Robert Kirkman has spoken about the upcoming season of The Walking Dead just days away from its long-awaited premiere.
Season 7 is arriving on a wave of expectation following the tumultuous events of its sixth season finale which saw new villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) dispatch of one of the main characters.
The producing and writing team's decision to leave the identity of that character as a mystery led to a backlash from a fraction of fans who viewed the cliffhanger as a cop out.
Kirkman has acknowledged this in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
"Look, message received," the comic book creator said. "The modern audience isn't too happy with cliffhangers.
"When people see the premiere, they'll understand why we split things where we did. A lot of people have opinions but no one has the information we have. When you see the episode, you'll understand: 'This is a thematic break and there is a transition of what came before and what came next.'"
Producers have gone out of their way to ensure the reveal remains a mystery up until airing - they've filmed multiple endings, employed body doubles and denied press access to review screeners - but it's been strongly hinted that the season 7 premiere will feature more than one death.
The Walking Dead Season 7 images
The Walking Dead Season 7 images
Morgan (Lennie James) will no doubt be spreading his conscientious objecting word when he arrives at The Kingdom.
Here's Carol (Melissa McBride), recovering from a gunshot wound inflicted upon her by one of the Saviors, having been saved by both Morgan and a member of new community, The Kingdom.
It's hard to remember there are a whole host of characters away from the 11 we left at Negan's mercy in the season 6 finale. Here's Jesus (Tom Payne), a member of the Hilltop Colony.
There he is - Negan himself with his beloved murder weapon of choice, Lucille.
With all the talk surrounding Negan, it's important to remember that the undead - looking more decomposed than ever - still pose a serious threat to the group.
Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his pet tiger were shown off in the first official trailer which debuted at Comic-Con 2016 last month. His pet tiger is nowhere to be seen.
It seems Negan is capable of ditching Lucille after all...
"I don't know that our audience is necessarily bloodthirsty enough to be wanting to hear that there's another death. One death should be enough for this audience and one death will definitely have the effect that we're looking for. I don't think anyone will be hungry for more blood when the episode airs."
With no main character dying in season 6, it certainly seems like we can expect more blood to spill in these new batch of episodes with Kirkman stating: "We're going to be killing some of these guys."
Describing the season as "chock-full" of Negan, Kirkman believes this is the start of a chilling new era for Rick Grimes and co.
"Season 7 as a whole will have so many new environments, so many new characters and so many new scenarios that it will almost seem like season one of an entirely different show."
The Walking Dead returns in the US this Sunday (23 October) and will be shown in the UK the following evening at 9pm on FOX.
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