From Day of the Dead to The Chronicles of Narnia, Greg Nicotero has definitely left his mark and made his name in the industry. For most of us, he is the man behind the out-of-this-world special effects we see every episode of The Walking Dead. And we're not only talking about the walkers, roamers, dead bodies, biters - or whatever you call them - that are straight from Adlard's art in Robert Kirkman's comic books. He's given us helicopters falling from both the sky and a convenience store rooftop, amazing post-apocalyptic views of big US cities like Atlanta and Washington DC, some zombified loved ones as well as an epic walker herd.
Between being an executive producer and the special effects supervisor for the show, Greg's still managed to find time to direct episodes since season 2. Season 6 finale, 'Last Day On Earth' will be his fifteenth episode as a director and, although at this point there's really no telling what the finale will bring us, it's worth going back to some great moments he's given us so far - if only to get us even more hyped for Sunday!
Since we're already emotional on account of who's going to bite the dust on this Sunday's episode, let's start with this one. Granted Merle wasn't a 'loved' character - apart from his brother of course - but still it brought the walkers close to home when we so him turned. Hershel, on the other hand, had pretty much all the love a character could have and yet it didn't save him. When asked why Hershel suffered such a horrific death, Kirkman replied that "the more loved a character is, the more violent his/her death should be". Oh-oh. Fact is, the fake head looked so darn great that Scott Wilson, who played Hershel, asked to keep it after filming was concluded.
"No Sanctuary" is acclaimed by many as the best episode of The Walking Dead - or at least it was until "No Way Out". Greg took us on a roller-coaster ride with this one, from seeing Glenn and our guys about to get slaughtered like cattle - damn another baseball bat inference - to bringing hell on Earth to the Terminus' folks.
Carol alone created enough havoc to give Rick and his group room to escape from the gardening cannibals of Terminus. In one of the most graphic episodes ever, she went Rambo mode, covered herself with mud and walker blood, blew a propane tank, shot Termites and left a lady to get eaten by walkers. Talk about building a character up, Mr. Nicotero. He made the 'force of nature' that Rick mentions to Morgan on "East" - and who probably saved Morgan himself from being eaten when she destroyed the compound.
3. Open the Gates
Then, in season 5 episode 12, Greg introduced Alexandria to us and to our Survivors. With some ingenious camera angles, he showed us the Safe Zone from the Survivors' perspective, allowing us to ease into this new life style, which was so different from what life had been on the road. We go into the shower with Rick - down ladies! - and through his metamorphosis as he shaves and becomes civilized Rick once more. The pace of the episode is such that, by the end, we are caught off guard - sort of - when Rick says they'll take Alexandria if its residents mess up for being too weak.
4. To kill or not to kill
"Conquer" brought us the greatest amount of walkers in one scene we'd seen that far, when Daryl and Aaron get trapped in a car at a food supplier parking lot being surrounded by walkers. We also welcome back Morgan, who ends up saving Daryl and Aaron and, later, going with them to Alexandria and his old pal Rick. Great timing by the way, Morgan!
He finds Rick just seconds after he's killed Pete, who had killed Reggie, who had killed....nah, just kidding. Point is, "Conquer" is a bloody episode, especially towards the end, when we get to see multiple simultaneous events playing out and leading to the climatic ending. There's the meeting to decide Rick's fate, Rick himself showering in a walker's blood while Glenn and Nicholas are having it out in the woods. Finally, we are gifted with one of Rick's finest speeches, when he asks the Alexandrians "how many of you do I have to kill to keep you safe?".
5. Walker frenzy
Enter season 6 and the biggest walker herd to ever feature on the show. In an episode with yet more of the back-and-forth Nicotero seems to like so much, we follow the Alexandrians in their attempt to guide the humongous herd away from their Safe Zone and their homes. Alternating from black and white to color scenes, "First Time Again" offers us information on some of the things that happened while the show was on a hiatus, showing us a perspective we'd never seen before. This was, by the way, the first episode in which Rick used the "we have to come for them" line that he used again in episode 12 - also directed by Nicotero.
Episode 9 of season 6, titled "No Way Out", seems to be the fan favorite on the shows history - at least until "Last Day on Earth" airs this Sunday. It was a packed episode, with meaningful moments and action back-to-back. Not one, but three characters - in fact the whole Anderson family - died, when the herd broke away and doubled back to Alexandria. Season 5 had ended in this cliffhanger with Sam Anderson calling out to his mom, and the premiere tricked us away from this tension by making hell break loose a lot later.
Actually, the Saviors would beg to differ, since they were blown to pieces in the pre-opening sequence. Abraham's RPG was the star of this episode, being used not once, but twice by Daryl. "No Way Out" did a great job of following the events in Alexandria while teasing the arrival of a new big-bad - the one we're about to meet this Sunday.
And let's not forget that this episode drew so much from the comic books that I'm sure many fans were in ecstasy from beginning to end. The herd, the Anderson family, Carl's losing his eye, it was all Volume 14 of Kirkman's comics, which is also called No Way Out. Carl's sequence was a powerful one and, even without all that gore the books had, Nicotero was able to offer us a bloody but more realistic version of the shot.
7. Is it tomorrow yet?
Lastly, we have "Not Tomorrow Yet", episode 12 of this season 6. Although the tone of the episode might have been more somber and our characters darker, it gave off a Terminus feeling, when you do what you have to, no matter what. Our Survivors killed at least a dozen Saviors in their sleep and, while that was the main plot, Greg made us feel our Survivors' angst for doing that. We see Glenn, and even Rick, looking away while they kill the Saviors, showing us viewers that what they're doing doesn't sit well with them as it doesn't with us. Oh, and what of those pictures of the lucilled men on the wall that, shocker, Glenn sees after he kills the man?
Greg Nicotero has given us some of the most memorable moments in the whole Walking Dead series, whether it be as a director or the special effects supervisor, and he'll sure walk us through THE most unforgettable moment we'll probably ever see.