The Walking Dead has always pushed the boundaries of gore and violence, though Season 7 understandably reached a certain plateau with its batty premiere. Some producers even suggested that fan reaction inspired them to tone down Season 7’s bloodlust, though showrunners now say otherwise.

It was Walking Dead executive producer Gale Ann Hurd who told an NATPE panel that “We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence … We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season.” Season 7 has had plenty of disturbing moments since, though showrunner Scott Gimple gave a contradicting account to Entertainment Weekly:

The violence in the premiere was pronounced for a reason. The awfulness of what happened to the characters was very specific to that episode and the beginning of this whole new story. I don’t think like that’s the base level of violence that necessarily should be on the show. It should be specific to a story and a purpose, and there was a purpose of traumatizing these characters to a point where maybe they would have been docile for the rest of their lives, which was Negan’s point. But I will say again, the violence in the premiere was for a specific narrative purpose and I would never say that that’s the baseline amount of violence that we would show on the show. If we’re ever going to see something that pronounced, there needs to be a specific narrative purpose for it.

Added gore effects guru Greg Nicotero:

As brutal as that episode 1 was, it’s still part of our storytelling bible, which is what the world is about. I don’t think we would ever edit ourselves, and I think — even after looking at that episode 1 again — as tough as it was for people to watch, I don’t think we would have done it any differently. I don’t think we’ll ever pull ourselves back. There is definitely a difference between violence against walkers and human on human violence, but truthfully, we’re serving our story.

Gimple also pointed to a number of scenes past the premiere, including a Sanctuary resident who suffered a hot iron to the face, among others with gruesome fates that befit the show’s brutal aesthetic over the years.

We’ll see if The Walking Dead gets any less brutal (or more optimistic) when the latter half of Season 7 picks up on February 12, but did the premiere go too far?

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