It’s the beginning of the end for AMC’s flagship sci-fi series — but for The Walking Dead, that doesn’t mean the end is anywhere close to actully being in sight. Creatives and cast members from the long-running zombie fest circled the wagons during the show’s Comic-Con@Home panel this year to tease the sprawling, 24-episode final season as one filled with tons of twists and turns before the series finale arrives sometime in 2022.
Even fans of the Robert Kirkman comic on which the show is based may not have a clear picture of how AMC will wrap things up. But at least we're beginning to get a better idea of how Season 11 will begin. Showrunner Angela Kang hinted that fans of Kirkman’s original storyline have at least some idea of what’s in store... but in keeping with the panel’s tight-lipped take on spoiling what’s to come, she wouldn’t say much more.
The gang let the new Season 11 trailer, debuted during the panel, do most of the foreshadowing instead, making good on the show’s promise of getting back to a post-pandemic production that scales up the action, the group dynamics, and the surprises in a big way.
Pretty epic, right? During the panel, Kang sounded excited in emphasizing that Season 11 will get back to being "scope-y" — and it looks like she wasn't kidding.
“Obviously the pandemic changed a lot of how we had to do everything," said Kang, referring to the past six Season 10 episodes. “It was really fun to do these kind of focused, intimate episodes for 10C. But we’re gonna go out with a bang,” in Season 11, she added, teasing the stunts, scaled-up set pieces, and (of course) unexpected twists with high-stakes drama. “We kind of go in hard, with some new stories and new characters,” she teased. “…I’m being a little vague on purpose, because I don’t want to spoil [anything].”
The show has long been teasing a key role for Commonwealth military boss Mercer (cast newcomer Michael James Shaw), and the trailer gives quick glimpses not only at Mercer in his fan-favorite plated armor, but at the Commonwealth military soldiers under his command.
Shaw would only skim the surface in discussing how Mercer will fit into the series, but it was clear from all the panel cross-chatter (as well as the way AMC is building up to his arrival) that it’s something pretty seismic.
Mercer’s armored troopers? “They’ll be “a major part of the story,” going forward, Kang said. “Comic book fans know there’s a certain storyline coming.”
“It’s a big story and it takes a lot of turns,” said producer Scott M. Gimple of the split, three-part new season. “We reinvent every eight episodes, and this is three sets of eight…. we’re gonna give [fans] an epic, extended goodbye that will do it right — that will end more than 10 years — right.”
Mercer and fellow cast newcomer Josh Hamilton (as Lance Hornsby) may be bringing new Commonwealth storylines, but TWD enters its final stretch with a metric ton of old ones; fraught and strained connections between longtime characters turning the page on a tenuous and uncertain chapter in their well-worn relationships.
None was framed by more drama as Season 10 wound down than the dynamic between Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), now that she and son Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) are reunited and in close proximity to the man (yep, we mean Negan) who killed young Hershel’s father.
“That’s the whole season,” said Cohan. “That’s what we’re gonna unpack this year. If there’s a feeling that could be had, we’ll probably spend some time on that feeling, and then move on to another one.”
After the events of last season’s “Here’s Negan” finale, series fans may (or may not) have changed their opinion on the survivor everyone loves to hate. Morgan said his character may be reformed somewhat from his earlier bad-guy persona… but even as he tries to fit in as a group contributor in the upcoming season, well — he’s still Negan.
“‘I don’t know if it’ll ever sway the people who hate Negan,” he said of last season’s finale. “I think if there were people on the fence, it may have turned them a little bit. But I think the opportunity to do that and tell that story was exceedingly special…one of the highlights of my time here.
“I think there is definitely an evolution of Negan,” he added. “But I would be hard pressed to say that ‘old’ Negan will ever disappear… At this point, he is trying everything he can to kind of fit in with this group of people, and I think was doing okay — until Maggie came back. Now, it’s a whole new ball game for him.”
With Season 11’s three segments set to span more than a year, moderator Chris Hardwick pointed out that Saturday’s online-only panel won’t be the last cast hurrah at Comic-Con, where The Walking Dead typically takes over Hall H with one of the event’s biggest panels. And if we’re reading him right, that means there’ll likely still be a final slate of eight episodes to go when the show takes over the ‘Con in 2022.
What we do know is when Season 11 will premiere: The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Aug. 22 with eight brand-new episodes. AMC+ subscribers will be able to catch the season debut (as well as all S11 episodes) a week early, beginning on Aug. 15.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2021.