The Walking Dead Season 7 has already begun production, kicking off a new round of fan investigation to fill the void of Game of Thrones‘’ latest twist, and giving producers one hell of a challenge to keep Negan’s victim under wraps. That said, creator Robert Kirkman isn’t done defending the controversial cliffhanger, likening it to the best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and wanting fans to hope, not grieve.

Granted, we’ve heard Kirkman and AMC showrunner Scott Gimple (hell, even Chris Hardwick) defending the finale choice to keep the “Last Day on Earth“” victim in POV, Kirkman offered an impassioned explainer in the “Letter Hacks” section of The Walking Dead #154. In it, the franchise creator spoke to wanting to give fans something to anticipate in the long months between seasons, invoking the famous “Best of Both Worlds” cliffhanger from Star Trek: The Next Generation:

Okay, the season 6 finale has certainly caused a fervor online. EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT. Some people love it. Some people are indifferent. Some people HATE it. We weren’t trying to game the audience, we weren’t trying to drive you crazy, and we certainly weren’t trying to FORCE you to come back for Season 7 … we hope you were always planning on doing that and still plan on doing that.

We did want you to talk. And talk you are.

The speculation, the frustration, the possibilities, the theories … honestly, in my mind … that stuff is FUN. I honestly feel like that’s something fun for the fans to do during the break. Was it Spencer? Could it have been Morgan? What about Carol? Did Negan Kill Jesus?! (Note, none of them were there … I’m not giving ANYTHING AWAY.) I know people are angry over this, but that wasn’t our intent. The idea was that after 6 seasons of a show, we wanted to stay on your mind and give you something to talk about.

And think of it this way … a character you love and are going to miss is DEAD, and we gave you a few extra months to hope, to not grieve. Is there uncertainty? Yes. But that was kind of the idea.

But seriously. Everyone on the TWD team wanted to do something cool. We wanted to do something different and we did it to change things up, get people excited and keep this show on your mind.

For some of you, that effort backfired and you’re angry. And for that I’m sorry. The only thing i can PROMISE you is that the season 7 premiere is going to be awesome. And when viewed as a two-part episode (the same way EVERY SEASON of Star Trek: The Next Generation ended with the first half of a two-part episode that was a cliffhanger … ), it’s going to be a pretty awesome ride. And every minute of the season 6 finale was important and setting something up that you probably won’t see coming.

It’s a cool episode … and remember … there’s a LOT more for Negan to do. Be afraid … be very afraid. And excited!

The Star Trek comparison is at least an interesting one, though one might argue a major divide between introducing an act break after a shocking twist, and purposefully obscuring information that said climax hinged on. Imagine, for instance, that the hype machine spent months pointing toward “Best of Both Worlds” assimilating one of the Enterprise crew, only to line up the bridge staff, and pull the same kind of POV bait-and-switch, rather than actually show us the true conflict’s beginning.

The Walking Dead debate will only grow more complicated over the summer, but hey, at least Season 7 has a tiger to look forward to!

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