With the possible exception of the two characters who took a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat to the skull in the season 7 premiere, nobody has had a worse time of it on The Walking Dead lately than Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). Not only did his hubristic attack on the Saviors end up backfiring in the worst possible way, but his subsequent humiliation at the hands of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) left the formerly fearless leader a broken man, bowing and scraping and generally debasing himself in the hopes that it would keep his people alive.
But after the midseason finale on Sunday, December 11, in which two more members of the Alexandria community — Spencer (Austin Nichols) and Olivia (Ann Mahoney) — ended up dead despite Rick's best efforts, it seems that the sheriff of zombieland has had an epiphany about what has to come next. And Lincoln, who's been playing the Ricktator for going on seven years now, has a lot to say about his character's frame of mind moving forward, as well as a few super-titillating teases for the back half of season 7. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lincoln revealed what spurred Rick's revelation.
"It was the chaos of that final episode," Lincoln said of why Rick fought back. "From Rick's point of view, it was the journey of him really understanding that this is an untenable situation. The Saviors are going to be unrelenting, and they're going to keep squeezing and squeezing until there's nothing left. They're going to lie and keep terrorizing the community with no letup. The experiences of going out on this crazy, daredevil mission [on the lake] with Aaron (Ross Marquand) and returning with this bounty and then seeing Aaron being tortured almost to death. Then the subsequent murder of two of his citizens [Olivia and Spencer], that was a slow drip of him coming to the realization that this was never going to work."
But where the Rick of episodes past might have gone off half-cocked, overestimating his abilities with catastrophic results, he's definitely learned something from his recent experiences with Negan. "You saw a man last year who was at the peak of his power, and hubris got in the way of a lot of his judgment calls," Lincoln admitted. "What you'll see in the back half of this season is a more compassionate, considerate leader and a diplomat — somebody who is more cautious, free, liberated and lighter than he's ever been."
So what will it look like when Rick cautiously and lightly goes to kick some ass? Lincoln won't reveal much, but what he did say is definitely intriguing. "The back eight episodes are a little bit like the Magnificent Seven — or the Magnificent Eight," the actor joked. "It's very much about trying to forge relationships and getting other communities in order. But there is the small matter of, we need some guns."
But once said firearms have been obtained, Lincoln said you can expect a serious uprising from not just Alexandria, but the Hilltop and the Kingdom, too: "In the back half of the season, Rick leads a group of people who are freed from shackles of oppression. They've been beaten so low that there's no further to go. In that, there's an almost joy in the fight again."
Meanwhile, that fight (which fans of the comics will recognize as the action-packed plot line known as "All Out War") will probably take the rest of the season — and then some, since Morgan, who plays Negan, has revealed that he'll still be around come season 8 — to reach its climax. But Lincoln — who pointed out that he's excited that Daryl is back with the gang in future episodes — promised that on at least one count, the next episode will feature instant gratification for audiences who don't like dangling threads. Remember that mystery man (or woman) in combat boots, who was peeping at Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) in the midseason finale's post-credits scene?
"You will find out in the first episode who that person is," said Lincoln.
The Walking Dead will return to AMC from its midseason hiatus on Sunday, February 12, at 9 p.m. ET.
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