After a dark and depressing first half of The Walking Dead Season 7, there's no doubt that fans are itching to get back into the swing of the series when the season resumes in mid-February.
Starting off the season with two character deaths really set up the next seven episodes to be pretty bleak as #Negan tightened his hold over Rick and Alexandria and there was nothing the audience could do but endure. But just in case you were under some illusion that #TheWalkingDead crew thought they were making light, enjoyable TV, fear not because in a new interview executive producer, #GregNicotero has made it clear that he knows the first half of Season 7 was a struggle.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Nicotero — who is also a director and the special effects makeup supervisor — revealed he totally understood how hard the start of the season was for viewers. But he also stated, that like any good TV show, the viewers needed to go on that journey in order to build the world, and get them emotionally invested for future episodes. Nicotero said:
"... I would say that any investment, in any show, if your viewers aren’t emotionally invested then…. I mean, starting the season, seeing two characters killed, it was brutal and it was horrible. A lot of it really was to just show the brutality of the world and to show what kind of person we’re dealing with, with Negan, and it’s a challenge."
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He then went onto explain that their tactic totally worked, and now the audiences — and Rick — are prepped for an intense second half of Season 7. He continued:
"The fact that people responded so positively, just to the embrace between Daryl and Rick, seeing those two characters and knowing that they will rise again out of the ashes of what Negan has done to them, is thrilling and is exciting, but you can’t get there unless you burn the place down first. Listen, it’s grueling and it’s heartbreaking and, yeah, it is, sometimes, difficult to digest, but the result of that will be seeing a stronger Rick Grimes, a stronger bond, and a more focused and dedicated group."
But just because the first half of the season was serving a purpose doesn't mean Nicotero doesn't totally understand why the audience struggled with it.
"Yeah. Listen, the first half of the season was rough. It was rough because the subject matter was dark... After directing episode one, it emotionally took its toll on me because I felt very much like the actors. I felt like I had dragged these people to some pretty dark and pretty intense places, so recovering from that, for me was tough."
Thankfully for Nicotero he didn't just direct the grim episodes, and followed up the decidedly dark premiere episode with a much lighter one, something which was sorely needed not only by him, but also by the audience. He continued:
"[Showrunner Scott M. Gimple] said, “Listen, you’re going to direct the episode that introduces the Kingdom, and that’s probably the lightest episode that we’re going to have in the entire first half of the season,” which was seeing Shiva and seeing King Ezekiel and Carol and Morgan. So airing that episode directly after the premiere really gave the audience an opportunity to catch their breath; otherwise, we would have had them in the rope, in the corner, and just been pummeling them, and that’s not our intention. Our intention isn’t to be sadistic. Our intention is to put the audience in a similar mindset that our characters are in."
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on February 12
What did you think of the first half of Season 7?