The Walking Dead executive producer Scott Gimple admits he anticipated some unhappiness from fans in response to Sunday's controversial cliff-hanger finale, in which new villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) brutally murders an unseen main character.
"I think if you have something in a story that can be criticized in some direction, it will be criticized," Gimple said on a conference call with reporters. "There is a vast audience and people in some ways now feel almost like it's their duty to let their opinions be known, and that's great," he said with a slight tinge of exasperation. "That's part of the world now."
He empathizes to a degree with upset audience members, saying, "We do care about our audience a great deal. We don't enjoy the pain they go through, but it is part of the greater story that they themselves are going through."
"We know why we do what we do and we know that our intentions are good," he added. "We know that we care about our audience."
He is adamant that the cliff-hanger serves the larger story, and wishes to assure fans that all will be revealed: "It makes the challenge for us to win those angry people back with a great story that much more important, that much harder, but that's the business we're in.... I do want to do right by this audience. I hope to win back or assuage some of the angst."
This Walking Dead offseason will surely be very similar in terms of rampant speculation and fan obsession to the mercifully soon-to-be-over Game of Thrones offseason, with its "Is Jon Snow really dead?" mystery. When asked if he'd sought advice from Game of Thrones producers on how to handle such a storm, he said, "I would love to sit down with those guys. I would buy them many beers. We could commiserate. We could compare notes."
But unlike with Game of Thrones, fans will not be able to deduce who Negan killed from obsessive rewatching -- "I believe there is no way," says Gimple - though he is certain that someone will purely by happenstance stumble on a theory that perfectly explains what will really happen, in a monkeys-typing-Shakespeare scenario.
So get theorizing. You may be the one to crack the mystery.