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.
Call of Duty Delivers an Undead Package at SDCC by R.C. Murphy
Developers sat down for a panel at San Diego Comic-Con to discuss what pushed them to venture into the WWII era for the next zombie game tied to the popular series. Their main focus? Michael Condrey, co-studio head for Sledgehammer, had a burning desire to terrify gamers in ways we’ve only really felt from gold-standard horror films—save perhaps one or two game titles, one of which Condrey himself directed. They really dug into their research to ground the game in reality, which developers feel will add to the scares once the undead hit the screen.
The animation shown during the trailer is all cut scenes, but still beautifully detailed. If you can call burned, armless zombies beautiful, that is. There’s blood and gore everywhere in the short clip. Several kinds of undead are featured, with more variations to come as promised by the development team. What cinches the creep factor in the trailer is Udo Kitter’s voiceover as uber creep Dr. Peter Straub.
We only get a small taste of the full story through the trailer. It’s just your standard mad German scientist premise, really. Things don’t get interesting until the playable characters are brought into the plot. The development team didn’t want a bunch of super confident soldiers at the helm, that’s overdone and tired. Instead they reached into history and plucked out the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program to find the game’s everyday-Joe heroes. There’s four playable characters—Olivia Durant (Elodie Young), Marie Fischer (Katheryn Winnick), Drostan Hynd (David Tennant), and Jeff Potts (Ving Rhames). All are members in the program sent in to recover works of art stolen by the Nazis in their attempt to claim literally everything for the fatherland. Winnick’s character brings another layer to the story, which fans can catch up on via the viral advertising campaign for the game. While the MFAA team is looking for art and fighting the undead, Marie has a more pressing mission to find her brother. It adds welcomed depth to what could be “just another zombie game.”
The voiceover cast was in attendance during the panel, except Rhames. He sent in a special video for fans to introduce them to his character. And then he was maybe, probably, eaten by zombies off-screen. Much to the audience’s delight. Udo was, well, Udo during his first visit to SDCC and proceeded to creep out everyone by reciting parts of Straub’s speech from the trailer. Young and Winnick elaborated on how involved they were in the character-creating process. Winnick also took a moment at the end of the panel to celebrate the women gamers in the audience. Tennant gave some insight on how character dialog evolved for this project, namely it involved him channeling a non-existent drunk Scottish uncle to get the appropriate level of profanity. Did I mention this will not be a kid’s game? Yeah, no.
Call of Duty: WWII Nazi Zombies is slated for wide release on November 3rd. However, if fans pre-order the game now, they get beta access starting August 25th on Playstation 4—dates for beta on other devices were not available as of the SDCC panel.
Here’s the trailer. I don’t suggest snacking while watching.
Team Zombie rolled into San Diego for Comic-Con 2016, looking quite sharp, I might add. Wardrobe aside, the gang was down a man. Robert Buckley couldn’t make it. However, newly-christened series regular Aly Michalka joined the cast, along with show creators Rob Thomas and Diane Russiero-Wright. They were in good spirits, despite the usual chaos at the con. For a good reason, they began filming for season three this week. Matter of fact, I think I saw Rose McIver post a video from the set on Wednesday with Buckley in tow. The zombie ball is rolling. But how are they going to deal with the fallout from the season two finale?
We said goodbye to our main Big Bad. His company was taken over by Vivian Stoll and her undead army. Rob Thomas said Stoll comes into the show in a unique position. “I’m not sure I file her under Big Bad” Going into season three, Stoll is a reactionary presence to the impending zombie problems once the public finds out. Only, instead of having a standing army to defend humans, this army is made from the undead to carve out a place in the world for them once the truth flies. Power like that can be corrupted. It’ll be interesting to see which side of the fence Stoll lands on, or if she can carefully navigate the line between and remain lawful neutral. Adding so many new zombies to the mix poses some ethical questions for Liv. An example given later in the panel pits Liv’s shocking white hair and pale skin against Stoll’s brood who strive to always blend in, covering the very thing which makes Liv unique.
Team Z will regroup stronger than ever. Liv is determined to keep everyone on the same page. No secrets. Out the gate, they dig into Stoll’s company. Some B-stories aren’t following through right away. The Boss story line will take a back-burner to establish new characters and dynamics. Major will search for Natalie and fulfil his promise to her. Not sure if that’s a solo mission or not. I’d assume not since they finally have everyone on the same page. We’re not done cleaning up the Chaos Killer mess, either. There’s one more Popsicle to defrost. Robert Knepper will return as Angus DeBeers in episode one this season. I’m thrilled. The DeBeers family reunions are a things of beauty.
The creators promise a shift in the story style. Season three will play out more like episodes of Law and Order, where Liv and Clive catch the bad guys, Peyton prosecutes. It looks like more of the crimes will tie into the zombie thing, at least from the way Thomas phrased the style rundown.
Other random tidbits dropped during the panel include a promise from the creators to McIver that they will not kill Liv’s next romantic interest, even if it is Major. This isn’t Supernatural. The hot lead actor can’t keep dying and coming back via some miracle.
Yes, there’s a love triangle with Ravi, Peyton, and Blaine. No, none of them know where it’s going. Though the cast joked about making it an open relationship, including Clive, and dragging Liv along as the fifth wheel.
Don’t get your hopes up for a working cure. Thomas said if Ravi creates a cure, the show is over. He also enjoys writing Blaine’s memory loss too much to give up cure 2.0’s side-effects and move on to 3.0 just yet.
We learned that McIver got to veto one potential brain for season three. From a list of about fifty. Then the night before the SDCC panel, they informed her she would get to play dominatrix this season. Guess that one isn’t up for negotiation. It better be the most integral part of the story this season or I’m going to roll my eyes at yet another excuse to dress Liv down in any way.
The new zombie blood will shake things up for the show, along with a new story format. If they keep the momentum from the finale rolling through the first couple episodes, it should be a fun ride. iZombie returns to CW in October.
Much like Bruce Campbell the second he hit the San Diego Comic-Con stage, I cannot and will not contain my giddy fangirl squeal over Lee Majors joining the cast for AvED’s second season. A few scant years ago, Campbell told fans he would play Ash again when monkeys flew out his backside, and now he’s got the Six Million Dollar Man playing his pops on TV. Campbell did look a tad sheepish when someone toward the panel’s end brought up that very statement. I’m sure many, many fans are grateful he was wrong.
A surefire way to make a buck at the con over the weekend was to either sit on the panel with Campbell, or sic your children at him from the front row. The star first bribed his costars to say the right things, even Majors and the panel moderator. Then once the questions started, he paid three children to take off their DC villains costumes and get jobs. Yes, folks, Bruce Campbell took several moments to stop and parent someone else’s kids after discovering the first, a ten year old, watched the show. Pro tip: Don’t be that dad. You can see which one in the panel footage Starz posted.
On to the juicy details. Really juicy. Creator Sam Raimi says season two has more intensity. Which in their language means more blood. Good thing Starz is cool with whatever these good people want to put on screen. Campbell praised the cable network for staying hands-off. If Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell attempted to revive the franchise with another film, it wouldn’t have happened, according to the star. Sam Raimi elaborated on the Starz topic. “They want to provide something that’s not just out there, but can’t be found anywhere else on television, anywhere on cable. They want it to be a unique experience so that nobody is providing anything like it.” Well, ain’t that an understatement? Not seeing many networks lining up to show Campbell’s ass or someone smoking weed from a shotgun.
Lucy Lawless returns as Ruby. This season she’s finally a fleshed-out character and in need of Ash and his team. Or as she put it, “…fully in this ferocious second season.” While, yes, Ruby played a large part in season one, they created her as they went. Lawless said the character didn’t even have a last name until episode nine. Having Ruby along will make things a little more balanced for Kelly. We can expect to see some, “girl power thing,” from the ladies this season.
Ted Raimi rejoins the Evil Dead crew. He plays Chet Kaminski, Ash’s childhood friend. When discussing why they brought Ted back, Campbell said, “This is stupid. Where’s Ted? We’ve got to torment someone else on this show.” Aside from the apparent 30 year-old Kick Me sign on Ted’s back, he brings a fun dynamic to the crew missing in the previous season. The energy they had during the panel was insane. Except Majors. He seemed content to take it all in quietly. I don’t blame him. Those panels are overwhelming the first time around. Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago were likewise awestruck when they sat after being introduced.
Ash vs Evil Dead returns to Starz in October. In the meantime, slake your bloodlust with the trailer.
Fear the walking Dead SDCC 2016 Coverage By R.C. Murphy
Taking the stage first in the two-hour Dead block in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con, Fear the Walking Dead kicked off the festivities with the teaser for the latter half of season two.
For the most part, the trailer focus on Nick’s pilgrimage to Tijuana. He meets some kind people, some not so kind people, and even more people with a bizarre connection to the dead. It’s like he’s drawn to this stuff. Madison drags Alicia, Strand, and Ofelia around Mexico looking for Nick with no results. They wind up taking refuge in a hotel which randomly rains dead bodies. But it must be an okay place, Alicia stopped to shower. Travis and Chris’ bonding trip is off to a rocky start as son insists repeatedly that he can take care of himself against the undead or any obstacle in his way. There is a lot more close-quarters fighting with the infected on the way. Alicia does some slightly-very dangerous things to shake her undead assailants. We’ve also got more than just the gangs and weirdos in Tijuana to look out for, as well. Chris and Travis’ problems aren’t all internal for the remaining seven episodes.
Producer Gale Anne Hurd said, “We’re really going to see a lot of things you’ve never seen on television before.” Having seen the TWD trailer, that bar is pretty high. I don’t think FtWD can deliver on the spectacle coming from its sister show. However, if they can get even an ounce of the energy from that trailer to translate to each episode’s timing, I may consider watching it again.
The characters fans saw earlier in the season won’t be quite the same. Producer Dave Alpert said he’s enjoyed watching the characters turn into “battle-hardened warriors.” Kim Dickens echoed the sentiment, saying what Madison did in the mid-season finale revealed a new side to her. We’ll see a more extreme Madison from here on out, perhaps? Madison isn’t the only parent stepping to the plate. Cliff Curtis claimed Travis won’t be a sad-ass when the show returns, he’s prepared to become a, “bad ass dad.” Pretty much every actor spoke up to say their character would get a harder edge for the new episodes. Matter of fact, Mercedes Mason said she wants Ofelia to “pull a Carol” and become “a really violent butterfly.” Coleman Domingo had a different outlook for Strand. He considers Strand a symbol for Western civilization. As his character survives, he will continue to break down.
There was a new face on the panel. Danay Garcia will join the show for the remainder of season two as Luciano. She plays a part In Nick’s story line.
Will the new blood and a kick in the pants for the characters be enough to make it as interesting as the trailer promises? I sincerely hope so. There’s too much potential in that cast to continue to watch them flounder with a poorly-managed script. The danger becomes if splitting the group and the story leads to forgotten characters or story-telling shortcuts which defy what little logic these characters operate by currently. I know there’s not much sense in a guy who covers himself in zombie goo all the time, but you know what I mean. Fear the Walking Dead will continue its second season on August 21st at 9 PM on AMC.
The Walking Dead SDCC 2016 Coverage By R.C. Murphy
The annual walker invasion at San Diego Comic-Con took place from July 21st through the 24th. Okay, there were a few thousand other people there, as well. Comic-Con is kind of a big thing, if you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years.
One of the most anticipated panels this year was The Walking Dead. Lucy had some ‘splainin’ to do about that angst-generating cliffhanger ending. Which is why Robert Kirkman struck that iron while hot shortly after the producers took the stage. Aside from numerous statements defending the ending since the finale, he simply added that fans would love the payoff from waiting so long for the reveal. We’ll agree to disagree, as we have since he first stepped on a soapbox to defend knee-capping Negan’s big moment.
What’s new for season seven? The producers confirmed a visit to The Kingdom, plus many more survivors and locations. Gale Anne Hurd meowed at one point, which baffled show fans who haven’t delved into the comic world. Kirkman admitted that once the show took off, he included things in the comics they’d never put on television. The show’s other producers picked up the gauntlet and plan to include some of the outlandish comic ideas into season seven. Sometimes these things bites one in the backside. In this case, one idea can bite off an entire backside and then some.
Right before they premiered the trailer, Nicotero shared new walker concept art. Looks like we’ve got more burned walkers on the way, plus the older walkers continue to become more mummy-like, and I don’t even know what happened to the bulgy walker. Death by bee hive attack?
Okay, on to the trailer.
I was really looking forward to seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan swaggering on the screen. Instead, we got a rehash of the finale’s final scene, along with a cliché memorial video of sorts superimposed over Lucille. I would’ve gladly taken just the cropped shot of him slamming Lucille down on an unseen victim after a pan of the group by the RV. Instead they padded the footage with what is essentially an overly emotional teen girl’s video scrapbook. All that’s missing is the sappy song. The second half of the trailer delivers new characters, but too fast to identify any faces. We meet Ezekiel, leader at The Kingdom. Something we’ve rarely seen on this show is animals. Well, that’s about to change. There’s beasties coming. Most notably, Shiva, Ezekiel’s pet tiger. Funny how a few years ago, the show’s budget was nitpicked right and left. Suddenly they’re okay with tossing huge chunks of cash in to make CG animals.
The actors hit the stage when the trailer wrapped. Andrew Lincoln told fans, “Hang in there, guys.” He went on to say Jeffrey Dean Morgan has way too much fun as Negan. Which, as we already know, is probably creepy as hell on set, despite JDM’s infectious smile. There’s just something about a grinning guy wielding a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat to make one’s sphincter clench. Lauren Cohan said, “We go to very physical and emotional places.”
