SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of last night’s Season 5 finale of The Walking Dead.
For the second season ender in a row no major character died on AMC’s blockbuster zombie apocalypse series last night, but there was more than enough blood and guts to go round — as there has been all this action-heavy cycle. The Season 5 finale of The Walking Dead saw Rick Grimes taking firm control of the suburban Alexandria Safe Zone after the Andrew Lincoln-played character was almost sent into exile. Dispensing with the niceties in a record-breaking ratings season that saw a number of the core group meet their final fates, Grimes also shot dead the abusive surgeon Pete, who had just killed ex-Safe Zone leader Deanna’s architect husband Reg.
In a reunion of sorts, the plot-packed 90-minute Season 5 ender of the series based on the comics from EP Robert Kirkman also had the hovering Morgan finally meeting face to face with the survivors and his old pal Grimes. The Lennie James-portrayed character first appeared in TWD pilot and was last seen before this season in the third cycle’s 12th episode back in 2013.
Among the seeds planted for Season 6 in Sunday’s Greg Nicotero-directed finale were the appearance of the obviously not friendly The Wolves, two of whom came up short at Morgan’s non-fatal deft hands. The group had been hinted at earlier this season in graffiti reading “Wolves Not Far” and a W carved into the heads of the zombie walkers. The near-end of the finale showed one of them looking at photos of Grimes and the enclave left behind by the Safe Zone’s Aaron while he was outside the walls with Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon. Oh, and there was a sneak peek at the upcoming and newly entitled Fear The Walking Dead series, coming this summer.
The Walking Dead wrapped for the season, but the Fear spinoff is in production in Vancouver, so work is ongoing for Gale Anne Hurd. Still, the busy and always circumspect executive producer of both shows today gave me a couple of glimpses into what TWD fans can perhaps expect next season and Fear‘s impact on her hometown of Los Angeles.
DEADLINE: This is the second consecutive Walking Dead finale where main characters weren’t killed, even though a lot of people thought it might be the end for Glenn. Why the decision to have all of the survivors keep surviving?
HURD: I think the point is we don’t work towards any sort of shock for the audience in our finales or the show in general. We work in terms of the character arches and the story arcs. That’s why you can’t always predict what’s going to happen on The Walking Dead because its not building up to a particular death but really what is the overall story of our survivors. In this season that’s about can they fit in in Alexandria. Secondly, has their arrival in Alexandria changed things forever within Alexandria in both a positive sense in terms of Rick saving them from the walkers that have now entered, as well as ending in bloodshed.
DEADLINE: The show has hit some record numbers this season with 17.3 million watching the premiere in October, you went on to beat the NFL five times in the key demo, plus you helped launch AMC’s Breaking Bad spinoff . That’s very impressive, especially for a show in its fifth season.
HURD: It’s incredibly rewarding. I think our incredibly talented cast and our writers, producers and crew have earned that. We are hitting our stride now and that’s really a tribute to them. And of course a huge thank you to all the fans who have embraced the show and convinced their friends and family to give it a try.
DEADLINE: In a letter read out on aftershow The Talking Dead last night, showrunner Scott Gimple teased Season 6 a bit. “For a good while now, humans have been the bigger threat,” your fellow EP wrote. “At the start of our next season, that will change. I said the show reinvents every 8 eps and we’re doing it again friendos. Now that these characters know that they have what it takes to survive, what are they going to do with that power? How are they going to choose to live? Beyond answering those questions, we are currently putting into motion some of our most ambitious stuff yet and things are going to get very big loud and scary.” OK, what can we expect? A Walker army? Alien invasion as the cause of the zombie apocalypse?
HURD: You know, having heard the pitch for next season last week, it’s all that Scott said. We are facing a world that is overrun with Walkers, we’ve seen that Alexandria can be breached, it is not longer the safe zone it was. All of that will come to bear on our core characters but now the citizens of Alexandria as well.
DEADLINE: That short promo for Fear The Walking Dead that played last night during the Season 5 finale showed a seemingly unaware Los Angeles in the opening stages of a virus that we know will become the zombie apocalypse. As an LA native and a Hollywood veteran, is the Fear spinoff a bit of revenge on your town?
HURD: (Laughs) As a fourth-generation Angeleno, I certainly like to see it depicted how my friends, family and colleagues would survive. Now we get an opportunity to see with a very different type of group than the type we encountered in Atlanta on The Walking Dead.
DEADLINE: Last year at Comic-Con, you said Season 5 would find the survivors in a more suburban environment that usual. We also saw the introduction of the first openly gay male character with the Safe Zone’s Aaron. How have those new elements changed the show from your POV? Do the survivors head to Washington DC?
HURD: I can’t talk about where they head but I can say whenever the group adds new characters to their core, it changes the dynamic. So with the re-introduction of Morgan, we’re going to see the dynamic change. We’ve also seen how some things stay the same, in terms of the love between Glenn and Maggie.
DEADLINE: The return of Morgan has been a building theme all season since he was introduced after the credits in Episode 1 back in October. I guess his reunion with Rick will see some changes occurring there too?
HURD: Of course, with Morgan now having eschewed violence and become like a Zen warrior we’ll see what kind of impact that has on Rick as well as Deanna and the new group that’s a combination of Alexandria and our survivors.
DEADLINE: The Wolves seem poised to play a big role in Season 6. They also seem to be another one of those occasions when the comic series and the TV series are different. Are they the Saviors or the DC Scavengers from the comics? Or The Whisperers?
HURD: I can’t go into defining them. I say, wait and see.
DEADLINE: You’ve got , the upcoming Fear The Walking Dead spinoff, and several projects under your Valhalla banner on the go, but you’ve also got the Mankiller documentary about the first female-elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation that you have a Kickstarter campaign to raise $150,000 to complete production – why take that route knowing many will say you’ve got more than enough money to do the job yourself?
HURD: I think it is important to build community especially for a documentary. This is not a vanity project, this is an important story that I feel needs to be told. Wilma Mankiller such an important figure not only in her own Cherokee community but she was also a recipient of the Presidential Media of Freedom by President Clinton. So I wanted to make sure knowledge of her story is widespread. It has a very committed group of advocates that starts with Kickstarter.
DEADLINE: And you are very close to hitting your target, with some Walking Dead support it seems.
HURD: Well, until we get there I’ll be biting my nails. But I would say, if you are a fan of The Walking Dead you will find a lot of amazing rewards if you pledge to Mankiller — our cast and crew have been very supportive. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces on our Kickstarter page.