And lo, The Walking Dead has come to yet another end, closing out Season 6 with at least someone’s “Last Day on Earth,” though it’s safe to say fan reactions to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s introduction as Negan proved … divisive. Now, showrunner Scott Gimple and creator Robert Kirkman open up on the big twist, possible backlash, and what it means for Season 7.

You’re warned of full spoilers through The Walking Dead Season 6 finale “Last Day on Earth” from here on out (as well as some light speculation on Season 7), but if you’re anything like us, the choice to hide Negan’s finale victim felt more than a little manipulative, considering a season of questionable Walking Dead cop-outs. Both Gimple and Kirkman understandably dropped by Talking Dead to explain the big twist, which saw Negan beating at least someone to death as a message to Rick’s group.

In particular, Gimple said that the twist was intended to close out one chapter of The Walking Dead, and pick up Season 7 in another (Via EW):

The end of the story is what people saw. And when we reveal who was on the receiving end there, that’s going to be the start of another story. The kickback effects from that, what it makes everyone into, how people react, how the world changes for everyone, that’s the next part of the story.

Okay, but why hide said character’s identity from the audience, if at least one of Rick’s group are confirmed to pay the price for their killing dozens of Saviors? What of the inevitable backlash? Says Kirkman:

First of all, as a fan, I love cliffhangers. I love that tension. I love the anticipation of finding out what it is. If you read the comic book series, I think pretty much every issue ends with a big cliffhanger… And I think that’s a lot of fun. But this story, the cliffhanger isn’t the story. The story of the episode, and Scott and Matt Negrete did such a great hob of setting up how confident Rick was going into this.… This episode is about the loss of that confidence.

It’s about changing that mindset. It’s about tearing Rick Grimes down and that’s the conclusion of this story. So while it does seem like a cliffhanger, that’s the conclusion. And the story of who died, the story of what comes next, of who Negan killed, of what comes after that, that’s really the story of season 7.

Gimple in particular compared the non-reveal to the closing moments of LOST’s first season:

I would say, when they opened up the hatch [on Lost], we had to wait and see who was in the hatch. I liked thinking about that. I liked talking about it.… We have to do an episode that justifies it to you. We have to do something so great and so intense that you’re like ‘Okay, all right, fair play.’ That’s the challenge we have and we’re going to do it. We’re going to deliver you something fantastic.… We want you to be one of those people in that lineup. We want you to feel that suspense and that terror and that pain, and were going to deliver you a story next season that justifies it.

That’s … not a great way to explain shorting angry fans, immediately promising to make it up to them later, but the bigger question remains how exactly The Walking Dead intends to keep the death under wraps, considering how much of Negan’s entrance already leaked online. Surely set photos will offer some indication of who isn’t among the cast, let alone if said actor takes on another project over the summer.

There’s also the matter of the next season’s trailer, typically revealed at Comic-Con, but how long will we really have to wait to learn Negan’s victim? Was it worth it, to risk upsetting fans?

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