‘The Walking Dead’ finale director defends ending season 6 on a frustrating cliffhanger

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Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead” season six finale. There are also spoilers for “Game of Thrones.” 
If you tuned into the season six finale of “The Walking Dead,” and were left underwhelmed by the show’s extended 90-minute episode, you’re not alone. Many fans were left frustrated when the show ended on a cliffhanger. 

Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan entered the series as Negan, the long-awaited fan favourite from the comics, and brutally killed off one of the show’s beloved characters. Unfortunately, fans will have to wait until season seven begins in the fall to find out who was at the end of Negan’s horrifying baseball bat massacre.

Tech Insider caught up with season six finale director Greg Nicotero Monday afternoon, and he told us it was always the plan to end season six on a cliffhanger.

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Negan and his beloved bat Lucille bid adieu to someone on ‘The Walking Dead’ season six finale. Gene Page/AMC

“Obviously, any time you’re breaking a story you have those discussions about … I know Scott [Gimple] was 100% dedicated to ending it this way and then picking it up in season seven,” Nicotero says. “I was 100% in support of that. I just thought it was the best story to tell.”

The immediate response to the episode from fans on social media was largely negative. According to social-media analytics company Canvs, over 70% of Twitter reactions during the show’s end expressed feelings like “crazy,” “dislike,” “hate,” and “upset.” Much of season six was building up to Negan’s entry onto the show, and the season already had seen multiple cliffhanger-style episodes. For fans expecting to see Negan’s big entrance completely realised on screen Sunday evening, the show came up a little short in its delivery.

“You know, people will be upset, people will be annoyed, and people will be irritated, but you know what? It’s the end of our story arc in season six and when we go back to work in a couple weeks on season seven the story’s going to take a very unique turn,” says Nicotero. “We’re coming on seven years of shooting this show. These actors and these writers, we show up like it’s our first day on the job. That, to me, is exciting. I think if we would have shown the death at the end of the episode I think it would have detracted from where our story is going to pick up next year. So, we’re telling the story that we feel best serves our long-term goals. I’ll stand by that.”

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That’s not Lucille. But here’s Greg Nicotero with ‘The Walking Dead’ stars Steven Yeun and Andrew Lincoln on set of season five. Gene Page/AMC

“If people are upset, I’ll say this: I remember sitting in the theatre watching ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and having Darth Vader say, ‘I am your father!’ I watched that with my jaw on the ground and I never went, ‘Well, that’s stupid. I hate that idea. I can’t believe they’re going to make me wait!'” Nicotero recalls.”I was so excited about this new story that was going to unfold in front of me. I was never like, ‘Oh, this movie sucks. I’m not going to go see the third one. I’m not gonna watch it… they’re gonna make me wait.'” 

Nicotero has some advice for fans who have to wait a little over six months to learn who Negan killed off on the show.

“Just be patient, being in this world of instant gratification,” says Nicotero. “Come on, you can wait a little while.”

It’s clear Nicotero, showrunner Scott Gimple, and the rest of “The Walking Dead” crew have some sort of vision for where they want season seven to go. I brought up the idea of ending on a cliffhanger for ratings, something many fans were quick to suggest on social media.



“Listen, we never write episodes worrying about what our ratings are going to be,” says Nicotero. “It’s about telling a great story. And we’re committed to that. People can be upset.”

Nicotero is aware that other fans have compared the season six finale to “Game of Thrones” cliffhanger last year where one of the lead characters Jon Snow was seemingly stabbed to death in the show’s closing moments.

Jon Snow Game of Thrones season five

“I’m a huge ‘Game of Thrones’ fan,” Nicotero says. “But when the episode ended with Jon Snow, I was like, ‘Wait. What? Wait! Noooo!’ It was more like, I wanted to see the next chapter of the story. So, I’m excited for that story to unravel in front of me. The truth is, it just means that the next episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ that people see, it will pay off. All of this emotion and everything that people are feeling, we’re not going to not pay it off. They should be excited.” 

 Nicotero told The Hollywood Reporter the show has not filmed the character’s death scene yet. So when “The Walking Dead” starts filming again in several weeks, fans will be sure to be on the look out to find out exactly who was killed in that season six finale. That’s something Nicotero is aware of, too.

“Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast that people want to ruin the experience for others,” he admits. “It kind of bums me out. But, you know, we’ll do our best to preserve the viewing experience. The only thing I will say is that any time stuff is leaked it’s never really … it’s a very, very small percentage of our viewing audience that actually looks at any of that stuff. 97% of our viewers, they don’t want to know spoilers. They don’t want to know. You have a few people that will try to ruin the viewing experience for others, and the only thing that we can say is, ‘Don’t buy into it.’ Allow us to tell the story that we want [without] trying to spoil it.” 

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“The Walking Dead” will return to AMC in the fall. Meanwhile, its sister show “Fear the Walking Dead” starts season two Sunday, April 10. 

What did you think of “The Walking Dead” season six finale?

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