Warning: Spoilers Inside! Stop here if you haven't seen the last episode of “The Walking Dead” yet. It aired on AMC on Sunday night.
On Sunday night, “The Walking Dead” ended its 11-season, 177-episode run on AMC on a hopeful note. The Commonwealth was at peace, and the show's stars were ready to go their separate ways. But it also ended with a look at what Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), two of the most popular characters in the series, have been up to since we last saw them a few years ago.
That surprise scene, which sets up the upcoming “Walking Dead” spinoff starring Lincoln and Gurira, was shot on the show's Georgia studio lot this past summer after the rest of the show had already finished.
Executive producer Angela Kang says, “We did a secret shoot, and all I could think was, “Can we keep this one a secret from the audience?” “Because everything was leaking everywhere. We had to keep this secret. So we shot it when no one was looking.”
“Rest in Peace,” the last episode of the series, gives fans a sense of closure and gets them ready for the many spin-offs that are coming, including one with Rick and Michonne. But just like the scene between Rick and Michonne almost didn't happen, Kang and executive producer, Scott Gimple tell Variety that some of the ties might have looked a little different, like how Daryl (Norman Reedus) sped off into the sunset.
Variety talked to Gimple and Kang, as well as stars Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, to find out how “The Walking Dead” will end and what will happen next.
“We're the ones who live” is the last thing the survivors, especially the kids, say in “The Walking Dead.” Ezekiel (Khary Payton) is named governor of the Commonwealth, and after one last showdown with governor Pamela Milton, there is a sense of stability and calm in the air (Laila Robins).
“Commonwealth was such a good example of how not to do it,” says Gimple. “And we had people who wanted so badly to do things the right way. I think that's why this story ended in a kind of happy way. That these people had been through a lot. And it was all for a reason. The point was that they figured out, to some extent, how to live.
They learned that it's not enough to eat, dress, and stay warm; you also have to be decent and fair. Pamela had a bad system. They finally found a place where treating people fairly and with respect could make a situation that could last.
Kang says that Greg Nicotero's finale, which was written by Corey Reed and Jim Barnes, is meant to make people feel “like we've closed a chapter here.”
“What really worked in our favor was that ‘The Walking Dead' creator Robert Kirkman's vision for the comic is that it ends one chapter and then opens another. Because in some ways, it's the never-ending zombie story.
That feeling that things are still going on behind the scenes and that not everything is fixed. But it's not just a nihilistic view of the world in which everyone tries to survive for years and fails. The goal is to end the chapter, but then make it seem like the story will continue.
Morgan, who plays Negan, jokes that he was disappointed that “we didn't kill everything,” but then he says, “There were two ways to go. We could have killed everyone and given up on this world and what was to come, or we could have given people some hope for the future. I think we had to end on a funny note and with something nice. If no one had come to the last few days of filming, it wouldn't have been possible!”
Cohan, who has played Maggie on the show since its second season, says, “I thought it was just good for the people and respectful of the 11 years. I think we talked about what makes the show so interesting to people. I was moved and comforted, and it reminded me why it's been such a good thing to do.”
The ending has a lot to think about. Here are some more things we learned about how “The Walking Dead” ends.
Once You See Rick and Michonne's Spinoff, The Final Scene Will Make Sense
According to Gimple, “After working on that tale for so long, Andy, Danai, and I knew it like the backs of our hands. To conclude The Walking Dead, we simply selected the appropriate plot points. Why do they have to be in situations that make them need the strength they get from each other? We weren't vamping.
People will learn everything they can about what they see there. Everything will be clear. The story of how Michonne got the armor she wears is important. What Rick is doing and what he hears from the helicopter are both important to his story. We got a glimpse of the real world that people will have to live in a few months.
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Getting Rick and Michonne Back For The End of The Show Was Important, But It Wasn't Easy!
This is what Kang has to say: “I called in all the AMC executives and our producers as we were pitching ideas for the upcoming season and told them, ‘Listen, I don't think the show is complete without Rick and Michonne coming back.'” “Because we know they are out there. And I had a story in my head about what I wanted to happen.”
