by R.C. Murphy
This year the San Diego Comic-Con panel for The Walking Dead was a vast departure from the way the show’s run things for the last seven years. Yes, the cast was there in force. Yes, the series’ showrunner and producers were on stage to guide the conversation away from spoilers. But Hardwick was nowhere to be seen. There were no prepared questions or discussion, and they jumped straight to audience questions. There weren’t even name tags on the table. The mood on stage was about eight notches down from past years. They’ve had a seriously rough summer, and given everything it’s surprising they still came at all instead of sending a smaller delegation with the trailer. No one would have blamed them for cancelling.
Scott Gimple opened this year’s panel with a touching statement about John Bernecker, an accomplished stuntman who tragically lost his life after an on-set accident a couple weeks ago. Prompted by a fan’s question later in the discussion, Robert Kirkman and Greg Nicotero also took a moment to remember late director George Romero, the man who created the zombie genre as we now know it.
The cast and crew were excited to announce that episode 801 is actually the show’s 100th episode. Danai Gurira misspoke at one point, saying, “100 years,” instead of episodes, to which Lincoln claimed it felt like it. To celebrate the occasion, AMC has a few things up their sleeves for social media and the likes come October. The producers also brought a retrospective video to show the panel audience to kick off the celebration. I’m not sure what clips they used, but Reedus was especially touched by the video and took the chance to gush about his time on the show toward the panel’s end.
The panel had about 30 minutes of fan questions after the retrospective. We didn’t get much about the new season outside the 5-minute trailer. Kirkman did put his foot down about possible future story lines—there will be no immune characters or another search for a cure, ever. They also teased new characters, but intentionally left the answer so vague, I’m just going to assume an alien invasion is a go until proven otherwise. Gimple joked that as part of the 100th episode, Judith will get her first zombie kill. “Three’s old enough,” Gimple said as everyone laughed. Kirkman promised that season 8 will be, “action-packed and fast-paced.” Chandler Riggs and Jeffrey Dean Morgan stated they hope the show story line falls in line with the comics, as both would love to delve into that particular Carl/Negan dynamic. When asked about Glenn’s legacy living on in the baby, Lauren Cohan hoped the writers give Maggie the chance to instill his strengths in the child as it grows, as well as passing on tales of Hershel, Beth, and the extended family they’ve left behind.
The rest of the fan questions prompted some levity in the group, but not much. On a few occasions, Gimple acted as moderator, urging actors who weren’t answering fan questions to talk about, well, anything. To wrap things up, they showed that baffling trailer again.
No, I don’t think they’re pulling a Dallas, guys. Calm yourselves. But the end does raise a whole truckload of questions.