‘The Walking Dead’ Boss Angela Kang Explains Shocking Series Finale Return, That Death & More

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, The Walking Dead
Spoiler Alert
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[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11 episode 24, “Rest in Peace.”

“We’re the ones who live.”

And so, The Walking Dead ended on a heartwarming, upbeat note — a rumination on family, loss, and love’s eternal endurance. Of course, that didn’t mean the final episode left everyone unscathed (sorry, Rosita [Christian Serratos] fans).

We chatted with showrunner Angela Kang about what went into some of the series finale’s biggest moments, including that surprise Rick (Andrew Lincoln) appearance, the Daryl (Norman Reedus)-Carol (Melissa McBride) “I love you,” and her favorite callback to the early seasons.

Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa

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So, my first question is just two words: Why Rosita?

I was talking to Christian Serratos about the plan for the final block of episodes, and she said that she felt the right ending for her story was to die trying to save her child and to do right for her community. We try to be collaborative with our actors, and it’s not the only time someone has wanted to weigh in on the end of their story. She was like, “Just think about it.” She kind of advocated a little, and I went back to my writer’s room and talked to the network and everybody, and we were like, “Yeah. If she wants to do this, let’s do an emotional version of that story.” And she was amazing. But yeah, that came from Christian.

When Eugene kneels by Rosita’s grave at the end, he whispers something. Are you able to shed any light on what it was that he said?

I don’t know because that was Josh McDermitt saying something to her. Whatever it was, it was not scripted. It was open for him to do what he wanted, so you should ask Josh that question. I think the intention is absolutely that it starts [at] this moment of his remembrance of her and the closeness between those two, that friendship. But the words? Josh knows, and Josh only. [laughs]

The Walking Dead - Season 11 Episode 24 - Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier

Jace Downs/AMC

With the changes in plans for Carol’s character, I wanted to ask — did you have a different ending in place for her originally, and if so, are you able to share what it was?

It was not going to work for [Melissa] to work on the spinoff at this time, and that happened when we were already in the middle of talking about the story for things. We’d long thought the end was that she rode off with Daryl on that motorcycle. So, the final scene that they had on the bench prior to him riding off did not exist in that form. It really was like them riding off together on this adventure.

[The bench scene] is two friends who are saying goodbye to each other for now, but they fully believe they will see each other again. It’s about making different choices at a time when they both needed something different. We had a version of the scene, Norman and Melissa had some thoughts on it and adjusted accordingly, and they did a beautiful version of the scene that I think they infused with a lot of their own emotions. It’s great.

I also wanted to talk a bit about the Daryl-Carol “I love you.” How did that come about, and what went into the decision for them to express that to each other now?

I wanted to have some sort of expression of emotion, but I think for Norman and Melissa, too, it was important to them that they expressed that to each other. Behind the scenes, by the way, all of us tell each other “I love you” a lot! It felt like it was the right place to do it.

In some ways, I was thinking of this as a mirror to when they exchange the friendship bracelets, and Daryl says, “You’re my best friend,” and Carol just made so much fun of him for it. They’ve been through so much since that scene. It’s been so hard for both of them because they’re leaders, they’re friends, and they’re deep friends. Sometimes they fight with each other, but at the core of it all, they care about each other so, so much. That was important to express as they [were] going off in different directions.

Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan

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When Negan kind of wanders off at the end of the episode, was that a nod to his ending in the comics? We don’t see him in Alexandria after that, but I’m assuming that’s where he went. Unless he went to New York…

[laughs] There’s a bit of a nod to the comics with Negan in that we sort of don’t know. But it also felt like with what Maggie said to him, both of them have grown over the years, and they’ve changed, and they’ve kind of gotten to a place where they’ve reckoned with each other. I think that for Negan’s part, he realizes, “A. I just want to go back to my wife right now,” but “B. It’s painful for Maggie for me to be around her, so I’m not going to crash their party. That wouldn’t be the right thing, and I would’ve learned nothing if I did that right now.” That was the kind thing for him to do. To walk away.

I noticed quite a few callbacks and references to early seasons in this episode. Did you have a personal favorite reference or little hint in the finale?

Oh my gosh, we did do so many. I really enjoy Daryl and Judith (Cailey Fleming) calling each other “Lil’ Asskicker” and “Big Asskicker.” I wrote the episode after she was born, where Daryl went off with Maggie to get formula for Judith. That was the first instance of him calling her “Lil’ Asskicker.” Which was a pitch from my showrunner at the time, Glen Mazzara, and it’s something that’s kind of hung around. We hadn’t used it in a while, so it was fun to bring it back. It’s really sweet.

At what point did Rick enter the conversation in the finale? Did you always know there was going to be a Rick and Michonne epilogue or was that something that developed over time?

In my first pitch of the season — this was back in 2020, before the pandemic interrupted everything — in February of 2020, I said to the network, “I feel that the show is not complete without Rick and Michonne coming back.” I had an ideal scenario, but I was like, I know there are all these things in the universe, so that’s not under my control. I think everybody was like, “Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.” But there were so many obstacles to making that happen, and we didn’t know if it could happen, and the actors needed to say yes, and there was possibly a movie. We didn’t know for a long time. It took a while, but it was very satisfying to finally get them to agree to do it and for AMC to do all the business stuff to get that to happen. It was a wish from the beginning, but it actually took a long, long, long, long time to lock it in.

The Walking Dead, all episodes now streaming, AMC