However gruelling your 2016 was, it’s fair to say that Rick Grimes had it worse – as did everyone in his community, and the scattered remnants of the original Atlanta survivors. The Walking Dead did not shy away from the horror in the first half of season 7, bringing us right back to ground level (and beating us into it) by introducing arguably the deadliest villain of the series so far: Negan. The show has always toed the line of what’s acceptable to show on television and what would actually happen in a world where both the living and the dead can become monsters, and the most recent premiere was evidence of that. The next few episodes of the season then featured some heavy-duty psychological horror, between Daryl’s sleep deprivation and Negan flaunting Rick’s utter powerlessness in front of him and his people. More terror and pain was to follow, and that’s not even counting the harrowing experience of the show’s audience. But is there hope for The Walking Dead’s characters going forward?
Showrunner Scott Gimple spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the much lighter mid-season premiere of season 7:
“It propels us into a very different half season from the one before it. Before the end of that very first episode back, you will see Rick Grimes smile.”
This is great news for fans of the formerly dejected survivors, since after what the characters have been through it must take something pretty momentous to upend that Grimes scowl. A hopeful mid-season premiere will ostensibly shift the tone of the rest of the series accordingly, at least going by Gimple’s further comments on newer episodes:
“The midseason premiere is a movie unto itself. Angela Kang wrote it, Greg Nicotero directed it, the cast knocked it out of the park — pretty much literally, you’ll see — and the crew pulled it all together, and it was a hell of a lot to pull together.”
It’s a tremendous relief to hear that even if the gore won’t let up, the despair will – and with luck that optimism for the future will last.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on February 12th.