“All of this is on behalf of the audience,” says Scott Gimple on choices made by The Walking Dead's writers.
It couldn't be further from a secret that Internet comment sections have been raging over the cliffhanger ending to the show's sixth season but Gimple and his team have unquestionably stood behind their decision. In fact, they somewhat expected varying responses, so the outrage is not exactly astonishing.
"I wasn’t surprised," Gimple says of frustrated fans. "It’s a very passionate audience and I wasn’t surprised that there was some of that. I guess I was surprised how intense some folks got. But passion is passionate and if they have it for the show, after six years, I guess we’ve just got to take our lumps."
Having said that, Gimple is quick to stand by the mystery kill to end season 6.
"I believe in what we’re doing. I believe in the story that that cliffhanger is the lynchpin of, and those story aspects that invite an audience to engage with their imagination, and to think about things and discuss things."
The thing that may have really set off some of the more dedicated fans of The Walking Dead was how iconic Negan's entrance was when he debuted in the comics back in 2012. Fans wanted to see it adapted to television word for word (which they basically got with the alternate scene) but instead saw the issue cut in half. Gimple credits the expectations for the feelings of disappointment and betrayal.
"People were like, 'Oh, well, here’s what happens when Negan arrives on the scene,'" Gimple says. "And the expectation was, 'Oh, it’ll be this way and that’s the way it should be and that’s the way it is in my head.' And I understand that. But it’s also a question of trying to do things that fulfill the spirit of the story and the spirit of the comic, without it being exactly the comic."
According to the showrunner, such an epic cliffhanger however infamous brings people together. "The thing that I find so wonderful about mass entertainment is the possibility of strangers being able to talk — to have some common ground and have something that they’re both passionate about, even if they’ve never met each other before," Gimple says. "And it’s very gratifying to me to see stories of people thinking and talking and positing and theorizing. I think that aspect of it is wonderful."
The Walking Dead returns for its seventh season on October 23. For insider info and more all season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.