The first third of Walking Dead's elongated final season is over, with Fear the Walking Dead now filling the zombie-sized hole in our lives.
However a Walking Dead mid-season finale was hardly going to go out without a bang - quite literally, with new Reaper leader Leah firing some exploding arrows at several long-running Alexandrians.
However unlike the show's zombies, showrunner Angela Kang explained that these admittedly cool-looking rocket arrows are a real weapon, with the production drawing on ancient history for a powerful weapon that could feasibly be built by apocalypse survivors.
"I believe this weapon is some kind of ancient medieval Korean weapon called a hwacha," Kang told Entertainment Weekly. "But I had never heard of this thing. It was the result of room research: What are old-style weapons that could potentially be built now because they've been built centuries before that are effective and that can do mass damage?
"And so it was something the room researched and came up with, and then they were pitching, and I was like, 'What is this weapon? I can't picture it.' And they're like, 'It's rocket-propelled arrows flying at you out of this giant thing.' And I was like, 'Well, that sounds pretty cool!'"
However fans were left with a double dose of cliffhangers, as the fates of Carol (Melissa McBride), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Judith (Cailey Fleming) and Gracie (Anabelle Holloway) were also left unclear.
The characters have dispatched all sorts of hideous villains over the series, but now might face their toughest enemy yet - mother nature.
"It's an intense storm," Kang said of the situation Carol, Connie and Aaron find themselves in, before adding "There's definitely going to be a lot more related to that situation..."
Luckily we now know when our favourite walker-slayers will return, hopefully all alive and well - with another sixteen(!) episodes of the post-apocalyptic drama still to go.
Read on for more information on The Walking Dead season 11's release date, storylines and rumoured spin-offs.
The Walking Dead season 11 episode 9 release date
The second part of The Walking Dead's final season will launch with episode nine on 20th February 2022 on AMC in the US, and will launch in the UK on Star on Disney Plus the following day, 21st February 2022.
The Walking Dead season 11 premiered in the United States on 22nd August 2021 on AMC, before arriving in the UK – again on the following day exclusively via Star on Disney Plus.
New episodes then arrived weekly on the streaming service until 10th October instead of FOX UK, where the show has historically aired.
Production got underway on season 11's bumper crop of episodes in February 2021, with producer Kevin Deiboldt sharing that "we truly hope it's worth the wait".
The season is set to be epic in length, with 24 episodes split into three separate batches bringing the story to a close.
In the meantime, fans have enjoyed some extra season 10 episodes, which aired in the UK from early March until Easter Monday.
The Walking Dead season 11 episode 9 cast
You can expect all of the main cast to return for episode nine and the next part of The Walking Dead's final run, including: Norman Reedus as Daryl, Melissa McBride as Carol, Christian Serratos as Rosita, Josh McDermitt as Eugene, Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel, Ross Marquand as Aaron, Khary Payton as Ezekiel, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan.
It's also likely that Lauren Cohan will continue to play a major part as Maggie Rhee after she returned in dramatic fashion in the season 10 finale two years after leaving the show.
So far in season eleven, two characters have kicked the bucket – Roy and Gage – so it's unlikely that C. Thomas Howell or Jackson Pace will return.
There have been some rumours that Andrew Lincoln could return as Rick Grimes later in the final season, with Reedus saying that he’s tried to convince his former co-star to return for the final season.
Fans have speculated that Lennie James could return as Morgan also – especially as the character had such a key role in the show's very first episode.
Meanwhile, Michael James Shaw will continue to play Mercer, a character introduced towards the end of the comic book series who nevertheless made a big impression on fans.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan's son appeared in the fifth episode of season 11 – as a zombie no less.
On The Late Late Show with James Corden, Morgan said: “Gus Morgan, my 11-year-old son, is going to be the featured walker in episode five. He’s been getting his COVID test so he can be on set and all that. He is so pumped it’s ridiculous.”
In April 2021, the actor shared an image of Gus looking suitably gruesome in his walker make-up, adding that he's never been prouder of his son than while watching him perform on the zombie drama.
Previously, another member of Morgan's family – wife Hilarie Burton – had played Negan's beloved partner Lucille in season 10, the character upon which his barbaric baseball bat was named after.
Season 10 also saw Terminator 2 star Robert Patrick brought in to play scorned survivor Mays, Cobra Kai’s Okea Eme-Akwari starring as Maggie’s scythe-wielding right-hand man Elijah and Bosch’s Lynn Collins introduced as outsider Leah.
In April 2021, Deadline reported that Jacob Young has joined the cast of season 11 as a new character named Deaver, and he made his debut in the second episode of the series, while The Blacklist and The Boys star Laila Robins joined the cast as The Commonwealth’s paranoid leader Pamela Milton.
The Walking Dead season 11 episode 9 trailer
There's no trailer specific to episode 9 or part 2 just yet, but you can check out the following 30-second teaser trailer, which was released in August 2021 to promote the final season as a whole.
An earlier teaser trailer hinted at Eugene's first confrontation with The Commonwealth, giving fans a first look at the iconic armour:
In July 2021, a brief promo was revealed showing some brief glimpses at the returning The Walking Dead cast members, as well as frightening new adversaries The Reapers.
Is The Walking Dead season 11 the final season?
Yes, unfortunately the main Walking Dead storyline will finish with the 11th season – but there's still a lot more to come from the franchise in general (see next section).
