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AMC has been teasing it for a while now: The Walking Dead’s marathon final season will kick off this month with a more sweeping scope, and with more character stories unfolding across different locations, than anything we’ve seen in a long time — perhaps even since the frantic survival race that set up Season 1.
As Daryl Dixon, star Norman Reedus remains among the series’ small handful of starting players to survive all the way to the final season — so it’s safe to say he’s seen it all. And with only a couple of weeks left before the Season 11 premiere, Reedus is teasing that the shift away from last season’s smaller, more intimate episodes toward an ambitious cross-cutting of action in and around the Commonwealth will feel like a major change — one that ’s bigger, in fact, than fans might be ready to see.
“It’s very surreal. Every season feels like a different show in a certain sense, but this season, it’s a whole new backdrop, a whole new color palette, a whole new attitude,” Reedus recently explained to TVLine of the final season’s big shift.
“It’s sort of in Technicolor all of a sudden, and it takes some getting used to, which you can see in our group [of survivors] — we’re having trouble getting used to it, too. It’s like Alice fell down the rabbit hole, and she doesn’t know where she’s at. We just stepped into a Salvador Dalí painting, so we’re like, ‘Whaaat?’”
Showrunner Angela Kang pumped up San Diego Comic-Con fans last month with a similar hint about the final season’s “scope-y” ambitions, saying the series will juggle a lot of high-stakes moving parts, just as it did way back in the very beginning. That’s a big contrast from the scaled-down Season 10 episodes, many of which were filmed under tight COVID-19 restrictions that invited introspective, character-focused stories rather than a smorgasbord of set-piece action. “It was really fun to do these kind of focused, intimate episodes for [Season] 10C,” said Kang. “But we’re gonna go out with a bang.”
Also along for the series’ entire 11-season ride has been Melissa McBride. As Carol, McBride and Reedus enter the final season with a familiar-but-new dynamic, as Carol and Daryl try to come together following the perilously close call Carol inflicted on Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Daryl’s deaf traveling companion from Season 10.
“At the beginning, they’re still working to make amends and build trust again,” McBride told TVLine. “I think most everything they went through was understood, so it’s not really making amends so much as getting comfortable and sort of crawling back into that [rapport]…Carol’s sort of got her tail between her legs a little bit, but she’s like, ‘We need to work this out, and we will — over time, little by little.’”
Season 11 is set to unfold in three installments of eight episodes each, with the series finale set to arrive sometime in 2022. The Walking Dead returns on Aug. 22 for its final-season debut; AMC+ subscribers can catch all S11 episodes a week ahead of time, starting on Aug. 15 with the season premiere.