Looking to the future of The Walking Dead seems to have a completely different tone than this time last year. Marching toward the Season 6 finale meant Negan's arrival and the sendoff of a core character. For Season 7, Andrew Lincoln is celebrating what might be an epic victory for the Alexandria squad.
Speaking to Greg Nicotero (who directed the Season 7 finale) in an exclusive interview, ComicBook.com got The Walking Dead executive producer's perspective on the finale episode.
"It's an amazing script," Nicotero said. "It was written by Scott [Gimple] and Angela [Kang] and Matt Negrete. How can you get along with those three?"
"It's everything that you would ever want. It's thrilling. It's emotional. It's powerful. Everything that's, when our show fires on all cylinders you can't stop it."
Episode 7x16 seems to be the complete opposite of Episode 7x01. The bookends of the season will look completely different. What started as Rick and his group being broken and humiliated might just culminate to their first big win against Negan and his Saviors.
"I feel that episode hits every mark," Nicotero said. "It was a blast to shoot. I had a ton of fun. I was a little, even surprised, because the season was hard. We started the first half of the season, it was such a downer. Watching Rick, when I was doing the [Walker Stalker Cruise] panel, I said it's like taking Rick's face and shoving it into a pile of s---. Expecting the audience to go along with that, it's hard. It's tricky emotionally, and it's tricky for the actors, it's tricky for our audience.
"Knowing now where the show goes in the second half, and that it starts to do what we always do in the second half of the season, is everything starts to ramp up. You have to lay the seeds otherwise the payoff doesn't work. The payoff for the finale is amazing."
The majority of fans who stuck around through eight episodes of Rick being manipulated by Negan might share the same air-punches and dancing reactions as Andrew Lincoln just thinking about that payoff.
As for whether or not there will be a cliffhanger, Nicotero is unsure. "I've turned in my cut, but Scott [Gimple] hasn't done his pass on it yet so nobody's seen it. I've seen it, the other executive producers have seen it, and that's it. The actors haven't even seen it."
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The Walking Dead returns for the rest of its seventh season on February 12 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. Fear the Walking Dead's third season does not yet have a premiere date but with The Walking Dead finale set for April 2, expectations for Fear's return are set for April 9. For complete coverage and insider info all season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.