Pretty standard quo for this show, but things are just beginning to take a turn for the worst. Nicotero confirmed it when he said this [their current situation with Negan] isn’t rock bottom.
The panel devolved into talk about on-set pranks and several cast members doing impressions of other actors. They did air the footage from when Reedus dumped a ton of confetti in Lincoln’s car air ducts. The first time I watched it, I couldn’t breathe because I laughed so hard.
I wasn’t happy with TWD at the end of season six, and they still haven’t done much to convince me they grossly mishandled Negan’s entrance. Yes, we get a flippin’ tiger next season, as well as a smarmy yet charming Big Bad, but fans are kind of a puppy kicked too many times. They’ve promised so many grand things, what happens if these season seven grand plans fizzle like the drawn-out Beth storyline?
Once you jump the tiger, there’s no going back. Hope they have a solid game plan going into this highly unpredictable season.
Much like year’s past, Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con was jam-packed, trembling in anticipation of the walker horde scheduled to shamble in over the weekend. AMC brought in the big guns, including nearly the entire cast and full producing staff, to discuss the upcoming fifth season for “The Walking Dead.”
And like year’s past, the actors stayed mum while the producers dropped what few hints they could about what to expect while the highlight of the hour was the preview clip they’d prepared.
Before we look at the clip, we’ll go over what everyone said, starting with the producers.
Will Rick and company make it out of the train car at Terminus? Duh. Producers seemed somewhat annoyed that anyone would think they’d downgrade the show’s quality to shoot an entire season inside a small set.
Where are the characters mentally after the chaos in season four? Show-runner Scott Gimple said, “Once they lost the prison—once they lost Hershel—all bets were off. And I think they did find out that you can’t come back from the things that you’ve done. You have to live with them. But also, those things that you have done make you incredibly formidable.” He went on to add, “This season is going to define the characters.”
Any flashbacks planned? It’s safe to say, yes. They plan to show how Terminus and its occupants came to be.
Robert Kirkman admits the show has taken a turn from the comics with the Terminus story line. But throughout the upcoming season, they’ll bring in more content from the comic books and bring the show back on track with them.
Gale Anne Hurd and Greg Nicotero said the makeup effects and sets are getting bigger and better. The world will continue to expand. Nicotero teased two walker makeups on the big screen—one a regular walker who has decayed with the same sort of progress we’ve seen thus far, and the second the Water-Logged walker from a scene where the survivors encounter a flooded room full of undead.
On the cast portion of the panel, Andrew Lincoln said while it was great for Rick to be reined in by Hershel, it feels right now to have his gun back and boots on.
Steven Yeun thinks Glenn’s unwavering hope will see him through the trouble ahead of the crew.
In Lauren Cohan’s opinion, Maggie will never be the same. None of them will. Even if there was a cure for the walkers, there will still be bad guys.
Newcomer Michael Cudlitz, who was slightly dazed at the number of fans in Hall H, didn’t feel pressured to become an exact replica of Abraham from the comics. The cast welcomed him with open arms.
When asked about the two sides to Michonne—the killer and the woman still mourning her losses—Danai Gurira said she loves the challenges posed by both sides, and readily admits she was afraid of the physical demands from the role.
Jokingly, panel moderator Chris Hardwick handed Melissa McBride a bouquet of flowers. Which she proceeded to march down the table to pawn them off on someone else. The cast hid. Norman Reedus wasn’t quite quick enough. When asked about Carol’s story arc from season one through season four, Melissa said, “I think the great thing about Carol is she’s kinda prepared to do anything.”
Chad L. Coleman said, “If you don’t have the heart, you can’t have the hope,” in reference to the tense confrontation between Carol and Tyreese last season, adding that Tyreese never lost sight of Carol’s humanity and bravery.
Beth is alive. Somewhere. So says Emily Kinney.
Norman Reedus was convinced he’d die during his second episode on the show and never thought he’d see Daryl make it this far.
Surprise guest—and first-time SDCC attendee—Chandler Riggs surprised the crowd in Hall H by walking on stage with a huge tub of chocolate pudding. Having grown up on the show (he’s 15 now) he said it’s been an awesome experience with great mentors in his cast mates.
We’ll let the preview clip speak for itself.
Mark your calendars. “The Walking Dead” returns to AMC on October 12th at 9 PM.
Summertime is the busy season for your Zombie Survival Crew commanders. We canvas the country, advising brigadiers and recruiting new members. This weekend, we’re in three cities working to ensure everyone is informed and ready to fight the undead.