Warning: The following contains major spoilers from the season seven premiere of The Walking Dead. It should go without saying, but if you haven't watched yet, you might want to bookmark this page and return later. Proceed with caution.
The Walking Dead has always been a gory, but as the tension as moved away from the undead threat to a human one, the show has ratcheted up the violence. In the Sunday, Oct. 23 season premiere, when uber-villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) wiped out not one, but two of our beloved characters off the face off the Earth with some brutal swings of his barbed-wire bat, the show reached a new, horrifying peak. (RIP Glenn and Abraham!) And while fan reaction to the extreme violence has been mixed, to put it mildly, executive producer Greg Nicotero (who also directed the episode) couldn't imagine crafting the episode any other way.
"You know, it's intense and a lot of people that read the comic books and read the graphic novel, these moments have been sort of ingrained in their brain. I remember sitting next to Steven [Yeun] when I read issue no. 100 and talking with him and Robert about it and, to me, what struck me about it was it was horrifically graphic and senseless and brutal and I wanted to try to capture those moments," he told reporters during a conference call the morning after the big episode.
As Nicotero explained it, the graphic violence was necessary to truly and properly introduce Negan to the audience. "In this instance, we felt that it was important to launch us into the season by showing the extent of what Negan is capable of doing because that drives so much of where the series is going from here on in," he continued. "It's graphic and it's horrible and while we were designing the makeups and testing the makeups…we wanted to push it a little bit."
Surprisingly, Nicotero admitted that he found another aspect of the episode to be more haunting than the brutality Negan displayed. "The haunting remnants of that episode are very, very similar to how I felt when I read the comic book and I experienced that sense of loss and that futility to step in. Rick Grimes is unable to stop this and that's something that we've never seen in the show," he said. "I think that the violence and brutality are a part of it, but I think there's a helplessness. Seeing our hero completely crushed in front of us is more disturbing than the actual violence to me."
We've got a feeling he's in the minority on that one.
And as for those fans who may be contemplating quitting the show after seeing their favorite character have his head bashed in, Nicotero see their reaction as a job well done. "Well, I would say that that means that we have done something to affect these people in a way that they don't necessarily know how to process," he said. "Listen, I'm a big Game of Thrones fan and I've been shocked by the turn of events of that show, but, you know what? I still love it and I still am committed to seeing where that story goes. I think it's a kneejerk reaction that people have because they care about these characters. Listen, if we killed someone and they didn't care…then that means that we haven't done something to connect our people to the characters."
Are you still reeling from the shocking deaths? Let us know in the comments below.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.