This article comes from Den of Geek UK. It contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead season eight Blu-ray disc set has comparatively fewer episode commentaries than usual – just three in total, for episodes three, four, and 16, all of which feature crew and no members of the cast. Perhaps the actors were too busy this year to sit in recording booths and reminisce about on-set pranks and how hot Atlanta gets in summer. Instead, former showrunner Scott Gimple is joined by writer Matt Negrete, director Dan Liu, and new showrunner Angela Kang to talk us through episode three, “Monsters,” episode four, “Some Guy,” and the season finale, “Wrath.”
There are also three featurettes, one in memoriam of the characters who died during the season, one commemorating the life of Carl Grimes, and one focusing on the toll taken on the characters during the season’s all-out war. A special Making Of extra provides the best insights, revealing behind-the-scenes action and on-set cast and crew interviews across several episodes of the season. Director and special effects guru Greg Nicotero is always good value and gives some fascinating explanations of his team’s work.
Having scoured the commentaries and the disc extras, here are fifty nerdy details fans might enjoy knowing about The Walking Dead season eight…
1. The season eight premiere, “Mercy,” was The Walking Dead’s one-hundredth overall episode. To mark the occasion, the gas station scene in which Rick and Carl encountered Siddiq mirrored shot for shot the show’s very first scene in which Rick encountered the young girl Walker. Addy Miller, who played that Walker, returned as a grown-up Walker wearing a very similar outfit as a nod to it.
2. “Mercy” was jointly dedicated to the memories of film director George Romero and stunt performer John Bernecker, who tragically died on set in July 2017.
3. In the season eight premiere, when Rick’s group attacks the Sanctuary, Andrew Lincoln shot thousands of rounds. Cut was called but Lincoln didn’t hear it because of all the noise he was enjoying making with the guns.
4. When the RV was exploded in the premiere, Andrew Lincoln and director Greg Nicotero both ceremoniously pushed the button at the same time to bid adieu to an old friend.
5. In real life, the Sanctuary building is only two storeys tall and the rest of the windows above that level are added by CG extension.
6. In episode one, to plan out the look of Rick’s attack on the Sanctuary, a bunch of Matchbox toy cars were painted white and arranged to knit together intricately, creating the shield wall effect of the armored cars.
7. A repeated visual motif in season eight was Rick Grimes looking at himself in the mirror. He does it multiple times in the season, notably after killing baby Gracie’s father in “Monsters,” and before going to face Negan in “Wrath.” The idea, says Angela Kang, was that Rick was beginning not to recognize himself and worrying that he could become irredeemable.
8. The bear traps in which the Walkers and Dr. Carson are caught in “Dead Or Alive Or” were made of lightweight aluminum painted to look like iron. The springs that snap them closed are very small so that they close without exerting much force. The actors who become trapped by them are wearing shin protectors too, which are digitally removed.
9. Greg Nicotero describes season eight Morgan repeatedly in terms of movie monsters – as Freddy Krueger, or Jason Voorhees, or the Terminator, or “the monster in a John Carpenter movie.” Morgan just keeps coming, “straight-up killing” in season eight. The idea was that he would isolate himself and become more of a cold-blooded killer throughout the season, necessitating his move away from the gang and to Fear the Walking Dead.
10. The fight between Jesus and Morgan in “Monsters” was described to both as like a bouncer (Jesus) trying to calm down a drunk guy (Morgan) outside a bar – subduing him without actually wanting to hurt him.
11. When the characters cover themselves in Walker blood in order to pass unnoticed through herds, the actors call the process “gutting up.” The fake blood used is mixed with strips of flexible burgundy and yellow-tinted silicone to look like “meat flaps,” says Greg Nicotero.
12. Episode four, “Some Guy,” is based on issue 118 of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic, which was the first ever story in the comic books told using flashback caption narration.
13. When Ezekiel had to limp in “Some Guy,” Khary Payton put a big rock in his shoe so that it would genuinely hurt him to put any weight on his foot. A sound operator had told Payton that Andy Lincoln had done the same for a limping scene in season five, so Payton decided to use the same trick.
