The Walking Dead came to an end after 11 seasons: showrunner Angela Kang explains that shocking finale return, (SPOILER)’s death and more!
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Season 11 and series finale of The Walking Dead.
Rick and Michonne’s return on The Walking Dead finale
KANG: From the first pitch about the end of the season, I put my wish list out to the universe and AMC and all the producers, and said that the show was not complete without bringing back Rick and Michonne in some way. I know that that’s not entirely up to me, there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be worked out, but that was my wish. And then it took many, many, many months for it to actually come together. For a while, I was like, “I don’t think we’re getting them.”
When did producers land on this as their series finale ending?
The plan to bring Rick and Michonne back was in Kang’s mind from the very beginning: “From the first pitch I did for the ending of the series, I said to the network and the producers, ‘Hey, I really feel in my heart of hearts that the show is not going to feel totally complete unless we have Rick and Michonne back. I know that there are all these universe implications where I don’t have total control. But I’m putting it out there that this is the ideal version.”
“Honestly, I really do think that some of the stuff came from some suggestions and ideas from Norman,” Nicotero says. “Because there was one point when Norman was talking about how cool it would be for Rick Grimes and Daryl to reunite in some capacity. And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a really great idea. I would’ve watched that show.’ That was a year-and-a-half ago. And then the conversation started.”
Who are the voices repeating back the “We’re the ones who live” line?
Here is a complete list of the current and former cast-member voices that can be heard saying “We’re the ones who live” in the montage:
Lauren Cohan (Maggie)
Seth Gilliam (Gabriel)
Ross Marquand (Aaron)
Lennie James (Morgan)
Josh McDermitt (Eugene)
Laurie Holden (Andrea)
Khary Payton (Ezekiel)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan)
Melissa McBride (Carol)
Norman Reedus (Daryl)
Chandler Riggs (Carl)
Michael Cudlitz (Abraham)
Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha)
Nadia Hilker (Magna)
Eleanor Matsuura (Yumiko)
Angel Theory (Kelly)
Christian Serratos (Rosita)
Paola Lázaro (Princess)
Cassady McClincy (Lydia)
Cooper Andrews (Jerry)
Okea Eme-Akwari (Elijah)
Margot Bingham (Max)
Steven Yeun (Glenn)
Danai Gurira (Michonne)
Andrew Lincoln (Rick)
How did you arrive at Rosita being the big death in the finale?
Christian Serratos volunteered! I was talking to her about our plans for the finale, and I kinda made a joke about blah, blah, blah deaths — unless people want to volunteer. And she was like, “Are you open to the idea of maybe Rosita dying at the end?” Then she laid out a really passionate argument for how she felt that was the right choice for her character’s story, how bravely she would do anything for her child. So she told me to think about it. I did, then I talked to the writers and the network and Scott [M. Gimple, the franchise’s chief content officer] and said, “I think we can do a really beautiful version with Christian.” So it started with her.
GREG NICOTERO: Christian came to me about six to eight months before we did that episode and said, “I want something really great for Rosita.”
She’s like, “I want that character to go out strong.” She said, “I think I might want to die, but if I die, I want to do something heroic. I want to die saving the children.” So she came up initially with the idea, and I thought it was a really smart idea for her character.
KANG: We felt that there were some aspects of it that felt like we could pull from the Andrea idea in the comic — just the idea that there was a really important member of the cast doesn’t make it, but that there is a chance for there to be a bit of a goodbye that felt like it was honoring the emotional intent of the comic as well as kind of fulfilling something that Christian said that she felt was important for her journey. And we try to take those things into account.
NICOTERO: As we got closer to it and then once the outline and then the script came out, she and I worked really, really hard to make sure that we captured the moments that we felt were critical to Rosita’s storyline getting wrapped up.
She was 100 percent committed. It was a little different than previous scenarios, because her death had a very resounding meaning in the end of the series. We’ve had characters go on the show that weren’t ready to go. But this was a different situation because she felt that dramatically, story-wise, it left Rosita in a better place than where she would’ve been if she would’ve just been part of everybody else just saying goodbye. So I give her a tremendous amount of credit for that. I think that she had fantastic instincts on that.
Ezekiel may be the new governor of the Commonwealth, but it was almost Mercer. And it was almost Carol. And it was almost Maggie.
KANG: It changed a lot through the season. We talked about maybe Mercer becomes that person. We talked about maybe Carol becomes that person, maybe Maggie becomes that person. And at the end of the day, we settled on Ezekiel because it felt like Ezekiel is inherently a leader, and he has survived so much. And he is a very, very community-focused type of a leader.
