After more than a decade of success on television, as well as winning accolades for the most-watched TV show on the planet, zombie hit The Walking Dead is finally coming to a close with its 11th and final season, which premieres on Fox in the region on Monday.
Fans shouldn't be too disappointed, however, as the show's stars have hinted that we may see plenty more of our favourite zombie slayers in future.
“I feel like everybody has a sense of just not leaving anything behind, putting everything on the table,” Lauren Cohan, who plays former militia leader Maggie Rhee, tells The National. “It's the last season of the show as we know it, but I don't know that it's the last we're going to see of these characters, let's put it that way.”
Maggie's nemesis Negan Smith, the former leader of The Saviours and murderer of her husband Glenn back in Season 7, is played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He is in agreement with his co-star that it's not the end of the road for their characters yet.
“We're aware that it's the end and I think that that's a very special thing, but like Lauren alluded to, I don't think it's the end for these characters,” he says. “I think we're going to see some iteration of these characters live on, which is an exciting prospect in itself.”
But before we start to speculate about where the characters may crop up in future, there's the 24-episode final season to look forward to.
Morgan and Cohan have worked together on the show for about seven years, but given the tense nature of their characters' relationship, the two have barely shared a screen together in that time. However, from the two advance episodes I've seen, it looks like all that will be changing this time around.
Negan has joined Maggie's group of survivors at the outset of the season, and it seems the seething resentment Maggie feels for him will finally be fully explored. Morgan says he's enjoying the chance to finally work alongside Cohan.
“I love that Lauren and I are getting this chance to work together. We've been filming together for six, seven years, but only shared the screen a couple of times so this opportunity that we've had this year has been really special,” he says.
“The problem is from Negan's point of view, and I'm not giving anything away here, is that he is down there for one reason only, and that is for Maggie to kill him,” Morgan explains.
“I don't think that's a secret to anyone, but I love that Negan calls her out on it, when he says to the group, 'look you're following this woman blindly, and she's in no position to lead because all she's thinking about is how to kill me,' and he's on the nose there.
"But I think beyond that Maggie knows [she] might need to use this guy for at least a few more minutes to get through this precarious situation that we're in. There's the cliffhanger.”
While we wait to see if, how, and when Maggie will finally dispatch Negan, there's one character whom we might assume is safe from meeting an untimely end in Season 11.
Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) has been in the show since the first episode. Alongside Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), he's the only character to have survived the zombie hordes, and AMC has already confirmed that the pair will be getting their own spin-off show in 2023.
Reedus, however, insists that this doesn't necessarily mean he's safe from meeting one of The Walking Dead's notoriously grisly ends before the season finale. “I don't know that I'm bulletproof, maybe Carol is dragging around Daryl's dead body like Weekend at Bernie's or something in the spin-off,” he deadpans.
“She's just propping me up against a tree and talking to me and imagining I'm talking back to her. Or maybe we'll go back and there'll be Daryl and Carol as eight-year-olds. I mean they kill Thor in every movie, and he goes back, so who knows? What I do know is that the spin-off will look nothing like The Walking Dead, it'll be completely different, that's really the only thing I know.”
From the show's longest-surviving character, we turn to one of its newest. Elena Matsuura's popular bow-wielding killer Yumiko only joined the cast in Season 9, a mere blink of an eye in zombie apocalypse terms.
This does mean, however, that she's had the opportunity to watch the first eight seasons as a fan like the rest of us. And since the cast are sworn to secrecy on plot spoilers leading up to the big finale, we ask her to indulge in a flight of fancy. If she were writing the script, who would she eliminate in the show's grand crescendo?
“Oh wow, that's such a great question,” she bluffs, clearly buying time to think of her answer. “It has to be Negan, and I'd take him down in such a humiliating way ... I mean my character doesn't even know Negan. I don't even know him but I'll just be like, 'Let's do it for the Asian community.' Just out of nowhere Yumiko just lays into him and takes him out. That would be great.”
Well it could happen, and if it does, remember where you read it first.
The Walking Dead premieres on Fox on Monday, August 23