Far from dead: AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ returns Sunday

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News
Season 6 of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” returns Sunday night.

Zombies are not the biggest threat on “The Walking Dead.”

That honor goes to the surviving humans who, over time, have become feral and ruthless in this post zombie-apocalyptic world. As fans have learned over the show’s six-season run, there are predatory cannibals, rapists, murderers, thieves and sadists lurking in forests and behind gated encampments near and far.

When “The Walking Dead” returns Sunday on AMC for the second half of season six, fans will watch as Rick and the gang get closer to their most savage and depraved antagonist yet — Negan. Played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Losers” and “Grey’s Anatomy”), Negan kills, steals and deals as the leader of a band of equally calculating survivors called the Saviors. The Saviors’ claim to fame is subjugating and terrorizing people in neighboring communities in exchange for protection from the zombies. In other words, they’re zombie gangsters.

Negan could be just the character the drama needs to shake things up. Adding him to the series could also be the olive branch fans need after producers pretended to kill off Glenn (Troy’s own Steven Yeun) last year only to reveal that he’s still alive, said Barna Donovan, a communications professor at Saint Peter’s University in New Jersey.

“Humans are ultimately the most dangerous enemy in a world overrun by zombies because of all the corruption and duplicity people are capable of when the trappings of civilization have been torn away,” Donovan said. “So ‘Walking Dead’ villains also need to be adequately larger than life, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan will be perfect in the role.

“It could also make fans forgive the way the producers handled Glenn’s fake death. The show really needs to recover from that fake-out. It felt a lot like a cheap stunt on a soap opera where the audiences’ emotions are toyed with for simple manipulation. The appeal of ‘The Walking Dead’ lies in its honest look at life and death when civilization unravels. Everyone can die, no matter how likable or popular. The Glenn fake death undermined that.”

So far, fans seem to be in a more forgiving mood because discussions about Negan are so intense. In the book, for instance, Negan brutally murders Glenn and many wonder if his character will do the same on the TV series. If Negan does kill him, it would sort of explain why the writers kept Glenn alive. A showdown between Negan and Daryl also would be exciting because Daryl is not a character in the comic books, creating a suspenseful and unknown variable for all fans.

“Negan is so much like the Governor that the actor and writers will have to do a lot to distinguish the two so fans don’t believe it’s a rehashed storyline,” said Nathan Collins, a Metro Detroiter and fan of the show and the comic book that inspired it. “They made the Governor unredeemable but will have to do the opposite with Negan and leave some wiggle room. I’ve been torn on whether I want Negan to do the big ‘Negan’ thing (kill Glenn) that he does when he is first introduced in the comics. I feel like on TV, it may come across as too harsh and may need to be nixed like they nixed Michonne being raped on the show, which was a good idea.”

Meanwhile, super fans like actress Katie Barberi (“Every Witch Way”) are just happy that “The Walking Dead” is coming back so that they can get their fix.

“I was glued to my seat live tweeting every episode of season six just like I have every other season,” said Barberi, who has starred in several telenovelas and has 49,000-plus followers on Twitter. “I have not read the comic books and it is up to the amazing writers, producers and extraordinary cast to keep (us) engaged and interested.

“Season six was terrifying and heartbreaking, yet we never lose hope for these characters,” Barberi said. “It was so horrible to think Glenn might have left us, and so thrilling when we realized he’s still surviving. Can’t wait for the second part of season six.”

Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based television writer and critic.

‘The Walking Dead’

Returns 9 p.m. Sunday


Steven Yeun of Troy plays Glenn on “The Walking Dead.”

Spotlight on Steven Yeun

Fans were so distraught over the possible death of Glenn, played by Troy’s own Steven Yeun, on “The Walking Dead” that they mourned him for days on Twitter. Others held onto hope. A few weeks later, the show revealed that Glenn wasn’t dead and that the intestines viewers saw zombies feasting on were indeed Nicholas’ and not Glenn’s. Womp. Womp.

Part of the reason fans were so hurt by the mere thought that Glenn could be a goner is because of Yeun’s likeable portrayal. Yeun graduated from Troy High School and Kalamazoo College. The 32-year-old actor had been pursuing comedy before landing on “The Walking Dead” and was a member of Chicago’s Second City.

