The Walking Dead premiered on October 31, 2010, and now they’re headed into their 8th season and 100th episode. New York Comic-Con was not only a tease of what’s to come in the new season, it was a celebration of everything that came before. In 99 episodes we’ve watched this group of survivors move to multiple locations searching for safety, lost beloved members, and encountered increasingly terrifying and sadistic enemies. I had the chance to attend The Walking Dead press conference and panel at New York Comic-Con to talk about all this and more.
Season 7 was a particularly hard season for the characters and the cast. The season began with the brutal deaths of, spoilers if you didn’t already know, Glenn Rhee and Abraham Ford at the hands of Negan. We lost Spencer and Olivia and the season ended with the heartbreaking suicide of Sasha Williams. It was a season in which our group was under constant emotional and physical assault from Negan’s group. According to Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes, it was like a new lead in the form of Negan took over the show and introduced a new world order.
When I asked Andrew Lincoln what Rick’s mental state is going into season 8 he said: “He is ready for battle. I’ve always said Rick is very much like a shark, he needs to keep moving otherwise he dies and I think giving him something to do with his grief and pain is essential. I think kicking Negan’s ass is as good a reason as any. I think he’s very focused. You saw him in the [last] scene mirroring the beginning of the season on his knees. It’s a completely inverted Rick. He’s a man that’s willing to die to be free. It’s a polar opposite Rick you see that begins this season and I’m so happy to be playing that man.” The show needed to break Rick down to bring him back stronger than ever. Season 8 will be the payoff for 7.
The rest of the characters are also more focused going into this season. Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride both said their characters are seeking revenge. Carol spent last season trying to get away from the fighting. According to McBride, she will fight this season — she has to but that doesn’t mean she wants too. Lennie James’ Morgan is stuck between his code to not kill and protecting the people he cares about. According to him, for Morgan, it’s not about surviving, it’s about how you live, your humanity. He will find some kind of clarity this season. Katelyn Nacon’s Enid is internalizing the lessons she learned from Glenn. It’s no longer only about ‘just survive somehow,’ it’s about surviving and making sure the ones you care about survive too. Tom Payne spoke about how this world has affected his character, Jesus: “The world of the show forces each character to examine their values, what matters to them and what the point of the whole thing is.” Jesus, who has mainly been an outsider, is now forced to examine what he cares about, how far he’s willing to go to protect it and how to work with people to do that. “It tough to survive on your own. The world forces you to engage with other people,” he said.
Over the course of a hundred episodes, there are bound to be some regrets. When asked about it at the press conference, Lennie James had a poignant answer: “That Morgan didn’t put a bullet in his wife’s head. I think it’s his big regret. He’d be a different man today if he loved his wife a little less or loved his wife a little more. The crux of the dilemma of Morgan’s life is pulling that trigger or not pulling that trigger. He didn’t pull it for all the right reasons and he should have for all the right reasons and his boy would be alive now and his heart would be a little less broken. I think he’d be a different man.” For Norman, it was Daryl blowing up the Saviors with the bazooka because it started all of their problems with Negan.
What can we expect from season 8? The first few episodes will be setting the scene for the war. The first episode has a lot of nods to previous seasons including a shot-for-shot sequence from a previous episode. They want to do something to reward the fans that have been there from the beginning while providing a great experience for the new fans. Expect new and interesting special effects and also some tribute walkers. Greg Nicotero said, “We really try to change it up. We want it to be fresh.” They experimented with the cinematography and even the way they told the stories, leaning more towards wrapping up character arcs in 1 or 2 episodes rather than let them play out all season. Lincoln hinted at this season being more reminiscent of seasons 1-4. We will also get some kind of crossover between this show and Fear the Walking Dead.
Last season we watched Maggie Rhee become the de facto leader of Hilltop. Andrew Lincoln spoke about Rick’s leadership style and whether or not he would really accept Maggie as his leader. “He’s getting tired. He’s been through a lot. He’s not a politician. He’s the general. He’s the sheriff’s deputy. That’s where he comes from. That’s his DNA. That’s probably one of his strengths as a leader is he listens to people. He takes counsel. He usually ignores it but he does listen to people and sometimes that’s why they got through the difficult situations they’ve been through,” he said. “Now Maggie is different. Deana spotted her as a future political leader. Someone that could run things and she’s industrious. She’s loyal. She’s respected. She’s principled… I think Rick just wants it done and then other people can take over. I think he wants peace. I think he can [cede leadership to Maggie] and I think he’s willing to. He not duplicitous. He means it.”
For 7 seasons, we followed the trials and tribulations of this one group. Members have come and gone but at its core, the family aspect of it has remained. On what it feels like to reach 100 episodes, Norman Reedus said, “We have a room in the studio that has [photos of] all the fallen members of our cast from season 1. They’re all with us for 100 episodes. We know the people who helped us get here and they’re still here with us. They’re still sprinkled throughout the show.”
The Walking Dead returns on October 22 at 9 PM ET.
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Writer. Podcast contributor. Costume design enthusiast. Lover of fantasy movies from the 1980s and bizarre deep sea creatures. Can be found tweeting about comics, Yuri on Ice, Doctor Who or Star Wars at @jane_anon or on the Nerds of Prey podcast.