Greg Nicotero Didn’t Mean to Troll You With The Walking Dead’s Premiere

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EP and director Greg Nicotero. Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for AMC

The following post contains spoilers of the season-seven premiere of The Walking Dead.

Well, was it worth the wait? The Walking Dead returned with its season-seven premiere after a devastating cliffhanger at the end of last season, when we knew the show would be losing a beloved cast member. Sunday night, viewers got their answer as Negan killed not one, but two characters: First, the ginger sergeant Abraham Ford, and then the beloved Glenn Rhee. Was that one too many? "We really needed to drive Rick and Negan’s story throughout the season and we felt that one death would do the trick, but the second death, Glenn’s death, really, really propels us into a very different direction," Greg Nicotero, the director of the episode and an executive producer of the show, said on a conference call with reporters on Monday. "It’s really about Negan laying down the law and saying, Listen guys the bottom line is if you listen to me, you’ll be fine, but if you step out of line, that’s not going to fly." He added, "It just made for a more rich overall story arc for a lot of these other characters."

Did it feel like trolling? In addition to the season-six cliffhanger, viewers had to wait to know who died during the premiere as Rick viewed it through a series of flashbacks, some real and some imagined, during the first 20 minutes. "Well, it certainly wasn’t intended that way," Nicotero said. "The episode is 100 percent designed for you to go on this journey with Rick and start thinking as he did about what happened. When he starts reliving it, it’s the beginning of him being broken." He says that Rick's imagining of the deaths of other cast members were also part of the narrative. "That was a great device to help get into Rick’s head as he’s imagining the horrific act happen over and over and over again," said Nicotero, adding, "but it certainly didn’t hurt to put that out there that if there were people trying to leak things."

And if you felt brutalized from watching the show, that just means they did their job! "That means we have done something to affect these people in a way that they don't know how to process," Nicotero said. "If you kill a character and nobody cares, that means we haven't done something to connect our people to the characters." He added, "It's unfortunate that people want to take a negative spin on it, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm dedicated to watching a show because I want to see where the story goes next."