Yeun’s parents, who own a few beauty supply stores in Detroit, wanted their son to be a doctor or a lawyer, he said. But they supported his acting pursuits — a choice fans of “The Walking Dead” clearly appreciate. Not one to rest on his laurels, Yeun co-owns a Korean fusion restaurant called The Bun Shop with his brother, which is in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.

Mekeisha Madden Toby

Norman Reedus plays Daryl Dixon on "The Walking Dead."

Loose ends

In recognition of season 6.2, here are six storylines “The Walking Dead” has to address:

1. The last time we saw Rick (star Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and a few others who were trapped in Deanna’s house, they had put on sheets covered in zombie blood in an attempt to escape. Will the group make it out alive?

2. Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) had a violent altercation. Morgan knocked out Carol and the Wolf (Aussie actor Benedict Samuel) they were fighting over, knocked out Morgan. Then the Wolf took Denise (Merritt Weaver) the doctor hostage. Will the Wolf kill Denise or will she kill him? Are Carol and Morgan ok?

3. As Daryl (Norman Reedus), Sasha (Sonequa Martin) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) drove back to Alexandria, a small group of Negan’s Saviors blocked the road and demanded that the trio hand over its truck and guns. Will the three meet Negan?

4. Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) got back inside Alexandria and are trying to save Maggie (Lauren Cohan) who is trapped on a sniper’s post. Will they be able to save her?

5. Ron (Austin Abrams) tried to shoot and kill Carl (Chandler Riggs) but was unsuccessful and ended up drawing a bunch of zombies to the house where they had been hiding out with Rick, Michonne and the others. Will Ron try to kill Carl again or maybe Rick?

6. Rick and Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) are sort of a couple now. Will they continue to pursue their romance or will Ron and the zombies stop this love from blossoming?

Mekeisha Madden Toby

Tyler James Williams played Noah, who died in season five of “The Walking Dead.”

Deaths on ‘The Walking Dead’

It’s been awhile since a major character has died on the show, but here are six deaths fans are still mourning:

1.Beth Greene (died season 4): Beth’s (played by Emily Kinney) death was hard to take because she redeemed herself as a character worth liking, especially when she saved Noah’s (Tyler James Williams) life and died fighting for him.

2.Noah (died season 5): Noah (played by Tyler James Williams), too, was reaching redemption and helping out on a mission when Nicholas (Michael Traynor) panicked, escaped and shoved a revolving door that left Noah vulnerable to a mob of zombies who quickly devoured him.

3.Tyreese Williams (died season 5): Weeks before Noah’s death, Tyreese (Chad Coleman) died trying to help Noah find his family. He turned his back and one of Noah’s brothers, who had turned into a zombie, bit him.

4.Lori Grimes (died season 3): By the time Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) died, fans had pretty much turned on her. One reason is because she was giving Rick such as hard time for killing his best friend and her lover, Shane (Jon Bernthal). But watching Rick fall apart after her death allowed actor Andrew Lincoln to deliver an award-worthy performance.

5.Sophia Peletier (died season 2): Carol’s daughter, Sophia (Madison Lintz), was too sweet for the zombie apocalypse. That’s why she ran when she shouldn’t have and was ultimately bitten and turned into a zombie. Rick killed her in zombie form.

6.Merle Dixon (died season 3): Daryl’s older brother, Merle (Michael Rooker), was a racist and a sexist. But just as Merle was starting to clean up his ways, his boss, the Governor (David Morrissey), killed him and let him become a zombie.

Mekeisha Madden Toby

Carol Peletier is played by actress Melissa McBride in season 6 of “The Walking Dead.”

Untouchable characters

Here are six characters who can’t be killed because fans would riot:

1. Rick Grimes

2. Michonne

3. Daryl Dixon

4. Carol Peletier

5. Judith Grimes

6. Maggie Greene

Characters marked for death

Here are six characters that are not only hated, but won’t be missed when and if they are killed:

1. The Lone Wolf

2. Father Gabriel

3. Morgan Jones

4. Spencer Monroe

5. Jessie Anderson

6. Ron Anderson

Mekeisha Madden Toby