Why 'The Walking Dead' Bosses Felt Intense 'Pressure' to Change Who Negan Killed
Warning: Spoilers ahead from "The Walking Dead" comic book.
"The Walking Dead" Season 7 premiere is about to reveal who Negan killed in his first meeting with Rick Grimes's group. Will it follow the comic book or not? What would you do if you were comic book writer/executive producer Robert Kirkman and showrunner Scott M. Gimple?
Negan first met Rick's group in Issue 100, which came out in July 2012. That's when Negan took his barbed-wire-covered baseball bat named Lucille, did his "eenie, meenie, miney mo" thing, and bashed Glenn to death.
As The Hollywood Reporter noted in an interview with Kirkman, that moment is so well known by now that even people who don't read the comics are aware that it was Glenn who died. Not only that, the show has teased out Glenn's death by baseball bat several times -- at Terminus, and holding a bat outside Noah's ravaged community in Richmond.
Kirkman admitted he -- and presumably Gimple, who wrote the Season 7 premiere -- felt serious pressure to "remix" the Negan kill for TV. "Remix" is the word TWD tends to use for how they change deaths in the comic book for TV. Hershel's TV death was a "remix" of the same death Tyreese had in the comic, and Denise ended up dying on TV in the same way Abraham did in the comic.
Here's part of Kirkman's great Q&A with THR:
What kind of pressure do you feel to remix what happens in the 100th issue of the comics with Negan and Glenn? At this point, fans who haven't read the comics know what happens.
It's more pressure than we've ever felt. We are changing things here and there as we always have done. To a certain extent, we're staying the course. The way that we do the show and the way we adapt the comic hasn't really changed but the material in the comic has changed substantially. Being true to that evolution and allowing that world to change from season to season and being able to scale up the show and the way the comic book has scaled up has been a challenge.
Going into this season, we're going to have four distinct locations and four distinct groups of characters that are all doing their own things. That's a huge undertaking to do. The challenge isn't how much do we remix? Do we do more? Do we do less? The challenge has been expanding the scale of the show up and being true to the source material and opening up this world in way that I strongly feel will set the stage for many season to come. Season seven as a whole will have so many new environments, so many new characters and so many new scenarios that it will almost seem like season one of an entirely different show. It'll have all the stuff you love from The Walking Dead but this isn't a show where you're ever going to be, 'Oh my God, am I still watching this show in season seven? Enough is enough, I get it.' We're telling different stories with different characters that have new and exciting and cool stuff [happening]. This season more than any other changes the stage that we're telling stories in.
And here's his response to the Glenn foreshadowing:
Given the baiting with Glenn and his many brushes with death — many of which can be seen as foreshadowing to Negan including when he was almost killed at Terminus with a guy swinging a baseball bat. After the dumpster dive, if Glenn isn't a victim, how do you explain that?
The season five premiere where they're at Terminus, those things are fan service. The average TV viewer is not going to be aware of the specific storyline from the comic series. That's a moment for the hardcore fans who are aware of that. I wouldn't take a playful moment where we're tipping our hat to those fans to be any indicator to what we have planned or what we're doing. This is us acknowledging that we know there are different tiers to our fan base and we're having fun with it. [...]
And here's Kirkman's answer to the rumors/spoilers about more than one death in the Season 7 opener:
What's the likelihood that more than one character will be killed off in the season premiere?
I don't know that our audience is necessarily bloodthirsty enough to be wanting to hear that there's another death. One death should be enough for this audience and one death will definitely have the affect that we're looking for. It will certainly set the stage for a very exciting season. It's going to be a rough, rough, rough episode emotionally. Knowing what's coming and knowing what happens, it's really hard for me to watch. We've gotten to know all these characters over so many years and to see not only the one that dies but how it affects all the other characters involved? You can feel their emotions because you know their relationships and what they're experiencing. It's a really gut-wrenching episode. I don't think anyone will be hungry for more blood when the episode airs.
One death would definitely be more than enough for the audience, but don't forget that Kirkman has a merit badge in trolling. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Greg Nicotero have both hinted to more than one death in the premiere, or at least (in Nicotero's case) more than one massively traumatic event. Plus, The Spoiling Dead Fans's set spoilers on which actors have been seen and not seen may be hints on who dies, and they point to two major characters dying in Episode 1. Then again, Kirkman did say they used body doubles and went to great lengths to try and keep the whole season's secrets intact, beyond the premiere.
"The Walking Dead" Season 7 starts Sunday, October 23 at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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