Sunday's premiere of The Walking Dead delivered what preview interviews promised: Rick (Andrew Lincoln) attempted to recruit the various communities to rise up against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), we pitter-pattered through various locations instead of sticking with one and Rick smiled.
But the moment to remember went back to the show's bread and butter: killing zombies! In what may have been the most memorable slaughter of walkers in the show's history, Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) hopped in separate cars connected by a steel wire — which was originally purposed to serve as a tripwire for an explosion to blow up a herd of walkers — and sped down the motorway while the taut wire ripped through hundreds of zombies walking along the median. It was awesome.
To find out more about the incredible scene, we chatted with Greg Nicotero, the show's special effects master, executive producer and director of the episode, to see how it came about. And he would know; the scene was his idea.
"[It was] my tribute to Robert Rodriguez in Grindhouse," Nicotero told TVGuide.com. "I think it's good to be a little over the top and a little outrageous for our show every once in a while, and this was our opportunity to do that." Yeah, it was a little over the top. But it wasn't even in the original script.
"It came about because we're very committed out of the gate to open the midseason with a — as Sam Raimi would say, 'It's a true popcorn popper, friend!'" he said. "It was an idea that came to me. My profession, my history as a special effects makeup artist, has really allowed me to learn how to read scripts in a very unique and very different way. So when I read things, very often I will come up with ideas, some of them may not even be in the scripts, but the seeds may be there. In this instance, the cars were there with the cable stretched across the street, but the moment where Rick and Michonne get in the car and drive through the walker herd wasn't there. It was something like, 'Ah, what if we did this!'"
So he brought his idea to showrunner Scott Gimple, who didn't just see the potential for gore and getting viewers to jump out of the seats, but to serve the story. Wait, what? Slicing walkers in half can serve story?
"When I said to Scott Gimple, 'Listen I have a great idea here, what if Rick and Michonne jump into the cars and drive into the herd to chop the walkers in half?,'" Nicotero said. "And he was like, 'That's even better, because it gives Rick and Michonne an opportunity after eight episodes of being at odds to do something together, to be on the same page once again.'"
How romantic! Technically, the scene provided some challenges, but it was all in the name of getting that eye-popping moment that fans come to expect from the midseason premiere. And Nicotero gets just as excited talking about the scene as we got watching it.
"I sat down and drew a whole bunch of little thumbnail storyboards, but we want the show to have scale, we want the show to have scope," Nicotero explained. "We want some big moment. We had a drone come in and shot all the flying stuff, we had electric cars, I had five cameras going, we had 120 walker makeups, and we had thousands of CGI zombies. And it was just a blast to put this sequence together, that as soon as it starts you're just like, 'No, there's no way they're going to do this. This isn't gonna happen.' And we just went for it."
Sadly, Nicotero might not be able to see how fans react to one of his favorite scenes as he'll be busy.
"I'm going to be on Talking Dead on Sunday night," he said. "So I'm not going to go to a bar or restaurant and see it with people, because I would love to be able to experience that."
Wait a second, some restaurants show The Walking Dead while serving dinner? Hmmm.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC.