This is posted on Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Talk blog on Wednesday, October 19, 2016
NOTE: There is a potential spoiler here if you didn't watch last Sunday's AMC "Walking Dead" preview. Plus I cite some theories floating around online.
AMC's hit drama "The Walking Dead" ended last season with a humdinger of a cliffhanger.
New bad guy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) had 11 of Rick's crew in his clutches, seeking revenge for his Savior crew taking huge losses. He whacked someone in the waning seconds of season six with his trusty bat Lucille. But who?
The show, which is shot in and around Senoia, has kept the secret on lock down. Critics are not getting an advance peek at the season seven debut. The six-month tease has peeved a lot of fans, who have given the season six finale episode the lowest rating on imdb.com of any "Walking Dead" episode to date.
"We wanted to celebrate Robert Kirkman's comic book in the best way possible," said executive producer Gale Anne Hurd. "Many of his issues have cliffhangers. This one, obviously, there are fans who love it and those who hate it."
But given the buzz, it's very possible "The Walking Dead" might break overnight viewership records, possibly breaking 20 million viewers, a number no program reaches anymore on a regular basis.
I interviewed several people with "Walking Dead" ties but no knowledge of the actual results. The general consensus is brawny military veteran Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). He is a major character. He is not as beloved as other major characters. He looks like a large, intimidating man whose departure would greatly weaken Rick's crew.
"In all honestly, I just think his character is pretty expendable at this point," said Carrie Burns, who runs Atlanta Movie Tours, which operates multiple "Walking Dead" tours. "And the way he turned on Rosita also made him a bit of a jerk."
IronE Singleton, an Atlanta actor who played T-Dog the first three seasons, also thinks Abraham is a goner. "He's the muscle," he said. "Also, he's a courageous guy. He's the type who would take one for the team."
But there are rumors of a second death this episode as well, that Abraham's death might cause another character to react in such a way that Negan decides to kill that person as well. Glenn (Steven Yeun) is the likeliest target.
The show has nearly killed the former pizza delivery man numerous times before, including two very close calls last season. (The dumpster feint elicited one of the biggest reactions ever from outraged fans earlier this year.)
His death would resonate greatly since he's an original survivor going back to season one, one of just six remaining. (The others: Rick, Carol, Daryl, Carl and Morgan.) Glenn saved Rick and has been a trusty, reliable part of the team ever since. He has a pregnant wife in Maggie.
Besides, Glenn was the actual person Negan kills in the comic book. The show has not always kept to the comic book. So take that with a (very) modest grain of salt.
"It'd be really hard to see Steven Yeun go," said James Frazier, who runs the Walker Stalker conventions, including the one at the Georgia World Congress Center October 28 to 30. "But I hope they stay true to the comics and it's Glenn."
Atlanta actor Steven Coulter, whose character Reg Monroe was accidentally killed in the final moments of season five, thinks it will be a combo deal of Maggie and Glenn, the romantic couple going back to season two. "They're two of the more innocent characters," he said. "And Maggie is pregnant. That would show outright cruelty."
Here are my odds.
Carl: 15% He would be a tempting target since he's Rick's son. But he's a kid. That wouldn't be quite an eye-for-an-eye trade off for Negan, who really should klll most of them if he wants genuine revenge given the number of Saviors Rick's crew eviscerated.
Sasha: 10% It's possible she might say something that could antagonize Negan after he (probably) kills Abraham. She could be victim #2 if it's not Glenn. But her departure would not be nearly as searing as that of Glenn.
Eugene 8% He is clearly not the leader but a weak dude with a mullet. He tried to get away and was easily captured. I can't see Negan giving him more than a sideway's glance.
Rosita: 5% She has a certain level of toughness to her and surely Negan will sense that. But it's doubtful Negan would target women at this point if he's trying to make a statement. And her death would not have much of an impact for viewers.
Michonne: 3% She would be quite a bold choice on Negan's part. She definitely looks tough. He has no idea she and Rick are an item, which is a good thing. But she is hugely popular and it seems like her storyline has yet to be exhausted. I don't think the writers would have Negan off her.
Maggie: 1%. She looks weak and ill at this point. I don't think he knows about her pregnancy but even then, she is not an obvious pick for Negan to focus on.
Aaron: 0% Who are we kidding? He is such a minor character at this point, his death would not cause a ripple. That would be pointless to the plotline.
Daryl: 0% Dwight shot him in the shoulder near the end of last season. So he's in a weakened state. Negan has no need to kill him just yet. And as we have said many many times, fans would riot if the writers wrote Norman Reedus off the show. He's indisputably the most popular actor from the show. Reedus would have to WANT to leave and that isn't the case.
Rick: 0% AMC showed a preview of Rick very much alive after the first killing. That doesn't necessarily mean he makes it to the end of the episode if Negan kills again. Then again, Rick's the leader. Negan needs a nemesis at his level. That's Rick.
"The Walking Dead," 9 p.m. Sundays, AMC, season 7 begins October 23