14. Macsen Lintz, the young actor who plays the Kingdom’s Henry, is the real-life brother of Madison Lintz, the young actor who played Carol’s daughter, Sophia, in seasons one and two.
15. In the run-up to season eight, showrunner Scott Gimple and actor Khary Payton discussed what a big influence Shakespeare’s Henry V had on Ezekiel’s character. It wasn’t a link Gimple had made when writing, but it was an important one for Payton, who saw similarities between the importance King Ezekiel places in faith, and the faith required of his followers, in his preparation for the season.
16. The scene of Ezekiel emerging from the pile of dead bodies in “Some Guy” was influenced by photographs taken post-battle on World War II battlegrounds.
17. There’s a shot of Ezekiel crawling backward along the ground, pursued by walkers in “Some Guy,” which was inspired by arcade game Galaga “with our hero scooting back first and the Walkers coming up the screen,” vertically, says director Dan Liu.
18. Melissa McBride had a foot injury while filming “Some Guy,” her Die Hard episode which involved lots of action and crouching. Nevertheless, she still did her own stunts in the outdoor shootout scene with the Saviors. “Basically we’re just trying to hold onto her as long as we can until she becomes the next John McClane,” says Scott Gimple.
19. Cooper Andrews, who plays The Kingdom’s Jerry, has been trained in martial arts since he was a child.
20. Scott Gimple describes Gunther, the Savior who takes Ezekiel at gunpoint in “Some Guy,” as “essentially Dwight Shrute [from The Office] after things went bad. The idea was that the King would be almost bested by “kind of a wormy guy,” and “somebody you couldn’t possibly respect as an adversary.” Gunther is played by comedian Whitmore Thomas.
21. The “gag” in which we see through the two halves of Gunther after Jerry’s axe attack was inspired by Geof Darrow’s cover for Hard Boiled #3 in which you can see through a bullet hole in someone’s head.
22. During Carol’s tense gunfire scene with the Saviors, she was surrounded by gnats who kept flying into her mouth during her lines. Melissa McBride only stopped in one take to spit them out.
23. McBride became so affected by Carol’s speech to Ezekiel when she and Jerry rescue him in “Some Guy” that she broke down in tears during the rehearsal and they had to wait for her to compose herself before shooting.
24. The car chase in which Rick and Daryl pursued the Saviors with the machine gun cargo was intended to be an homage to 1980s action cinema, says director Dan Liu, with an Indiana Jones reference in the jumping from one vehicle to the other.
25. The Walkers eating Shiva are actually eating barbecued chicken.
26. The extended fight scene between Rick and Negan in the abandoned building was inspired by a fight in John Carpenter’s They Live.
27. The Ace of Spades lighter Rick uses to set Lucille on fire was last seen being used by Glenn in season four. It’s fitting, says Greg Nicotero, as Lucille was the weapon used to kill Glenn in the season seven premiere.
28. To make the VFX on Lucille visible in low-lighting during Rick and Negan’s fight, the bat was covered in glowsticks, earning it the nickname “the disco bat.” To set it on fire, Silica fabric was rolled up to use as a wick and fuel was sucked up it for the flames.
29. In the series finale scene of Gabriel praying in Alexandria’s burnt-out church, actor Seth Gilliam was wearing contact lenses that covered his entire eye to give the illusion of his character’s partial blindness. That meant he couldn’t cry as required for the scene, so those tears are all faked with eye drops.
30. The hand bindings in which the Savior prisoners of war were tied with were specially designed like an escapologist’s for a quick release, for health and safety reasons.
31. When the Walkers start rolling down the hill into the Savior prisoners of war, only three were really there – the rest were added in digitally afterward. Because, being a Walker, the stunt performers weren’t able to brace their falls correctly, the bound actors playing the Savior prisoners had to try to imperceptibly protect the falling Walkers during the fight scene.
32. On stage at The Kingdom, when Morgan pulls out the Savior’s guts through the bullet wound in his stomach, the actor in question (a stunt performer on the show) wore a specially designed cradle around his chest into which a bag of fake guts and blood was stuffed, which Lennie James reached into to grab a handful of meat.
33. The Alexandrian houses that exploded in the midseason finale were specially built shells rigged with explosives, not real houses like some of the others on set.
