With just eight episodes of The Walking Dead left, the stakes are higher than ever.
The series returns at a breakneck pace as we delve deeper into the conflict behind the walls of the Commonwealth and the desperate battle for survival.
Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) is the leader of this compound, and she’s been left vulnerable for the first time following an explosive story in the town paper.
Robins tells TV Fanatic that Pamela is “determined” when the series picks back up because her entire family legacy is at stake.
“Pamela carries the weight,” Laila adds of Pamela.
“Carrying that weight has warped her personality a little.”
Laila doesn’t think Pamela thinks about her own mental health because she’s so focused on the Commonwealth and the responsibility she holds.
Mercer was tirelessly devoted to the cause of the Commonwealth, but he’s starting to put together the fact that some shady things are going on.
“He’s in a shit storm, and he’s trying to figure out how to solve it,” Shaw tells TV Fanatic of his character’s mindset.
“He’s got a lot of decisions to make. He’s got to start taking action at this point,” Shaw adds, noting that it’s time to make a move if he wants to save his family.
Eleanor Matsuura, who plays Yumiko, thinks her character’s mindset is similar to Pamela’s, but she also desires to keep everyone safe.
Eleanor believes that Yumiko has a pursuit of freedom.
“It’s like a real burning drive for her,” but Yumiko is on the wrong side of the Commonwealth and has been thrust back into a role she never thought she’d be in again.
“I think we’re seeing a full circle moment for Yumiko,” Matsuura adds.
“All of her past is coming suddenly into her future, and it’s like, how can she do the right thing here?”
“How can she do these jobs within these rules and fight for what she believes is right and fight to keep her people alive?”
“Yumiko has to use all of her tricks, and there are so many more things to unravel this season.”
Eleanor adds that Yumiko is pushed to the limit, but she always aims to do what’s right for her people.
Matsuura delved into playing this side of Yumiko in a world that’s filled with peril.
“As an actor, I’ve loved every second of it.”
“I spent the last few seasons covered in mud in the woods, getting covered in bites, and getting bruised,” she adds, saying that while there’s a great joy to that, the evolution of her character has been satisfying.
“I’m in a suit, chopped all my hair off, and I’m suddenly getting to play on a courtroom drama.”
Eleanor says it is surreal because she looked at her co-stars while filming these scenes and thought she was on a different show.
“This is The Walking Dead, right?” she recalls saying with a laugh. She says that it is a great privilege to work on the show.
Naturally, there are questions about how some of these characters would fare if they were back on the road.
Mercer’s situation is tricky because he’s built up this strong track record inside the Commonwealth, but his sister Max (Margot Bingham) leads what can only be described as a rebellion.
Mike believes Mercer would thrive if he had to go back on the road.
“He’s definitely a survivor and has all the tools to survive.”
Mike added that he thinks Mercer has survived so long because he has a purpose at the Commonwealth.
As for Pamela surviving away from a cushy community, Laila notes that she wasn’t a girl scout, so she might lack the skills.
“She’s a hunter, though,” Eleanor interjects, referencing an episode in which Pamela hunts with Maggie (Lauren Cohan).
“Yeah, but does she know how to put up a tent?” Laila responds with a laugh.
“Can’t you just see me for hours trying to put a tent up?”
“The soldiers may have handled that,” Mike offers.
Laila said she could imagine Pamela having a hissy fit about being unable to put up a tent and having no soldiers to help.
“I have a feeling she’d find some, though. Even out on the road, she’d quickly assemble some stuff and a group,” Eleanor says, noting that “we’ve all been led by Pamela Milton.”
“She might be able to pull it together, but she wouldn’t be a happy camper. Let’s put it that way,” Laila says of Pamela in the great outdoors.
Undoubtedly, there is a lot of excitement about the final season, so I asked the cast how the series finale would challenge expectations.
Eleanor believes that ending a show after such a long time naturally leads to many expectations.
“This show has a huge following,” she warns, adding that living up to everyone’s expectations is tough.
“The only thing I can say is that it will go places you don’t imagine it to go to.”
“You think you might know how it ends, but I don’t think you do. I don’t think anyone will ever guess how it goes.”
“Even though it is the end of the main series, the universe is still thriving,” but the star says this is a definite end to this chapter.
Eleanor said making every viewer happy is tough, but plenty of spinoffs on the horizon will give fans the option of which characters to follow.
Laila spoke about the conclusion of The Sopranos because there was a lot of debate about how it wrapped up.
“In some ways, it was perfect,” but it all comes down to the person watching and their expectations, she notes.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC and AMC+.
Return to TV Fanatic for more TWD interviews ahead of the premiere and as the series is airing.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.