Why The Walking Dead Is About to Kill Off Half Its Cast

Just after zombies swarmed the gates of Alexandria in Episode 8, The Walking Dead show-runner Scott Gimple promised, “Episode 9 is one of the biggest episodes we’ve done.” “So many people die,” comic creator Robert Kirkman laughingly agreed of the upcoming midseason premiere. Now The Walking Dead creative team are famous for dropping morbid hyperbole around all their premieres and finales—every season is bigger than the last—but this time they’re not kidding. Here’s why.

As Dustin Rowles over on Uproxx points out, The Walking Dead is about to introduce a huge crowd of new characters. Not just Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s villainous Negan, but also several members of a new location called the Hilltop Colony as well as members of Negan’s gang, the Saviors. That’s a lot of new faces in the span of just eight episodes. And, if you’re like most people, you still can’t tell most of the Alexandrians apart. Throughout the first half of Season 6, characters you do recognize kept giving grand speeches to small crowds of total strangers.

If you’re Tyrion Lannister, you can give a speech to a rain-soaked throng of faceless Baratheon men, but if you’re Jessie Anderson on the streets of Alexandria, the effect just isn’t the same. Anyway, The Walking Dead has a very clear pattern of Rick and his group arriving at a location, endangering the lives of the residents who have built a society there, and moving on to the next location. Think of the prison purge, the Woodbury massacre, or the fire at Hershel’s farm. Not everyone in Alexandria will die. Rick is always good at picking up a survivor or two and incorporating them into his group. (My money’s on Merritt Wever’s Dr. Denise Cloyd.) But, certainly, all the Alexandrians you’ve not been able to tell apart during this season? They have to go. Given that this midseason premiere will take place on February 14, Rowles has already nicknamed it the Valentine’s Day Massacre.