It’s still unclear how exactly The Walking Dead intends to keep Negan’s victim a secret through months of trailers and set photos into the October premiere, but even then, Season 7 may not deliver its key revelation right away. Executive producer Greg Nicotero teases a unique structure to the premiere, which itself will be smaller in scale than Season 6.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, director Nicotero confirmed that The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere would indeed reveal Negan’s victim after cliffhanger finale “Last Day on Earth,” but kept coy about immediately returning to that woodland lineup at the top of the hour (or 90 minutes, more likely). Still in the editing process, Nicotero suggested the premiere might further toy with the revelation:

How quickly is Negan’s victim going to be revealed? Are you guys going to take care of that pretty much right away?

Obviously, we’ll find out in the first episode. Truthfully, in terms of the structure of it, we’re still editing it right now. We’re still playing around with that particular episode. It’s not finished yet so I really can’t say.

Many will remember that Season 6 premiere “30 Days Without an Accident” also played with time, to jump back and forth between different phases of the quarry operation, though Nicotero specifically noted that the Season 7 premiere would have a smaller scale than to feature tens of thousands of walkers once again:

It’s definitely not the season 6 premiere in terms of quarries with 40,000 walkers in it. Every single season premiere is different. Every single season premiere has a different flavor to it, and I think knowing where we ended season 6, and knowing that we’re picking up season 7 in that emotionally drained hostage situation — you’ll get some flavors of a bunch of different aspects of it, but I don’t think there’s anything quite as quarry-like, or like the attack on Terminus, as we’ve done in the past.

It’s a much different story because we’re opening a different chapter, and one thing you’ve got to think about is this death changes who our characters are and propels them in a different direction. That’s one of the reasons why we felt that having the death in the premiere episode was warranted. Yeah, it’s a cliffhanger and I get that people were anxious and excited about knowing what happened, and seeing where it goes with the story, but truth of the matter is, that death propels our story forward, and has a direct effect on people. And that’s why you really want it to be the anchor point of our season 7 as opposed to the parting moment of season 6, and then sort of starting already partially into our story.

The narrative could change by the release of Season 7's Comic-Con 2016 trailer, but will The Walking Dead manage to turn such a controversial cliffhanger into a moment of renewed suspense with some creative editing?

How should the premiere handle Negan’s victim, if not returning to the scene outright?

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