What We Learned At ‘The Walking Dead’ Season Six Press Roundtable At Comic-Con

By now most of you have seen the season six trailer for The Walking Dead and devoured a bit of what happened at the Comic-Con 2015 panel. Things do not look good for Rick Grimes and the folks at Alexandria. Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) sums it up well in this quote from The Walking Dead press roundtable that followed the larger panel:

Separated houses, how it effects the group. When you’re in that tight knit group, it creates a certain dynamic. Own identity, it’ll be very interesting to see which identities get recreated. Who can I be now, personally, individually. Since I’m no longer next to you fighting with you.

“The Theme Within This Season Is Them And Us”

Who can I be now that I’m no longer next to you, fighting with you. It’s a dynamic that could revitalize the show a bit, pulling it away from the trend it has fallen into over the past few seasons. Alexandria is more than a safe zone and a new way of life, it is a fork in the road for these characters that we’ve come to enjoy, condemn and complain about.

When The Walking Dead returns in season six, there will be a state of conflict for the residents of Alexandria, as confirmed by Michael Cudlitz in the roundtable. We saw how the last season ended and we know Rick’s goals for the settlement, particularly the idea that he’s the one in control. When the panel mentioned that the new season “challenges to the way he does things,” it seems that we aren’t in for the same ride as previous seasons and Andrew Lincoln hints at as much:

People are quite concerned about Rick. I don’t know if he wants control. He’s in a place now where hes not willing to compromise. He does something where his leadership is questioned, severely, in the first half of this season.

There’s also the question of Morgan and his motivations within the group, which Lennie James confirms. Seeing how he’s a character we’ve only spent a little time with, Morgan appears as fresh to the viewer as he does to the characters on the show. And there’s precedence to believe that his transformation since the start of the show will come into play:

There’s a big question to answer about Morgan in the show and also in me playing him. Dots to be joined that we haven’t gotten to yet in the playing field. Sometimes the most incendiary thing to do is take a position of peace and Morgan is kind of stirring things up in taking a passive position. That’s going to fly in the face of a few people positions…

All the characters are the sum of their experience. Daryl was a completely different beast now than when we first met him. There’s very few shows, storytelling out there where you see characters developing over time.

A Budding Romance?

One of the bigger themes at the roundtable was the possibility of a bit of romance between Rick and Michonne, something it would seem has been in the works for quite a while if you take a step back and look at it. Producer Scott Gimple elaborates on the the relationship between the two, adding that Norman Reedus’ kiss with Danai Gurira helped spark the idea:

When Norman planted one on Danai in B-Roll, we got a whole lot of texts about that. They have a very intimate relationship, Michonne and Rick. They’re really intimate. They’ve done things for each other to form a deep, deep, deep friendship. They have an incredibly intimate relationship right now, and where that goes who knows?

Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln both echoed these sentiments, with Gurira noting that she wants Michonne to get some at some point in the show:

I think it’s cool. What it shows is there’s a palpable true friendship there that is what I treasure about Michonne’s relationship. He really challenged her to step out and ask, “who are you going to be right now?”

Lincoln felt the same way, noting the similarities in their character qualities and the path they’ve taken to get to this point in the show (plenty of loss, plenty of pain, plenty of changes):

The thing I love about playing scenes with Danai is they have this kind of jokiness to them. A gallows humor that is a bit cowboy. They’re both warriors and she’s the kind of person that can take the piss out of Rick. There arent that many people in the apocalypse, so maybe when everyone’s dead and there’s me and her, lets get it on.

Walkers Galore

The super-sized pilot is already confirmed to be 90 minutes with a Madison Square Garden premiere to usher it out to the people, but that isn’t the only thing getting bigger in the premiere. The horde of the undead is going to get larger than we’ve ever seen on the show and Gale Anne Hurd noted that the production needed to support this with believable effects:

We’re at that point in the series where naturally the cast will expand in Alexandria. There is no question that there are more walkers out there than human survivors and it was really important not to just do it with CGI. It really was servicing a particular story. The whole season has that sort of scope.

Greg Nicotero added that the shoot for the pilot featured close to 300 walkers on the set in one day, which is more than any other episode of the series to this point. That says a lot considering some of the groups we’ve seen up to this point. And judging from the trailer, the effects are not skimping at all. Nicotero and his disciples are at the top of their game and they’re hoping to really push it to its limits this season:

Scott has one very specific thing that hes conscious of: It cant be a Ray Harryhausen. It has to be muscle and there has to be something motivating movements. Ribcage and exposed bone. We’re doing a few things this year we haven’t done before by digital augmentation of the walkers. Gives us more opportunities. They use decrepit a lot this season in the script. It’s been amazing.

Every season we sort of refine the teeth even more. We just keep changing it up. Every season it’s different and we just keep pushing a bit more.

Keeping The Fans On Their Toes

The biggest hurdle in creating a buzzworthy show like The Walking Dead seems to be keeping things under wraps. Holding back plot points, telling half truths in the promos for episodes, and just dropping different hints for people to follow keeps the creators and producers on their toes, particularly Scott Gimple:

I’ve written probably three or four television shows worth of fake sides. Stuff I am super proud of, quality writing that I love. It will never see the light of day.

And even with that, stories and other tidbits find a way to leak out. It just shows you some of the hurdles they have to hop in order to keep the surprises intact. Luckily there are other hurdles that are a lot of fun, particularly for the cast according to Michael Cudlitz:

If there were 100 people who watched our show, 98 of those people are on the Internet to look for these clues. It’s great, it gives them things to talk about and speculate and a lot of times they are wrong and it keeps the conversation alive.

And if you’re wondering if there’s any rivalry brewing between this show and the cast of Fear The Walking Dead, it seems to be all smiles and well wishes from Steven Yuen:

Life’s gonna change. For me, I’m just very fortunate I walked into a situation that was a perfect storm of great people, great creative and amazing bosses. They’ll be fine.

Now it’s up to the fans to decide what is going to be worth for on AMC, something we’ve already laid out elsewhere. Fear The Walking Dead and The Walking Dead will both be back sooner than we likely expected and it would seem that the creative isn’t losing a step yet.