TWD Lovefest at SDCC 2018
by R.C. Murphy
The summer of 2018 has been quite transformative for the cast and crew for AMC’s smash hit series The Walking Dead. Right off the bat during the San Diego Comic-Con panel we know something’s changed. There’s a serious difference in the energy onstage. It’s not just Yvette Nicole Brown’s infectious enthusiasm, either. For heaven’s sake, even Andrew Lincoln has an earnest smile on his face throughout the entire thing instead of just looking as tired as he should be after filming. Let’s be honest, working on the show is hard. We’ve all heard the stories about the heat and ticks. Usually everyone’s rough around the edges and thankful they’re in an air-conditioned building. Not this year. This year they vibrated with excitement. Too much excitement, sometimes. New showrunner Angela Kang let fly an f-bomb during a mutual respect fest with Jeffrey Dean Morgan at one point. Most everyone took a minute to sing Kang’s praises, in return. This was a level of affection between the production team and the cast we’ve yet to see, honestly. Even amongst the production team, too!
Promoting Kang seems to be the Thing. That Thing some fans have waited for to turn the tide. Dare we hope things are actually changing for the better? Keep in mind, Kang is responsible for the heart-wrenching episode where the gang says goodbye to Dale. You know, the one with that amazing speech? Including this too-fitting gem: “If we do this, we’re saying there is no hope. Rule of law is dead. There is no civilization.” Color me a little excited to see a return to that style of drama on the show.
The SDCC panelists for 2018 were: Angela Kang, Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero, Gale Anne Hurd, Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Norman Reedus.
Right off the bat, after everyone settled down, Kang confirmed that the long-awaited time-jump will happen leading into season nine. Maggie has the baby at last! Thus endeth the longest pregnancy on cable television. Kang alluded to the survivors building on the hope seeded in season eight, while simultaneously watching the infrastructure from the old world crumble around them to return to nature’s rule. Nicotero later expanded on this idea by pointing out how far-outdated (he says “ancient”) technology will have more value for the survivors than, for instance, guns with their finite amount of ammunition and supplies to continue making it. So they knock off a few museums and make off with the covered wagons, who cares? Now they’ve got the means to move without scrounging for fuel that isn’t there anymore. But all that forward progress has other kinds of consequences, as Gurira pointed out. Some people will want to do things their own way. We saw a group at the end of season eight who were very much not onboard with Rick’s “kill them with kindness” plan. That distrust doesn’t just vanish. Cohan talked super vaguely about how Maggie will deal with Negan’s continued survival in this better world she’s helping build—basically, she will deal with it, so just wait and see.
As Lincoln pointed out, there was a rather large elephant on the stage with them. For weeks the rumor mill churned out talk of his departure from TWD. Kirkman accidentally spilled the beans on the reality of the exit in his own panel before the TWD one in Hall H, so all Lincoln had to do was try not to cry while confirming his exit. He went on to pour his heart out, sharing the devotion he’s felt from the cast/crew and fans for the last decade. In an aside, he pointed out that his two of his all-time favorite episodes are coming up in season nine. Wonder if it’ll be easy to spot them. He later called the upcoming season, “Cowboys and zombies.” Which is more in-line with where some thought the show would go than where it ended up during “All Out War.”
Expect some new settings in the new season, specifically D.C. (at last!). Other new things include new styles of undead, according to Nicotero. Kirkman teased a “whispering zombie”, as seen in the trailer. There’s some new animals on the show, namely horses, which forced the production team to relearn the meaning of patient, it seems. Lastly, there’s a handful of new cast members joining the gang. Zack McGowan will play a Savior. Dan Fogler will be Luke. Samantha Morton was announced a little later as Alpha, the leader of—well, look at that—the Whisperers. Guess that explains the talking supposedly-dead person. There will be more cast announcements soon, no doubt.
The main panel portion rounded out with some funny stories from the cast. Gurira and Lincoln ribbed each other about their horse riding skills. Reedus gushed, yet again, about the forbidden wheelie he popped during filming while Lincoln clung to the back of the seat valiantly delivering his lines. There was even a prank war update, complete with a heated discussion as to the validity of Lincoln’s latest volley in the long-standing battle of wits. Brown passed question duty off to the fans for about nine minutes to end the panel.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on October 7th. There is a season nine preview special, hosted by Brown, on Sunday, August 5th at 9 PM.
Season nine’s trailer: