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After months of rumors and conspiracy theories piling up like a wall designed by the late Reg Moore himself, The Walking Dead will finally arrive on AMC for Season 7 this weekend. And when it gets here, viewers will finally learn just who it is that gets their brains bashed in by Jeffrey Dean Morgan's not-necessarily-villainous Negan. Executive producer Greg Nicotero talked a bit about the decision behind locking down who that all-important first victim would be, and how it had to be made longer ago than people probably think.

That decision was made last year before we ever even got into the finale. That story, that was all sort of broken within the writers room. If you look back at the history of our show, the death of every single character has provided us with an opportunity to change the direction of the show. Even as far back as Shane and Lori and Hershel and Tyreese and Beth. The show is inherently different after each one of those people was killed. In this instance, the introduction of Negan and the death of this person, it really does provide us with a pretty substantial course change because that's really what the season was leading up to last year.

Greg Nicotero doesn't nail down one specific moment where it was decided who Negan would kill, because it's a story point that has likely been present in the minds of everyone involved with the show for years. It was such a gamechanging incident in the comic books, and creator Robert Kirkman knew that it would end up on TV one day. And as Nicotero put it to, Season 6 was largely about setting up Negan's introduction and the wild change of pace and tone that is to follow, so the big death likely informed a lot of the choices made by showrunner Scott Gimple & Co. as Alexandria made its way into live-action.

negan smiling walking dead

Even beyond the foreknowledge provided by the source material, the necessity to change the landscape after major deaths also meant nothing about Negan's big kill could be left to impulse or chance. Nicotero wisely names characters like Shane and Beth, whose deaths were absolutely brutal blows both to the characters and to audiences, ushering in new arcs and locations (and more doomed characters). And Negan's first victim arguably tops all of those in terms of blunt force impact, so it would obviously require more extensive mental planning. After all, lots of more-crazy-than-usual shit is coming.

Double that planning if the Season 7 opener, which has a cool callback title, does indeed kill off more than one person, a popular theory that Jeffrey Dean Morgan seemed to confirm before he came out and said clarified his words. Taking out two major characters would require more brainstorming, along with more acceptance that everything could go ridiculously sour. Of course, knowing that this show is likely going to keep getting renewed until the end of time probably helps keep that acceptance buoyed.

So if nothing else, one hopes that this all helps some viewers understand that complaints about an episode the night it airs are hitting the writers' ears months after the scenes were filmed, which happened months after they were written, which likely happened months after they were initially conceived. Assuming those viewers aren't all just sobbing in the fetal position on the ground after The Walking Dead's premiere ends and we've already forgotten Glenn's name.

The Walking Dead will finally arrive for Season 7 on Sunday, October 23, at 9:00 p.m. ET. Other shows that don't involve Negan are also debuting and returning, believe it or not, and you can find them all in our fall TV schedule.

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