The Kingdom was really the most joyful of all the communities. And they were strong, and they were really good at being collaborative with the other communities around them.
It felt like Ezekiel kind of went on a journey where he wanted to not do that anymore, but it really felt like he’s somebody that at the end of the day is always going to find himself trying to help other people. And that felt like the right kind of leader to go forward.
And I like that Ezekiel and Mercer, who were at such odds when they started, actually kind of wound up working together. But I kind of thought maybe Mercer needs one civilian step before he becomes a full leader. You know what I mean? Because he’s been a military guy, so I think he actually probably had to be pushed to even run to be the lieutenant governor. I think he’s like, “I don’t think that’s my path, man. I’m a soldier.” And so I think he needed to get his feet wet in the government side as a civilian leader before he does more.
Carol was supposed to have a different ending
Melissa McBride was initially set to star with Norman Reedus in a Daryl/Carol spinoff; in late April, the news broke that she would not be a part of the series.
“It was not going to work for [Melissa] to work on the spinoff at this time, and that happened when we were already in the middle of talking about the story for things. We’d long thought the end was that she rode off with Daryl on that motorcycle. So, the final scene that they had on the bench prior to him riding off did not exist in that form. It really was like them riding off together on this adventure.”
KANG: The change with Melissa not going into the spin-off happened pretty late in the game. So we’d always planned that the two of them were going to ride off together. In the original version, they would’ve gone on the bike and pointed west and then would’ve gotten sidetracked.
And then when we were running the finale, we were like, “Okay, let’s reconceive how they end.” So it becomes, he rides off, and she’s there to support him because there’s no anger or anything between them about it. It’s just he’s going to go off on a mission, and she has a different mission right now.
My co-writers and I, we had a different version of the Daryl-Carol scene on the bench that was a little lighter in some places, but still got to a similar sort of, “I love yous,” and things like that. But Norman and Melissa’s wish was to just keep it really, really simple and emotional. So I kind of rewrote it accordingly. And I think they did an amazing job with it, so that’s kind of how it all came about. It’s all part of a collaboration, and we work on it.
Negan finally learned to shut his mouth and walk away.
KANG: After that nod to Daryl, he’s just focused on the present. And what he knows is, “I got to go home and see my wife. I’m going to go see Annie, and I’m going to leave these people to what they’ve got to do.” And I think the thing that he took from that conversation with Maggie is, “She’s extending grace to me and my wife, even though she is literally saying that it pains her to no end every time she sees me.” And the way that Negan has grown is by realizing that to walk into that house where they’re all having a meal together is actually not kind to Maggie.
The way he’s grown is by giving her space. And there’s nothing selfish about it.
It’s not like he’s moping about it. He’s just like, “The right thing for me to do right now is to walk away and give her the space that she needs.” So I think that was really what was behind him going off. Because obviously an alternate version of it would be, he’s in there with them, and it’s all one happy family. But that didn’t feel true to what the two of them had been through this season.
Here’s why Negan’s wife, Annie, wasn’t in the finale.
KANG: Annie was back at Alexandria. This was such a tough thing because there was a version where we did see her, but the script was too big, and we couldn’t film it all. And there were choices that had to be made for scheduling reasons. And then there were things that shifted because of COVID illnesses, because of Norman’s accident, which shifted the filming around. So there were scenes that sometimes had to be cut as a result. So we were going to see Annie again. And we didn’t end up seeing her.
Sometimes it’s just circumstance, and we can’t control it. But we were always going to leave Annie alive because there were a couple of different versions of spin-offs for Negan in play. And so she was a character that was maybe going to continue or maybe not. And so she was going to be in jeopardy, but we always intended for her to be alive.
Sebastian Milton was originally going to live until the finale… and then die.
KANG: Sebastian was originally going to make it all the way into episode 24. There would have been many more shenanigans and f—ed-up things. And at the end of it all, Pamela would’ve sent him into battle to lead, but it leads to his demise. And she would’ve purposely put him into a situation where he was going to not make it.
That was a very raw version that we really had worked on very hard, but we ended up pulling it up because it just felt like there needed to be a big turn in that part of the story.
And it made so many interesting things for Hornsby and Pamela and things like that. And also, I think AMC was actually like, “What do you think about killing Sebastian earlier?” And we’re like, “Maybe.” So we worked on the story. Stuff like this happens every season, by the way.
I think Scott might have also been like, “But what if Sebastian dies here?” So there’s always when there’s a character that is slated to die from the start, like Sebastian was, where it’s like, “Do we do it here, or here, or here?” And what branches out from that? And we felt that there was a little more advantage to doing it where we did, rather than saving it for the end, although that would’ve been fun too.