It was one of the most thrilling cliffhangers in recent TV history and one that left The Walking Dead fans wide eyed and speechless.
Seconds before the end credits for season 6 rolled, one of the series' beloved characters was about to meet a brutal end at the hands of the charismatic but foul-mouthed and ruthless sociopath Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and his barbed-wire covered baseball bat, Lucille.
That was nearly six months ago, and in that time fan forums and chatrooms have gone into speculative overdrive trying to figure out who it is that leaves the long-running smash hit show in such gut-wrenching circumstances.
Andrea Beattie travelled to New York Comic Con to talk with key cast and crew members in the hope of getting some inside information before the series return on October 24.
Who it could be?
In the finale, Negan's men had rounded up group leader Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Tara (Alanna Masterson), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Spencer (Austin Nichols), Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) -- and one of them was about to meet Lucille.
Thanks to a season 7 sneak peek, created for NYCC fans at The Walking Dead panel held at Madison Square Garden, we do know that it's not Rick who is left in pieces in the dirt. After the brutal scene in which one cast member is beaten to death, Rick looks up at Negan and says: "I'm gonna kill you. Not today. Not tomorrow. But I'm gonna to kill you."
Of course, Negan and his god complex don't let Rick get away with that, and he drags him off to a trailer -- with a hatchet. Bad news for Rick, especially after exec producer Greg Nicotero teased that two deaths in the one episode is entirely possible.
At the very least, it's likely this is when Rick will lose his hand in the same way his comic book counterpart did.
While most people have theorised that one of Negan's victims will be Abraham, Lauren Cohan who plays Maggie may have given away more than she intended when she broke down in tears when it came to her turn to answer specific questions about her character in season 7.
"You all have been on such a huge journey with us," she told the fans, avoiding the question.
"Thank you for caring about our show, and for getting mad when you don't know things."
Later through more tears she said: "This is larger than our lives; this is larger than our show. This is such a privilege. This is such a great thing.
"The story that comes from this year is insane. We were completely knocked off our feet and we will see how people deal with it."
So, while it's been an emotional ride for the cast, do the tears and need for comfort from castmate Sonequa Martin-Green mean it's either Maggie, or even husband Glenn, who might be on the way out? Very likely.
The outsider breaks up the band
Morgan, who joined the cast in the final episode of last season to play the sociopathic Negan, told The Huffington Post Australia he's more than happy to play the villain.
"It feels great!" said of becoming the most hated character in The Walking Dead history.
"Eventually you're going to come to think Negan is kind of interesting and might even love to hate him," he said.
"Initially, it's going to be hate-hate all round -- I'm good with the hate, bring on the hate."
Morgan said going into the role, he was worried about whether the cast would accept him, playing such a divisive character.
"What you saw at the end of last year, it pales in comparison to the first episode that we shot," he said.
"As the guy coming in, being new, I could see how much pain they were going through. So I hate being that guy, but at the same time, I'm having a blast being Negan, so I'm torn a little bit."
Reedus said there has always been secrecy shrouding The Walking Dead set around season finale time, but season 7 was next level.
"We can't have friends visit us on set, we can't talk about anything -- this year is super top secret," he said.
"That scene was super hard. I hated it; it made me sick to my stomach to film it. It's super hardcore. The whole cast is such a family at this point so it was pretty brutal," he said.
Who we really don't want it to be
The Walking Dead fans would riot if the show killed off favourites Daryl or Carol (Melissa McBride) -- who both received the biggest ovations at New York Comic Con.
McBride and Reedus said they'd also be pretty devastated if they didn't get to see that complex and unconventional relationship between Daryl and Carol through to the end.
Reedus told HuffPost Australia he thought their relationship was "pretty special".
"They come from kind of the same background, and damaged people gravitate towards damaged people," he said.
"From when they met each other, they had each other's back, they understood each other. If there's romance there, it's deeper than just boy-girl attracted to each other and have sex against a tree kind of thing, you know? They will always have each other's backs."
Fans also want to keep kick ass swordsmith Michonne around, particularly after glimpsing her softer side thanks to the rise of 'Richonne'; her romantic relationship with Rick, and mother-figure role to Rick's son Carl (Chandler Riggs).
And it's a side Guriria is enjoying bringing out in her character.
"I love that dimension of her -- she came on the show and I don't think anyone thought she'd been a mother before, but opening up and getting to go through that process with her has been really awesome," she said.
"It's great to tap into her heart and it's the last thing anyone would have expected in the beginning."
Carol Peletier, played to perfection by McBride, is one of the most fascinating and loved characters on The Walking Dead.
In 6 seasons, she's developed from a vulnerable and weak annoyance most writers kill off in the first few episodes to a badass vigilante who'll stop at nothing to survive.
At the end of season 6 though, Carol has been shot twice and is begging Morgan (Lennie James) to end it all.
"She is feeling so internally devastated and exhausted over the losses that have come from the very beginning," McBride said.
"And just being in this world, she's exhausted with what it's made of her and what it's forced her to do.
"The decisions she's had to make in order to survive -- I think you look at it all and you realise you're becoming the monsters you're trying to defend yourselves from."
They've only just begun
While The Walking Dead fans have been in limbo for six months, the wait is almost over. The season 7 premiere screens in the US on October 23, and hours later in Australia on Foxtel.
No matter who dies in that season opener, creators have promised that this coming season will be more horrific than anyone could ever anticipate and will forever change the futures of every character in the show.
The Walking Dead will screen on Foxtel on October 24, express from the US.
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