“The Walking Dead” doesn’t return for the second half of Season 6 until February 14, but the producers have still found a way to keep hold of our hearts until Valentine’s Day.
AMC has released the official key art for Season 6B, featuring a patchwork aesthetic that, according to executive producer and showrunner Scott Gimple, “gives a look at tiny pieces of a larger world our group is about to discover. In the new world, they’ll find hope, possibility, tragedy and the terrifying cost of change.”
The key art mixes the recurring imagery of religious symbols and smoke with less decayed walkers whose clothing seemingly remains intact. At the center of it all are Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes and Lennie James’ Morgan Jones.
The photo of the cross on the top left of the poster may be a reference to Tom Payne’s soon-to-appear Paul “Jesus” Monroe. In the comics, Jesus is a survivor of a neighboring community who encounters and eventually begins to help Rick and Alexandria. Aside from having a knack for dealing with the undead, the character serves as an adviser to Rick during his struggles against Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s villainous Negan.
Speaking of Negan, the cross could also be a reference to his group of followers. In the comics, the villain leads a brutal group called The Saviors. Alternatively, perhaps the cowardly Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is about to start earning his keep in the zombie apocalypse? (Seems unlikely.)
The pillar of smoke seems to be a direct homage to the cover of issue 93 of the comic book series. The issue kicked off the “A Larger World” storyline (referenced in the artwork) in which Rick and the survivors in Alexandria discover another community called The Hilltop. In the comics, Hilltop is where Jesus originates from, and the area is overseen by a man named Gregory — a role that was recently filled by “24” alum Xander Berkeley, who will make his debut in the back half of the season.
AMC has already revealed the first two minutes of episode 609, which namedrops Negan and introduces his band of brutal Saviors. Executive producer Robert Kirkman also told Variety that fans can expect some changes after the midseason premiere: “There are some unexpected twists and turns along the way, some new storytelling devices that I think people will be into. It’s a different batch of episodes. It’s going to be just as cool if not cooler than what came before it.”
The ratings juggernaut is executive produced by Gimple, Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero and Tom Luse.
“The Walking Dead” returns Sunday, January 14 at 9 p.m. on AMC.