The Walking Dead premiere flashes back to the very beginning

The Walking Dead premiere flashes back to the very beginning

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Walking Dead season 11C premiere, "Lockdown."

The end of The Walking Dead is going all the way back to the beginning. The Sunday night premiere for the last batch of TWD episodes ever kicked off in unconventional fashion with the voice of Judith (Cailey Fleming) telling viewers, "I've heard a lot of stories about when the world fell. There were more dead than living, and it started to look like the world would go cold."

As Judith kept speaking, we saw images from the very first ever episode of the series, with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) waking up in the hospital. Images then flashed from throughout the 11 seasons, including a montage of baddies like Shane, the Governor, Negan, Beta, Alpha, and Leah. What was the inspiration for this throwback? How was it put together? And will we see more of these scenes throughout the season?

We spoke to showrunner Angela Kang about this blast from the past, as well as everything else that went down in the 11C premiere — including Mercer (Michael James Shaw) giving a Commonwealth pass to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) sending out the goon squad, and Carol (Melissa McBride) making a risky deal.

Andrew Lincoln on 'The Walking Dead'
Andrew Lincoln on 'The Walking Dead'

AMC Andrew Lincoln on 'The Walking Dead'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's talk about the very start of the episode. We hear this narration from Judith and see this montage of images going all the way back to Rick waking up in the hospital. Where did this idea come from?

ANGELA KANG: When we were working on this last block, we were looking for things that would give us a sense of history, because the Commonwealth thematically has so much to do with who were you before, and you're stuck being that. And I think the story for our characters is, can we grow from who we were before? I was talking to [Walking Dead chief content officer Scott M. Gimple] and he pitched this great idea of "What if you do these opening montages in some kind of way?" The concept for it was a little different, but then we kind of landed on this particular way that the narration works.

And when we pitched that idea to AMC, they really loved it too and felt that it kind of added something to the season and still felt organically integrated with the particular community we were telling a story about. So it was something that we had a lot of fun writing, and that the editors really had a great time pulling together these pieces. It's one of those things that just kind of seem to work for the story we were telling.

So these are going to continue throughout the rest of the season?

These continue. There's a bit of a concept to these.

Are these modeled or inspired by the end of the Walking Dead comic with Carl reading to his kid?

Once we kind of took that baton from Scott, there was some talk of "How do we tie the feel to some of the comic stuff?" And so that is one of the pieces of inspiration that goes into this, without being literal.

How are you going to thematically organize them? In this one, we saw some big villains. Will other opening montages focus on other things?

Yeah, each opening montage will have some sort of tie to what's going on in the episode, either thematically or a character that we're exploring in that episode. And so you'll have to watch and see how it all plays out. But also, if you listen to the voice-overs, it's telling a story, too.

Jon Bernthal on 'The Walking Dead'
Jon Bernthal on 'The Walking Dead'

Scott Garfield/AMC Jon Bernthal on 'The Walking Dead'

Lord knows you had plenty of options to choose from. What is it like putting these together and deciding what are those most impactful and emotional images to use?

These montages were actually really, really hard to cut. Every version of them started with writers writing them. And so a lot of times the writers picked certain shots to include that felt maybe thematically appropriate. But then, of course, it has to work as a picture. So then the editors did their pass. They would use what the writers gave, the directors would weigh in, I would weigh in, but the editors really went to town by going, "Here's how we would fill out with lots of options." And every single version of the editor's initial pass was too long.

I wish we could make of a movie of what all of those were, because I'm sure it's an interesting trip down memory lane, but within the episode themselves… (A) We didn't have enough run time for it, and (B) they end up feeling too long. You want to get into the story. But it gave us a wealth of options to choose from. And honestly, it was hard, because a lot of times I'd be like, "Yeah, I understand why you picked all of these images, but let's do a trim-down." And I really like to empower the editors as much as possible to do some of their own creative choices. And I love when directors come in with a vision for some of this stuff. So I think it's truly a collaboration.

And by the time you see the end product, it's like all the main creatives that have worked on this have a bit of a hand in it, but I take the final pass. And a lot of it is just, "I think that these images stand out the most," or feel like it supports the story piece the most. Sometimes there's even just stuff like clearance issues that are going on behind the scenes. But for the most part, we're always just going for what feels like it fits what Judith is narrating, but also what is a nice kind of trip down memory lane.

Okay, let's get into a few other things: Why does Mercer let Negan into the Commonwealth?

With Mercer, he's been on kind of a journey throughout the season too. You see that he really has very mixed feelings about the things that happen in the Commonwealth. But he's a person who is very rules-oriented, and he feels like he has taken a job of service and he's a patriot to his community. And so he's at this crossroads, but he's kind of moving to a mindset of what is the letter of the law, and what is just or right? He's kind of in that headspace. And by him letting Negan through the gates, that's just saying something about where Mercer is in his own journey, as deciding what is the right thing to do.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan on 'The Walking Dead'
Jeffrey Dean Morgan on 'The Walking Dead'

Jace Downs/AMC Jeffrey Dean Morgan on 'The Walking Dead'

What can you say about these Hornsby goons that Carol and the kids are hiding from?

We've always considered Hornsby as having his hands in a lot of pots, and this is his own little squad of people that are pulling missions. And we've seen both of them before. This is the fake Stephanie that sort of duped Eugene, and it's Calhoun that was in on things, and they're still out there pulling high jinks for Hornsby. But the thing with Hornsby is, he can present sometimes as genial, and there is that side of him that's earnest. But he can also be scary and an operator. So the fact that these people are roaming around looking to nab children and our people is not a good sign.

Carol comes up with this plan to pin everything on Lance Hornsby so he can't keep coming after her friends, but should she trust Pamela Milton (Laila Robins)?

I think that the calculus that Carol is making is, there are certain things that are so important to Pamela that she may be a willing participant in a deal, if that helps clean up her bad press and helps save her son. And what do our people care? They're going to head out of here. And I don't think that that calculation is necessarily wrong on Carol's part.

Laila Robins and Teo Rapp-Olsson on 'The Walking Dead'
Laila Robins and Teo Rapp-Olsson on 'The Walking Dead'

Jace Downs/AMC Laila Robins and Teo Rapp-Olsson on 'The Walking Dead'

What can you say about what's coming up next?

We've got two sides that are entrenched, but actually there's even a third side, because there's the Hornsby piece because he's out there doing his own thing. And all parties need to figure out, is there a way forward? Is this all going to explode into war? What's going to happen next? And I don't think any of them know what the next step is. And so there's going to be some great action and turns, and hopefully the audience will be surprised by the fun that ensues.

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