There’s been a bit of back-and-forth surrounding Negan’s victims from last night’s Walking Dead premiere, as some suggested they’d yet to choose the big death before this summer, while cast have claimed to know even longer. Now that the truth is finally splattered out in the open, showrunner Scott M. Gimple and creator Robert Kirkman say the doomed pair was chosen years in advance.

Take this with a grain of salt for the moment (as well as significant spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere), but it seems there was never any doubt Glenn would end up the most notable victim of Negan’s barbed-wire bat Lucille, just as in comics. Both Gimple and Kirkman appeared on Talking Dead after Sunday’s premiere, claiming both Abraham and Glenn’s deaths were in the works about two years (via EW):

I think the hardest thing about it was thinking while starting the script, ‘Well, what would break Rick?’ It was all in the book, in issue 100. But looking for a way to break the audience too. Not in a way that is in any way to hurt them, but for them to believe that Rick Grimes would be under the thumb of Negan. That he would go through an experience that would do that to him. That the audience would go through the experience too, so that they would believe that Rick could do what this guy says.

For his part, Yeun claims to have actively lobbied for his own exit:

You read that comic, you kind of don’t want that to go to anyone else. It’s such an iconic moment and I think I even said, ‘Don’t give that to anybody else.’ It’s such a gnarly thing to say but sincerely, living that out was very wild but at the same time, that moment happening and being realized on television in a different medium and to do it in the way that we did it I think is brave and at the same time super affecting. And for me, that was the motivation to be like, ‘Yeah, that sounds great.’

Season 7 essentially gains a fresh start without Negan’s victims hanging over its head, but can The Walking Dead recover from such a controversial cliffhanger? Check out a preview of next week’s “The Well” for a clue.

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