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SYFY WIRE San Diego Comic-Con 2022

Watch: 'The Walking Dead' teases 'smart' zombies, sets fall return with SDCC trailer for final episodes

The long-running zombie drama returns Sunday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. ET.

By Josh Weiss
The Walking Dead Season 7 AMC PRESS

AMC brought the promise of smart zombies (ones capable of climbing walls and opening doors) to San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H today with a trailer for The Walking Dead's final collection of eight episodes. The undead series will officially return on the evening of Sunday, Oct. 2, series executive producer and Walking Dead executive producer and chief brand manager, Scott Gimple, confirmed during the subsequent panel attended by SYFY WIRE.

Most of the principal cast was present for the Chris Hardwick-moderated discussion, except for Khary Payton (Ezekiel), Christian Serratos (Rosita), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan). The latter two actors appeared via a pre-recorded message from the set of Isle of the Dead — a spinoff in which Negan and Maggie find themselves in "a madhouse known as New York City during the apocalypse," Gimple said.

The teaser footage dedicated to the third chapter of Season 11 kicks off with a poignant montage of the show’s biggest moments and characters we’ve lost along the way before moving into some major table-setting for the upcoming war with Commonwealth head honchos: Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) and Pamela Milton (Laila Robins). "When we start the final block, our people are in conflict with Commonwealth and the Commonwealth is a society that tends to drive people apart," explained showrunner and executive producer, Angela Kang. "But this about our people coming back together. The gang is back together with their goal as they're charging forward to the finish." 

And if that wasn't difficult enough, Aaron (Ross Marquand) suddenly brings word of Walkers that have the ability to open doors and scale walls. Is this another Whisperer-esque fake-out, or are the reanimated corpses actually evolving? "I wouldn't co-sign on the word 'smart," Gimple said of the advanced Walkers at a press conference also attended by SYFY WIRE. "There's something going on there..."

"In some ways, it's a throwback to some Walkers we saw back in the very first season," offered Kang, most likely alluding to Morgan's undead wife, who attempted to open a door, in the pilot episode. "But not everybody encountered those Walkers; it's almost like it was a variant that was just regional and anytime there's a change to the rules, that means that our people need to be that much more on their game. Because they're realizing that the methods that they use to survive don't quite work the same way. And so, our survivors being very, very smart, they're gonna try to adjust to that. It'll be one of many conflict that they're dealing with in the final episodes."

Watch the trailer now:

Greg Nicotero — who worked his way up from lead makeup effects whiz to director and executive producer — helmed the final episode of the series. "We definitely felt like we had an obligation to make sure that we stuck the landing ... You can talk about Seinfeld, you can talk about M*A*S*H*, you can talk about all these great shows that we've loved. And most of the time, the historical relevance of the show is judged on the last episode," he remarked at the press conference. "So we really struggled and agonized and buckled in to make sure that it [was a worthy conclusion]."

"It's been a great run," Nicotero said at the panel. "Directing the finale, I felt all of the weight of the expectation of every single person in this room on my shoulders because we wanted it to be great. Everybody was in it. You know, 24 episodes was no joke ... By the time we got to the end, everybody rolled up their sleeves and said, 'We have an obligation to the fans to take the show out in the best way that we can. I can speak for everybody up here — all the cast and all the crew — that we did it."

Despite all the spinoffs currently in development, Kang promised that the finale will bring a definitive "closure to the show."

The Walking Dead returns to AMC Sunday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. ET. The first two episodes will be available to stream on AMC+ the same night.

Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of San Diego Comic-Con 2022.

If you're looking to satisfy your zombie craving immediately, head over to Peacock and check out the movie that kickstarted the entire genre: George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Or check out the SYFY original series, Day of the Dead.