The Walking Dead is not always beholden to cliffhanger endings, closing out Seasons 1, 3 and 5 on relatively straight-forward beats, but Season 6 seemed overwhelmingly to sour fans on any cruel tease. However Season 7 picks up to answer that bloody twist, Robert Kirkman confirms they won’t try anything like that for the 2017 finale.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, series creator Kirkman understandably again defended the decision to keep Negan’s finale victim a secret, intending to stoke curiosity over the summer break, rather than deliver any predictable kill, comic-inspired or otherwise. Reaction from fans hasn’t gotten any kinder in the intervening months, but Kirkman at least acknowledges that writers won’t close Season 7 on any kind of similar tease:

Look, I think as a creative person I have to acknowledge that all responses are valid, so I definitely have to take note that there’s a seemingly significant portion of the audience that wasn’t happy with that direction, so in that respect I think everyone on The Walking Dead creative team has taken note of that, and I don’t know that I would expect a similar cliffhanger at the end of season 7.

Still, at the end of the day, Kirkman and co. have to stick to their guns, for which the comic writer tries not to place too much stock in any uproar. The choice was ultimately between killing a character the comic that fans already anticipated, or being labeled a “cop-out,” which led them to a sort of narrative compromise:

I mean, we have to look at those kind of options, and to be honest, that’s kind of when you throw it all out the window and just do what you think is the coolest and best for the story. Gauging fan reaction while you’re writing a story is a progress killer, and an enthusiasm killer, because you can never anticipate… I mean, we could’ve never anticipated the uproar that happened on the internet over the cliffhanger. We’re always just sitting down and trying to tell the best stories and do the best job of adapting my material from the comic.

Elsewhere of The Walking Dead Season 7, we know that new series regulars include Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), Austin Amelio (Dwight), Tom Payne (Jesus) and Xander Berkeley (Gregory). Season 7 has also gone to great lengths to conceal Negan’s final victim, shooting death scenes with all of the main cast.

The Walking Dead will return on October 23, but could Season 7 make up for any outrage?

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