoot them in the heart, or cut an artery. And they can die of sun stroke, or hypothermia, or pneumonia, or cancer, or liver disease…..

    It’s called the Walking Dead but it’s really: The Walking around really slow and stupid and dying in a couple of days.

    Oh ya and if the virus is in everyone anyhow then why do you turn into a zombie if they just bite you a little bit.

    And they can be paralyzed, and drowned…

    • Max Viscera says:

      @ torrak – Where did you get your zombie lore??? Everything you said is the exact opposite of what a zombie is. “Basic functions” does not necessarily mean their bodily systems (respiratory, circulatory, etc.) are WORKING.

      The “reanimation” is purely electrical and powers only the muscular system and rudimentary senses. They are reduced to only the most primal urge to eat, but they do NOT require food to survive. Their stomachs do not break down food and their bodies do NOT absorb nutrients. They DO NOT require liquid to survive either, as is proven in many scenes where walkers have been trapped and unable to move for many many weeks, yet are still animated when discovered by the heros. The original comics also makes this obvious.

      The involuntary muscles may cause the lungs to contract and expand, allowing for basic “vocalization”, but the blood stream is NOT taking any oxygen from the lungs to the brain because their hearts are NOT beating, so suffocating them is quite impossible, as is drowning. (There are scenes of zombies having spent days underwater that prove this.)

      There are countless scenes of walkers who are missing vital organs and other elements of their bodies that still continue to function, which completely contradicts your statements. They ARE in fact, very very DEAD, so the name of the show is completely accurate.

      Getting bitten is NOT what turns humans into zombies. The bite carries a deadly toxin (as well as the virus), which causes the virus already present in the human victim to trigger a fatal illness. You see it in the show many times… the victim gets flu-like symptoms and eventually dies from it. It’s not the BITE itself that does it, it’s the act of DYING that brings them back as a zombie. You should watch “Fear The Walking Dead”, as the actual nature of the illness and bodily functions (or lack thereof) of the dead are explained clearly.

  2. Dave says:

    Sure wish Carl got dead. Happy there for a sec with that eye-shot and then realized he was going to pull through. Sigh… whiny, annoying fake-tough teenagers always get bitten… except Carl, for some reason.

  3. R Johnston says:

    If you guys kill Darrel, we are going to boycott the show.

  4. Tristan says:

    I would be happy to see Jessie survives. I like the calming influence she has on Rick and Rick certainly deserves some intimacies or he can get unhinged like going out all by himself and start hacking a gazillion zombies without considering that he is putting others in danger because of course his loyal friends are going out to save him. Sam has no place in that world, another weak, damaged soul like those 2 girls from the prison that have to be done away with by Carol. As much as I detest Ron, I was hoping the character would be rehabilitated and turn into a useful member of the group but it is not to be. Too bad for Jessie, though, she is a good human being but too lenient as a mother in that world, she should have shown some tough love toward Sam before he was too far gone.

  5. TiredMom says:

    So glad Jessie is gone. I never felt the chemistry between her and Rick. No heat. Buh bye!

  6. WTF says:

    This is crap, and putting spoilers in the title?? How do you make a mistake like that?? Variety should just remove this completely. It was my first time reading anything on this website and will be avoiding this site in the future with how depressingly embarrassing this article was.

    • Bill B. says:

      What spoilers are in the title?! No one can not expect casualties and Negan did not show up. I don’t get the complaints. I thought the show was sensational.

  7. Not amused says:

    You are a terrible, terrible person, Laura Prudom. Not only did you put spoilers in the title, you don’t even know what the f*** you’re talking about.

    Thanks to you, Google Now ruined the episode for me. An episode I’ve been waiting a long time for.

    I’m hereby filing a complaint. May this be the last click bait junk article you ever write.

    • Tim R says:

      She’s not a terrible person, but she certainly screwed up this article. Checked out her Twitter account- she’s a genre fangirl for sure, but also a SJW. She should have edited in an apology at the end of the article or at least defended herself in the comments section. Side note- Laura, if you want to know why I mention SJW, I’ll be happy to explain why, just ask.

    • WaaaaaH!!!!!! If this is the most “terrible person” in your life, you must have a great life you damn crybaby American.

  8. Moshe says:

    Please get someone that actually watches the program to write the next article. This is lazy writing. How embarrassing.

  9. Nevaeh B. says:

    I enjoyed reading this ☺📱. It made me think about the show in the characters perspective on what happened. Especially what happened to Carl. I love Carl and I broke down last night when I saw what happened to him. I had watched something on YouTube about him losing his eye and I was hoping it wasn’t true. And I always wanted Rick to get him a women. And I didn’t get as upset when Sam died but while Jesse was screaming I knew something bad was about to happen. Rick and Jesse looked good together. And I know Rick’s character was devastated seeing her die. I’m kinda happy that Ron is dead and the way it happened was perfect. Michonne is good at taking her sword out when she needs to. Just like she did with the governor. Out of any Walking Dead enemy I HATED the governor. And grabbed that swored at the perfect time. A lot of emotional things happened in that episode, but it still was a good way for a young girl (12) like me to spend her Valentine’s Day. Thanks again for that amazing article.

  10. goldfish says:

    Thank you for ruining this episode! I just wanted to know when Negan was going to show up… Your headline killed it! Jerk!

  11. chris says:

    The cheesy 80s b-movie ‘hero shot’ as you call it looked more like panes of the comic book to me and If that’s what it was intended to be, then that shows the level of respect the producers have for the origins of the show. Having read the comics I wondered how they could possibly translate that whole dramatic scene from the comic to the show but they did it masterfully, and that is why I keep watching.

  12. Diary of a Neurotic Lover says:

    Dear author, please get a dictionary and look up the word gauntlet.

  13. adamnyc says:

    Thanks for changing your title of story. Too late. Google already cached the original title and is displaying that in Google Now. Never post a spoiler in the title. You suck.

  14. wally glenn says:

    This was a terrific episode, glad to see the spoiled kids go down finally!

  15. Jeff Holley says:

    Thanks for the spoilers dipshit. All I searched was Negan and boom, first link tells me what happen IN ITS HEADLINE before even getting to watch the episode. Will be formally complaining on your behalf Laura Prudom, I hope you are looking for a new job within the week, you’re not the best journalist, as a journalist should consider his/her readers before releasing an article.

  16. Why is every website on the planet twisting Lincolns words to make it seem like hes saying he thinks the script is appalling and terrible? Click bait thats why. He is describing it in a good way. He is saying this is one of the best episodes/seasons in a long time. Yet you ad revenue hungry sites keep creating these quote twisting headlines to drive up page views. This is why the country generally hates the media.

  17. Woody says:

    This episode was great! But it did kinda pissed me off, too. They could have kept Jessie alive. And couldn’t you just let Carl get shot in the arm or shoulder? Life in zombie land is tuff enough. You thought maybe Carl needed another challenge?

  18. Nope, pissed off! Finally, Rick gets a love interest on the show and then they take her away on Valentine’s Day! Really? I know the the screwed up kids had to go and I guess, Jessie, would have never been the same after that, without her kids, butl I’m not happy about her leaving the show. By the way, I’m still pissed that they got rid of Andrea, she would have been the “perfect” woman for Rick! Just sayin’!

    • Ami says:

      Comic Andrea, yes. TV Andrea, no. Plus, I really don’t think Rick would have liked the Governor’s leftovers. The man DID try to kill him….

  19. Yetget says:

    I for one dont follow the comic because I dont want to know whats coming. Why are you telling us future comic knowledge that none of us know yet….. jesus .. spoilers on top of spoilers….

  20. Pissed says:

    SPOILERS IN THE TITLE??!!! MIXING UP CHARACTERS? YOU ARE HORRIBLE, LADY. CLEARLY THIS RAG IS SOMETHING I WANT TO AVOID COMPLETELY. I HAD GOOD ASSOCIATIONS WITH THIS “JOURNAL” BUT FORGET IT NOW. BLOCKING EVERYTHING.

  21. Jennifer Burton says:

    The standoff with Newman was not Michonne but Sasha..if your going to criticise a show get the characters right.

  22. Brian says:

    Why would you put a spoiler in your headline. “Carl dead; Jessie shot”. You ruined the episode for me and I didn’t even read the article. Thanks.

  23. C. says:

    Not all black people look alike. It was Sasha with Darryl and Abraham NOT Michonne.

  24. kevin.. says:

    Yeah I must agree with everyone else…. After the Sasha/Michonne mix up that ended my reading of the article; if you hadn’t been so harsh at the start maybe it could’ve been forgiven…..But my question is does Variety pay copy editors….how didn’t anyone catch this before publication?? Also you probably shouldn’t put Massive spoilers in the title….

