'The Walking Dead' season 7 preview: Teaching us how to say goodbye
The Walking Dead has come a long way since Rick Grimes gasped to life on our TV screens in 2010.
It's been an even longer journey for creator, Robert Kirkman, and his legion of comic book fans who first met Rick and the undead walkers (roamers in the comics) 13 years ago.
Almost 160 issues and seven seasons later, there's no end in sight for The Walking Dead.
Its upcoming season is gearing up to be it's most brutal and bloody yet.
In addition to hosting an annual marathon leading up to the new season, AMC also featured a Walking Dead: The Journey So Far special with some of the cast and crew who've helped shaped the show over the past six years.
The cast of the original six - those who've survived since season one - took fans back to the beginning when Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wakes up from a coma only to learn the world has basically died while he's been asleep.
He meets Morgan (Lennie James) who teaches him about this new undead world, and is eventually reunited with his son Carl (Chandler Riggs) and his wife along with a group of new people he soons considers family.
From there, the show sets up the core of what makes The Walking Dead so fascinating and addicting. It reeled us in with promises of flesh-eating zombies, a mysterious virus and blood-splattering gore. It made us become attached to characters only to have them meet a bloody end.
After all that blood is mopped up, there's a heart to the story of Rick Grimes and his "family" that keeps us coming back week after week, year after year.
"(The show is really about) who you are and what you're willing to fight for," Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) said in the AMC special.
The hard truths learned in the first two seasons of the show still ring true through the next four, and even more so coming up to season seven.
Some of the earliest turning points of the series came when Carol's (Melissa McBride) daughter Sophia walked out of the barn as a zombie and when Rick reveals to the group what he learned from the CDC -- everyone is infected; everyone turns after they die.
In the special, executive producer Scott Gimple said the main motives for Rick and anyone still alive are "catching up with the world around you and surviving."
Fast forward to the end of season six and we're at another crucial turning point. The show is no longer about fighting the undead. It's become about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world where the old rules of civility and law don't apply.
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The last time we saw Rick and company, they were kneeling before a terrifying new adversary wielding a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat. He was singing "eenie meeney miney moe" to choose who he was going to beat to death.
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is blood-thirsty and sadistic, but he's also going to be instrumental in establishing the world of The Walking Dead from here on out.
In the new season, we will have to say goodbye to another character. Their death has been teased and theorized relentlessly over the past six months. Whoever it is, it will be brutal and heartbreaking.
But the show will also welcome The Kingdom, led by Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his PET TIGER Shiva. And at some point there will be life after Negan's violence and hopefully a new way of living for Rick and his family.
We just have to get through watching Negan beat to death a beloved character with a baseball bat.
The Walking Dead returns at 9 p.m. on Oct. 23.
A recap of Season 7, Episode 1: "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be" will be available following the premiere.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at email@example.com. Follow @chelseatatham.