Back in 2020, when a series of Rick Grimes movies was first planned, this was the case. Later, the plan changed to a limited series starring Lincoln and Gurira. She says, “For a while, it didn't look like it would be possible.” “It took a lot of talking, a lot of changing situations, and talks that Scott and I had with both Andy and Danai.”
Andrew Lincoln's Main Wish For His Return Was That “The Walking Dead” Wouldn't End with Rick Dying in The Finale
Kang says, “It was important to Andy and Danai what this appearance would be and that it wouldn't take away from what was going on in the main story.” “Andy was very clear that he didn't want to be the show's last thing. He didn't think that was right because he had already left. There were many people working on it from different angles and with good intentions for a long time.
Gimple Was in Charge of Writing The Scene with Rick and Michonne
Kang says, “When it all came together, we were really happy.” “It was nice of Scott to write that part of it. I would have enjoyed writing it. But at that point, he was already trying to figure out the spin-off with Andy and Danai. So I asked, “Do you just want to write it, and we'll make sure you get what you need for the next show?”
He spent a lot of time with the actors. I did a lot of work with him. Scott and I haven't worked together this closely since he was in charge. We always talk about the show, but this was the first time we got to work on something together, which was fun. So, that's how it all worked out.
At the same time, both Lincoln and Gurira were there. But their pieces are so different because they are in different places. But they were both there at the same times and on the same days.”
Gimple Says He Wanted To Make Sure that The Scene with Rick and Michonne Didn't Take Away from The Plan for How “The Walking Dead” Would End!
“We played around with ways to show less and show more,” He says. “I think we found the right mix of being real about, OK, this is where these people are. We aren't going to make a preview for the new show. But if we want to put them in, we have to be honest about where they are.
There will be a lot of questions about that. But we hope that with what they say and how it relates to what the other person says, audiences will have an emotional response to the themes coming together and giving a glimpse into this new world.
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Negan and Maggie Seem To Have Found a New Way to Get Along with Each Other. But That Won't Last, as Their Spinoff “Dead City” Will Show
“Détente” is a good word for the peace between them, says Gimple after Negan apologizes for killing Maggie's love, Glenn, in a brutal way. “A bow isn't the end of the story. There is even a claim that it will never be settled.”
Kang adds, “It seems like they've said all the right things to try to make up. But it's still not over. I think Maggie can't forgive him because she just can't do it. It's a big ask. And I think Negan has grown because he doesn't just try to help her.
He had to take responsibility for his actions, say what he wanted to say, and accept that she wasn't ready. And when he leaves while everyone else is in the house, it's like he's thinking, “I should be with my wife right now.”
And I won't make her hurt anymore.' Negan had to go the farthest. And I think that puts them in an interesting spot because their relationship could go in any direction. It can change, you know?”
“Dead City” Will Take Place a Few Years After The End of “The Walking Dead” Negan and Maggie Will Be in New York City
“I thought the original ‘The Walking Dead,' which is what we're talking about here, ended with a lot more hope than the new show does,” Morgan says. “When it comes to the two of them. In the end, I thought Maggie and Negan seemed to come to some kind of agreement.
The way that the new show starts might not be what Negan had hoped for, either… After what we see on Sunday night, the new show doesn't start right away. A few years have passed, and when you see these two characters again, it's probably not as hopeful as Negan might have hoped when they're sitting together by the campfire.
Has Negan changed in a real way? “I'd like to think that all of this has made him a better man who sees where he went wrong,” Morgan says. “That said, I don't think Negan will ever be completely different. I think he has found a way to stay alive in this world. Even though he has worked hard to be part of our group, I wonder how easy it will be for him to fall back into some old habits if he is left to his own devices.
Cohan also says that the peace we see between Negan and Maggie in the finale doesn't carry over to the new show, even though they are clearly in this new thing together. Cohan says, “The thing she tries to do in the end doesn't work.” “She is angry with him again. Negan is still the person Maggie blames most for her sadness.
“I can't do this, and this hope I have seems impossible, but I'm going to put on a brave face and decide that this is how I'm going to feel.” If I don't give anything away, things don't really work out for her, and she ends up back in a less-than-ideal situation. This seems to be a pattern. No matter how hard you try, things will never be easy.”
“Dead City” will give “The Walking Dead” a better idea of what happens in big cities after the end of the world. Morgan says, “We've Done the Woods.” “So, being in a city and seeing how the survivors have managed to stay alive and what they've become. Not to mention that it's all zombies.”
Before Melissa McBride Quit The Show, Daryl and Carol Were Going To Leave Together. But Then the Show Was Going To Be Filmed in Europe, So McBride Couldn't Go
Kang says, “This changed a little bit at the end because of the changes that happened with the spin-off.” “At first, those who planned to leave together on the motorcycle. But when we got to the version where we had to split them up, it felt right to make it just like it is in real life, which is that they are temporarily apart.
Then, in the spin-off, a lot of different things will happen. But they don't think this is the end of things. Because it isn't, they will always find a way to get back together. Norman and Melissa had very clear ideas about how they wanted their last big scene to feel. I had written something different about it before.
They said, “Well, we'd love it if it felt more like this.” So I wrote it over again. And I think they brought a lot of beautiful emotion to what they did.”
The Real-Life Bond Between The Cast and Crew of “The Walking Dead” Was The Inspiration for Daryl and Carol's “I Love You” Moment
Kang says, “It was important to all of us that they say ‘I love you to each other.” “This cast and show are like a family, and we all say “I love you” to each other all the time behind the scenes. Norman and Melissa will say “I love you” to each other as we do. That's just how the family in “The Walking Dead” is.
And I think that because this show is so much about these new families, that was a really important moment for them and for the whole thing. It's about how two strangers have become so close that they would do anything for each other.
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The Actor Who Plays Rosita, Christian Serratos, Asked That Her Character Dies in The Last Episode
When Rosita, a character who first appeared in Season 4, dies after saving her baby, it's one of the saddest parts of the show. Kang says, “She thought that the end of her story should be that she gives up her life or dies to save her child and the next generation.”
“If actors come to us and say, ‘I think it's important that the end of my story feels like this,' we try to take that into account. That's kind of the collaborative part of what we do. We thought about that a lot and talked about it with different people who have the power to say yes or no to certain decisions.
In the episode, I think Christian did a great job. As she did her scenes, I cried the whole time. It was really cool to see Christian and Josh [McDermitt, who plays Eugene] hanging out together in real life. It turned out to work out really well.”
Jeffrey Dean Morgan Says That He Would Love To See a “Reunion Show” Where The Characters Who Went Off To The Different Spin-Offs Might Meet Up Again
He says, “I wouldn't hate that idea.” “People talk about all kinds of ideas. But I'm not sure. I'm not paid enough to do that. But it would be cool, in my opinion. I don't know when everything will happen.
I think that getting timelines to match up is the biggest problem in this universe. No one's timelines are always the same, not even on “Fear the Walking Dead.” I mean, everyone could die, you know. This sequel could kill me!”
The “Memory Lane” Look Back At Characters And Actors Who Have Left “The Walking Dead” Over The Past 11 Years Was Also a Tribute To How The Show is Always Changing
Kang says, “I think the story we've always told is one that tries to find hope.” “Even in the saddest parts of the show, it was always about the people who were trying to get out of their situation, reach for more, and make the world a better place for their children. So, they are not the end of people.
“I've always thought that what this story is trying to say is that a new family is a very powerful thing. And by sticking together over the years, they've been able to do a lot, especially considering what every one has given up in the past.
So, going back to the idea of these images from the past—all of those memories, all of the things they've learned, and all of the people they've lost. Horror movies almost always end on a note of hope, if you think about it. So, basically, that's what we're going for.”
Gimple adds, “The people who have worked on the show over the years are really just one big group.” Because of the relationships that were made and the way the show was passed from one person to another, this thing came about. This line is long. So, we decided to show that on the screen. This is what we decided to say as our last point about “The Walking Dead.”