If Sasha’s big entrance in The Walking Dead Season 7 finale seemed at all predictable, it might have been that comic viewers anticipated her following another character’s fate. Said theory was complicated by Fear The Walking Dead borrowing the same moment last season, for which main series showrunner Scott Gimple explains opting for a similar, albeit tweaked reveal.

You’re warned of full spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 7 finale, Fear The Walking Dead and the comics from here on out, but it was comic character Holly who served as Negan’s hostage in the books, and poor Denise who discovered Holly as a walker beneath the hood, as Negan planned. Season 2 of Fear The Walking Dead adopted a similar moment with Madison attempting to trade back a hostage that died in captivity, while Sunday’s Walking Dead finale tweaked the stunt to feature Sonequa Martin Green’s Sasha in a coffin, having secretly taken her own life to catch Negan off-guard.

So, why the change? And why have Fear use the concept before Walking Dead got a chance? As executive producer Scott Gimple tells Entertainment Weekly, the idea was mainly about giving Sasha a choice in her fate, though Fear necessitated they rethink things:

I would say the difference was always going to be there when we finally made it with certainty on Sasha’s fate. I also knew that Holly was very much a victim of Negan in the book. And that wouldn’t be the case here. That it was her choice. This was something that Sasha was doing. So that butterfly effect sort of took things further. I will say that it was a big moment for the book that we weren’t going to do once it was done. It might have changed. Certainly, the circumstances behind it changed. The purpose of it changed. I wouldn’t have been surprised if more had changed beyond that as well.

[The Fear episode] sort of took it off the table, but I don’t know if so much of what was happening in that moment was changing anyways. So much of it was predicated on Negan using Sasha as leverage. In the book, Holly is basically an ambush. And on Fear, it was something out of desperation — didn’t have a choice but to do it that way. But the story was about Sasha getting the final word. And I will say, that all that stuff is floating around in our head about how that’s going to change. We knew we had this Eugene story that was independently predicated on poisoning Negan. And all this stuff was flowing together.

Naturally, the decision was made early on to tie Sasha’s Season 7 arc to Abraham’s death in the premiere, and Sonequa Martin-Green’s exit had long been telegraphed by her Star Trek: Discovery role. Still, should The Walking Dead have adapted the Holly stunt at all, regardless of Fear using it first? Did the character need to die, given the ambiguous fate Corey Hawkins got to work on 24: Legacy?

Stay tuned for more on Sunday’s finale, as well as The Walking Dead Season 8 this fall.

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