The Walking Dead is kicking things up a notch for the final eight episodes of its sixth season. The winter finale left off on one hell of a cliffhanger, as Rick and a clutch of remaining survivors coated themselves in zombie guts and fought to freedom after a herd of walkers broke through Alexandria's barricade. Its last shot hinted at a truly hellish moment which, according to Andrew Lincoln, will get hairier as we enter the season's midseason premiere.
"We do realize very quickly in the returning episode that it’s almost like the end of a chapter," he reveals to EW (opens in new tab). "Something happens. Rick learns a lot about himself in this episode. What I will say is that the pace quickens a lot in the back eight. It jumps up a gear, maybe two gears, and we move very, very quickly. A lot of things happen in quick succession that propel us towards a very thrilling finale."
"I will say that five of my favorite episodes in a long time — and very different episodes — are in this back eight," he explains. "I loved shooting this back eight, from the moment we started with episode 9, which felt like a season premiere. The scale of it is astonishing. And [director] Greg Nicotero and our brilliant crew put their bodies and everything on the line to get it shot. It was all night. It’s absolute mayhem. I think it’s going to scare some people."
It's no secret that the show has cast Jeffrey Dean Morgan as notorious comics villain Negan, a scary antagonist whose butchery makes the Governor seem friendly in comparison. While he and his followers, the Saviors, were previously teased in a prologue scene, the overwhelming threat in the midseason premiere will likely be a familiar one.
Nicotero tells EW (opens in new tab) that the episode will go above and beyond what we've come to expect from the show, delivering an "epic man against the undead battle that is unprecedented in the history of The Walking Dead."
Warning: spoilers for The Walking Dead season 6 ahead...
A recent Russian promo for the show hints at another key turning point from the comics due to arrive in the final eight episodes. The image (opens in new tab) depicts Carl wearing an eyepatch. On the page he loses his eye and part of his face after being shot by Douglas Monroe - the comic equivalent to Diana. The fact that the show is choosing to include this pivotal development certainly implies a thrilling end to its sixth season.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on February 14.