At no point in the 10-season history of AMC’s The Walking Dead has there been a moment that shocked and divided fans more than Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham’s (Michael Cudlitz) deaths in the season 7 premiere, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t be.” Now, over three and a half years later, long-serving director Greg Nicotero has weighed in on the infamous episode he helmed.
“The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” marked Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s first full episode as Negan, and will surely go down as one of the most brutal villain introductions in television history. He lined up all of our survivors and decided which one to kill with his weapon of choice: the baseball bat Lucille. “Listen, to be really honest, you know, the Glenn and Abraham episode, it was rough,” Nicotero told Collider. “I mean, it was rough emotionally for me because I remember reading the comic book and seeing Glenn killed in the comic book, and I was really disturbed by how senseless it felt in the comic book.”
“Like, the guy just says, ‘Eenie, meenie, minie, moe,’ and then he was gone,” Nicotero continued. And it really bothered me so when that moment came up in the show and I was really tight with Michael Cudlitz and really tight with Steven Yeun, and I knew that that was gonna land on my shoulders to direct that episode, I went in and I directed the best episode that I could direct knowing that I was breaking people’s hearts, and really sort of walking right on that line, but part of what the show really is about in this iteration of the show, it really is about that senseless one minute they’re there, the next minute they can be gone.”
By the numbers, the premiere was a huge success for AMC, bringing in a season high of 17.03 million US viewers. Looking back, though, it was a high point the show would never reach again, with live ratings declining ever since.
Nicotero weighed in on other moments of the series, too! Remember when Rick rolled up at The Sanctuary with an army and not one person managed to get a shot on Negan, despite him standing out in the open? Nicotero has some regrets about that. “I kept saying, ‘Can Negan get shot in the leg? Can he get shot in the arm?’ You have 100 people there and none of them actually shot anybody! Even Jeffery [Dean Morgan] was like, ‘Come on, man! Give me a bullet hole in the shoulder or in the leg or something!'”
And that’s not the only time Nicotero has had some issues with where the story has gone:
You know, like in the original comic book when Shane dies in Season 2, Carl’s the one who shoots Shane and when we did the TV show, I remember it wasn’t Carl that shot Shane and I remember having a conversation with Robert Kirkman and saying, ‘Dude, I remember that moment that it was Carl, this little kid who had the gun who ended up shooting Shane.’ So there have been times when I kind of pushed back against some things and a lot of times, yeah, it works great and other times, it’s like – you know, like when Rick cut Negan’s throat, I directed that episode and I had said to Scott Gimple, the showrunner, ‘I think Maggie should shoot him. I think Maggie should either kill Negan or shoot Negan or do something because she’s right there.’ I said it’s really a hard moment to shoot knowing that Maggie collapses to her knees because Rick spares Negan’s life. And I sort of had pitched this idea to Gimple; I’m like, ‘Why doesn’t Maggie shoot him? Why doesn’t Maggie kill him?’ And, you know, obviously Negan’s character had more of a journey and there was a lot more going on.”
On the bright side, had Negan died, he wouldn’t have gotten to experience his season 10 arc where he makes moves towards becoming a good guy, which fans have loved! “[T]he great news is, the show’s really in a great place,” Nicotero said. “I think [showrunner Angela Kang]’s done an unbelievable job and I think that with Samantha [Morton] and Ryan [Hurst] and all of the actors, with Jeffrey and Melissa [McBride] and Norman [Reedus] and LC and everybody, the last two seasons have been really, really fun and the storytelling has just become adrenalized. We don’t take a long time to sort of get to it. The stories really, really move, and I think Angela’s don e a great job.”
The Walking Dead returns for its season 10 finale later this year.