“The Walking Dead” killed off two of its more beloved characters last night in about as brutal a fashion as possible. The Internet reacted mostly with outrage, of the order that can’t simply be explained away by passion and love for those characters. There was a real sense of betrayal, leading a number of viewers and critics to say they’re quitting the show.
To those thinking of quitting for good, “Walking Dead” exec producer Greg Nicotero, who directed Sunday’s premiere, had a few words Monday morning. [Spoilers follow; if you haven’t seen Sunday’s “Walking Dead” premiere, save this story for later.]
“We have done something to affect these people in a way they don’t necessarily know how to process,” Nicotero told a group of reporters. But, he added, “Glenn’s not dead, Abraham’s not dead — their spirit lives on. There’s more story to tell with the result of what happened with those people. I look at it a little differently. This show still has a tremendous amount to offer.”
What will be on offer will be a further exploration of the power dynamics of this new world order, showcasing King Ezekiel, Alexandria, and Negan’s Saviors.
As for accusations that the “Walking Dead” crew essentially trolled viewers by not actually revealing the deaths until more than 20 minutes into the episode — and delivering a sort of fake-out where it seemed as though only Abraham would die — Nicotero argued that two deaths are crucial to the arc of the rest of the season.
“We felt that one death would do the trick, but the second death, Glenn’s death, really propels us into a very different direction,” Nicotero said. “Glenn’s death has a lot to do with Rick’s future story, and Maggie’s future story, and certainly Daryl’s story. It made for a more right overall story arc for a lot of these other characters.”
Nicotero likened the gruesome beatings to the deaths of characters on one of his favorite shows, “Game of Thrones,” and played up the violence of the scene in the source material. “I remember sitting next to Steven [Yeun] when I read Issue 100 [of the comics], and talking to him and Robert [Kirkman] about it,” he said. “And what struck me about it was it was horrifically graphic and senseless and brutal. I wanted to try and capture those moments.”
“Seeing our hero completely crushed in front of us is more horrifying to us than the actual violence,” he added.
And there’s another way to look at what Negan put Rick’s crew through in the premiere. “There’s a weird alternate universe where, from Negan’s perspective, Rick is a pretty bad guy,” Nicotero said. “He does genuinely feel bad about what he has to do, but he has to be a man of his word. I don’t really see Negan as crazy.”
What Negan did have to do was sufficiently break Rick, after seeing the erstwhile leader still had some fight in him. Negan sees Rick and his followers as valuable potential contributors to his empire, if he can just get them to follow the rules. Thus the stomach-churning violence and psychological horror.
“If you think about the fact that six seasons in we’ve never seen fear on Rick’s face, this is something we’ve never seen before — someone who broke Rick.” And a fair amount of viewers, as well.