The end begins. With this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, titled “Lockdown”, we’re finally in the homestretch of episodes that will bring the series to a close after 11 seasons. And, spoilers past this point, true to form the show is going out with a bang.
In the episode, written by Julia Ruchman and directed by Greg Nicotero, we pick up pretty much right where the last episode left off, with Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) on the run from The Commonwealth, and aiming to fight back against Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton), the politician who has become a serious thorn in their sides. In order to get help to folks inside the community, the send none other than former arch-villain himself, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
Naturally, things do not go swimmingly, and by episode’s end Daryl has a knife to Lance’s throat, but somehow it seems like Lance still has the upper hand. But before all that, the episode kicks off with a haunting montage that starts with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) waking up from his coma in the very first episode of the show, bringing us all the way up the present day.
To find out more about some of these big moments, here’s a snippet of our longer chat with The Walking Dead boss Angela Kang — and if you’d like to read more from Kang and the cast on ending The Walking Dead, we’ve got that, too.
Decider: The episode starts with this montage that sounds like it’s narrated by Judith [Caily Fleming]. Why this choice, and what can you tell us about this format as it unfolds in the rest of the episodes?
Angela Kang: As we were working on this final block, we were thinking a lot about the legacy of the show and kind of the emotions we wanted to capture. And the fact that all of our characters, they are thinking about their own pasts because The Commonwealth is a community that forces it. Like, The Commonwealth is sort of based on who you were before is who you are now, and you’re stuck there, and I think for our people, they’ve been thinking a lot about, “who I was before is so far away from the distance I’ve traveled as a person” and “where else do I want to go from here?” It felt appropriate to go into these flashbacks that give a little sense of that past history.
This was a great pitch from [Walking Dead Universe CCO] Scott Gimple as we were wrangling with these questions. He’s like, “what do you think about – what if there’s these montages that start these episodes, and then it jumps in?” The writers and I were just like, “we love that.” And then we ran with it and went crazy. But we really felt like doing this, it just added something for us. We hope the fans love it. For us, it gave us the feels as we were working on it, so that tends to at least mean something. We know that there’s going to be some of the audience that also really enjoys what that is, but we tried not to make it just about the past; it’s also how it informs the present.
I’ll say as a fan I definitely felt while watching, “oh here we go, these are the final episodes,” so it definitely worked for me.
At least in the early going, Lance seems to be the final boss of The Walking Dead. So why was he the right antagonist to end it here?
Lance is – he’s a fun, tricky antagonist in our minds because he seems so nice and mild-mannered, at first. But, there’s such a trickster-like quality to Lance. That character fits with the vibe of The Commonwealth, but I also just want to say, you never know what twists and turns are going to unfold over the season. So keep watching and see where that goes.
Another fun thing in the premiere is Negan and Carol working together, as Negan sneaks into The Commonwealth. We got to see a little bit of that when they were working against Alpha, but why bring them together again here?
We just love the pair of Negan and Carol. Bringing them together was the right move, organically, because as we were thinking through “what’s the play from the people on the outside?” they didn’t have a lot of options, and Negan was an unknown face, and maybe there’s a way to exploit the system. The great side effect of that is we get to pair him with Carol. And what’s so interesting about their relationship to us is that Carol like still doesn’t really like Negan, but she understands that he’s useful at times. That makes for kind of a funny dynamic. We really enjoyed how those two work together, because they are actually both really smart and mesh when they’re on a mission — but it’s not like Carol wants to be his best friend ever.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC, and streams a week early on AMC+.