Scott Gimple, Chief Content Officer for the Walking Dead franchise said: “It’s been 10 years ‘gone bye;’ what lies ahead are two more to come and stories and stories to tell beyond that.
"What’s clear is that this show has been about the living, made by a passionate cast, team of writer/producers, producers, and crew, bringing to life the vision put forth by Robert Kirkman in his brilliant comic — and supported by the best fans in the world.
“We have a lot of thrilling story left to tell on TWD, and then, this end will be a beginning of more Walking Dead — brand new stories and characters, familiar faces and places, new voices, and new mythologies. This will be a grand finale that will lead to new premieres. Evolution is upon us. The Walking Dead lives.”
The news that the long-running show would be wrapping up came as a surprise to fans and star Jeffrey Dean Morgan has revealed that there was a similar feeling behind-the-scenes.
In March 2021, the Negan actor told Collider that there had been no initial intention to end the show here and that even showrunner Angela Kang was blindsided by the decision.
He said: "The news, when we got it in the middle of the pandemic, was a complete surprise, not only to me and the rest of the actors, but to everybody involved in the show from production.
"Scott Gimple and Angela Kang had no idea either. It came from nowhere and there was such a huge pivot. I think they had Season 11 all mapped out, where they were going to go, and suddenly it became, ‘We also have to close the story, in a way.’"
The Walking Dead spin-offs
When the announcement was made revealing that the 11th season would be the last, a further two spin-off shows were announced, joining the pre-existing Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond, while a series of Rick Grimes spin-off movies are also in the pipeline.
It appears that some plot threads will be picked up in subsequent spin-off shows, with a potential Daryl and Carol series being teased for 2023, with Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride reprising their roles.
"I think it’s great that people are getting excited and have something to look forward to,” actress Melissa McBride said. “Daryl and Carol do have a lot of fans out there, [who] had even talked about how fun it would be to see them have a spin-off. I’m excited!”
“All these characters have gotten to the point where they can deal with, and sometimes not deal with, each other in our small group,” Reedus added. “When you take these two characters and put them on the road and they go see who’s left out in the world, how do you... it’s like coming out of prison, sort of. You kind of have to re-adapt to people.”
Meanwhile, Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie in the series, told Entertainment Weekly that there are also "murmurings" of a potential series focusing on her character.
Most recently, Jeffrey Dean Morgan has revealed that he has had conversations about a yet-to-be-confirmed spin-off revolving around the popular villain-turned-antihero Negan.
The character took on a more sympathetic light in the recent season 10c episode that explored his tragic origin, which could be carried forward in a solo outing.
“It’s definitely being talked about,” Morgan said, while appearing as a guest on Conan O’Brien's talk show. “I think they’re thinking of a couple different ideas, but I’ve definitely had conversations about possibly continuing the story of Negan."
The Walking Dead season 11 spoilers
With 24 episodes, the final season hasn't exactly been light on action and drama.
In June 2021, US broadcaster AMC released an official synopsis for The Walking Dead's final season, which read: "Alexandria is severely compromised, left a former shell of the home it once was from the carnage and devastation left behind by the Whisperers.
"Now all who live in Alexandria struggle to refortify it and feed its increasing number of residents, which include the survivors from the fall of the Kingdom and the burning of Hilltop; along with Maggie and her new group, the Wardens.
"Alexandria has more people than it can manage to feed and protect. Their situation is dire as tensions heat up over past events and self-preservation rises to the surface within the ravaged walls.
The synopsis continues: "They must secure more food while they attempt to restore Alexandria before it collapses like countless other communities they have come across throughout the years. But where and how?
"More haggard and hungrier than ever before, they must dig deeper to find the effort and strength to safeguard the lives of their children, even if it means losing their own.
"Meanwhile, unbeknownst to those at Alexandria, Eugene, Ezekiel, Yumiko, and Princess are still being held captive by mysterious soldiers who are members of a larger and unforthcoming group."
Previously, showrunner Angela Kang told attendees of New York Comic-Con's virtual The Walking Dead panel that the producers have been forced to "think outside the box" when it comes to working around COVID restrictions.
"We can't have 300 zombie extras and people [with] faces smashed together, with mouths all over the place," she said. "But, the thing that's been really cool is we've had to think outside the box. Like, how to make things still feel really scary and really cool and really emotional, while being a little more cognisant of, like, how many people are in a scene."
"Like, are there ways to do this where people are not constantly in each other's faces? Hopefully, when the audience watches it, they won't really feel the things we're doing."
She added that they'll be diving "really deeply into these really cool character stories" in the upcoming episodes, but wouldn't give away any clues to which characters they might be.
"We've got definitely a story that a lot of comic book fans have been waiting for for a very long time, and I love this script. So, you know, we'll get to tease things in a different way. There are limitations but I think it's also been a really cool creative challenge at the same time."
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Prior to the series Lauren Cohan revealed to Entertainment Weekly, "I haven't been privy to these saving graces of Negan or his great relationship with kids or his affinity for animals. I don't know any of this. And even if I did… So, it's going to be a lot."
She added: "It's definitely going to be a lot when she comes back. I'm so jonesing to get into it. It's really, it's fricking great. And I couldn't be doing it with anybody more fun than Jeffrey [Dean Morgan]. It's just, we're really amped. It's great."
In December 2020, Kang shared an image of The Walking Dead's new season 11 villains on Instagram, with the image showing a member of the Commonwealth in armour that is somewhat reminiscent of a Star Wars stormtrooper.