  25. Christine Levin says:

    Yes, I was glad to see Jessie and her sons go! (Mostly her sons). I thought I saw a look of acceptance on her face after her sons were attacked.It was as if she was ready to die with her sons.

  26. Frank says:

    Sasha. SASHA. not Michonne. *epic facepalm* your review became wonderfully unreadable once I realized you don’t even watch the show. Nice try anyhow.

  27. Cgb1701 says:

    You put massive spoilers in the article headline which shown up on Google and then put spoiler warnings at the top of the article…..good job……. :o|

    • Jow says:

      Agreed. Thanks for spoiling the show for me. Poor rude fake advertising. A sick joke. You should be fired as an editor or writer for this lame excuse as a website

  28. Stephanie says:

    How rude! That was Sasha not Michonne dealing with Negan’s people

  29. kate says:

    As a viewer from season one I shocked myself by finally turning this junk off. Did not like the gruesome deaths of Sam and his mom. Decided show has become too dark….went back twice between another show and NOT impressed.

  30. WussyPillow says:

    Agree with most of your points here. Nicotero-directed episodes are always an ugly disappointment to me. Jennifer Lynch would have killed it and paid proper credit to the Jessie/Sam death scene from the comics.

    • Ami says:

      Nicotero did a brilliant job directing eps like “No Sanctuary”, “Conquer”, “WHAWGO” and a few others. But I agree that his 2 episodes this season has been seriously lacking. I’m wondering if it’s the TPTB sticking their oar in or if he just struggles with directing eps with hundreds of zombies….

  31. TW says:

    NOT “Daryl, Michonne and Abraham”, but “Daryl, Sasha and Abraham”

  32. Wendy V says:

    This episode was an A+++..I have to say the best one I’ve seen out of all six seasons. The producers did an excellent job and I say try not to get too attached to any characters because you never know who will survive. Looking forward to the rest of the season…Love, love, love!

  33. Matt says:

    Don’t put spoilers in the title

  34. walkingdeadwatcher says:

    It was Sasha, not Michonne who encountered Negan’s followers….is this a mixup because they’re both, dare I say black….? Oy…..how…why

    • Tat2luvgirl says:

      Thank you for pointing that out! I literally couldn’t read the rest of the article! How can this person make an opinion when they can’t get the facts right!??!!

  35. Why give a “spoiler warning” at the top when the whole GD title is a spoiler? Ridiculous.

  36. thief says:

    Unbelievably, half heartedly, consciously passive and self inflicted pseudo heedless career suicide move. Check eyes? Cus all you see is black & white. No pun intended.

  37. Sarah says:

    It was Daryl, Sasha and Abraham that met Negans followers not Michonne.

  38. TWDfan says:

    You clearly don’t watch the show very much. It was Sasha in the beginning with Abraham and Daryl. Not Michonne. How could you mix that up before printing this article? Not a professional move considering they are the only two main character women of color on the show. Real fans thought this episode was insanely brilliant. The fight montage was amazing and signified unity among Rick’s group and Alexandrians, plus a number of lackluster members of the group finally stood up and did something when it mattered. This is something fans had probably thought would not happen and have been waiting for. You have to really know the series to appreciate the number of things Nicotero and the Walking Dead team did well tonight. While your perspective seems ancillary at best, it is good that you interviewed Andrew Lincoln who actually knows the show and the story.

  39. Jinnie says:

    Your problem is, dear article author, is that you seem to not understand that the series follows the comic strip series as much as possible. And while there have been several alterations made from the TV series compared to the comic strip, it is only because of the popularity of the characters. Whether you like how much Jessie was drawing out Rick’s human side, she isn’t one of the original and was never going to be well loved like Glenn or Darryl (who was supposed to have died a long time ago). So, you were not thoroughly entertained, but that’s ok. Maybe you should stick with the quieter, more mind-numbing shows like “Better Call Saul”. Maybe you didn’t even actually watch it; how did you get Michonne and Sasha mixed up?

  40. Whocares says:

    Women of color are not interchangeable…Sasha was with Daryl and Abe, not Michonne.

  41. The Valentine’s Day Massacre episode was terrific. If you want an episode that starts off with a BANG, then watch this one. One of the best episodes they’ve ever done. One of these years this show will finally get credit for being the great show that it is.

  42. k says:

    It was Sasha, not Michone, with Daryl and Abraham.

  43. J says:

    You are full of it…and you know what “it’ is.

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