34. The residents of Senoia, Atlanta have to put up with a lot of disturbance during night shoots on The Walking Dead. The season finale involved several explosives being set off at 4 am.
35. No real arrows are fired on set because of health and safety. The bows are real, but the actors and stunt performers just ping the bowstring and the arrows are added in digitally.
36. The roadhouse where Rick and Morgan kill Jared and the runaway Saviors in “Still Gotta Mean Something” is Mama’s Country Showcase in Griffin, Georgia, a working bar where line-dancing classes, poker tournaments, and live country music regularly happen. It’s about a half-hour drive from Senoia, where the Alexandria sets are located.
37. Listening to the audio on the wordless season-ending flashback scene of young Carl and his sheriff dad on their walk years before the apocalypse was hilarious, says Angela Kang. The young actor playing little Carl “was chatting up a storm with Andy,” apparently. He wouldn’t let Andrew Lincoln pick him up. “It was clear who was the boss in that scene.”
38. The very last season eight scene Andrew Lincoln filmed was the flashback of him and young Carl. Rick Grimes had to be shaved with a short haircut for the memory scene, so they had to leave it until last.
39. Rick Grimes’ brown leather jacket with the sheepskin collar is popularly known among fans as his “murder jacket.” Now Maggie Rhee has her own equivalent, says Angela Kang – the “leadership jacket.”
40. On the home-release version of “Wrath,” scenes of Negan preparing for the fight with Rick’s people were cut from the broadcast for reasons of length. In the uncut version, we see Negan waking up—an echo of the shot of old-man Rick waking up in the season premiere—and Negan giving a speech to the Sanctuary crowds in which he beats Lucille against a table and cries “We are Saviors!” to which the Saviors all wave their guns in the air and cheer.
41. In “Wrath,” Jerry says “shit” three times in his scene with Ezekiel, which was almost the episode’s entire swear allowance, says Scott Gimple.
42. Eugene’s costume since joining the Saviors was designed to reflect his defection to the dark side, says Angela Kang. “He started to dress more and more like an apocalyptic version of a Sith lord with the black coat and the dark. He used to wear the little shorts and the khakis and blue. Then he went to a much more greyscale look when he was really embedded with the Saviors.”
43. In Eugene’s final scene, after his betrayal of the Saviors saved Rick’s people, Eugene is back to wearing blue overalls, signifying a change in his character back towards the light.
44. The season finale was filmed in November, which meant there were only nine hours of daylight (a normal shooting day is twelve hours). This also meant that they could feature stark trees stripped of their leaves which went tonally with the episode but aren’t often seen in the state of Georgia.
45. The coldest The Walking Dead set has ever been is around 17 degrees Fahrenheit while filming the season five finale.
46. The technical logistics for “Wrath,” with multiple groups convening on the same hillside, was all worked out by the writers using overhead Google Map views of the battle hill, covered in Matchbox toy cars and little toy soldiers they’d move around to make sure it all worked logically. “I certainly didn’t think when I was a kid,” said Scott Gimple, “that you’d use those same tools decades later to actually plan something for a television show.”
47. The idea that the Saviors’ guns would backfire because of Eugene’s sabotaged bullets was decided upon early on. By the time of season seven’s midpoint, when Negan takes Eugene back to the Sanctuary, the writers had planned an eventual redemption for the character. Josh McDermitt apparently acted disappointed when he heard the news that Eugene would become good in the end – he’d enjoyed playing him bad.
48. In the final scene of Maggie plotting with Jesus and Daryl to act against Rick, the showrunners nicknamed Lauren Cohan “Maggie Corleone” inspired by the Godfather films.
49. Dwight—always considered “bizarro-Daryl” by the show’s creators—is given “the little itty bitty possibility of a happy ending” in the season eight finale. Daryl and Dwight’s final scene is “the omega of their relationship” that began part way through season six.
50. It’s symbolically significant that we see Rick in his sheriff’s uniform in the season eight finale, says Angela Kang, as it marks a kind of return to the idea of law and order in a way, after all-out war, and points towards season nine’s interest in what rules there need to be in a civilization.
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