The Walking Dead is, by far, the biggest show currently on cable. Every season breaks new records and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of stopping. When Dead came to Comic Con last year, it was a well known fact that it would be the hardest panel to get to. I was one of the lucky few to get in, and it was an extremely enjoyable experience. This is my favorite show on television and going to a panel was a dream come true for me. At the time, I thought this was it. It couldn’t get better.
Boy was I wrong. In an effort to answer Dead‘s incredible popularity, AMC set up an exclusive, invite only premiere event at Madison Square Garden to thank fans for their dedication. According to Kirkman, it is the fans that have brought the show this far, and this was done as a means to prove that they recognize who really made this program what it is. I was one of the even luckier few to get VIP tickets to this Season 6 premiere screening plus panel, featuring the entire cast past and present. It was, unquestionably, the highlight of my Con experience.
This wasn’t your typical panel. Of course, it was at MSG instead of the Javits Center or the Hammerstein Ballroom, making Dead the first show to ever premiere there. But the difference extends well beyond that. There wasn’t a lot of convincing from the cast to get people to watch this season, first of all. They spoke a bit about what happened in the premiere, but strictly kept things at that. Instead, the night was dedicated to playing some goofy games, bringing back deceased stars, and celebrating what this show has become.
Since Chris Hardwick was stuck at a wedding, regular Talking Dead guest and Community star Yvette Nicole Brown hosted the event. As expected, Brown was engaging and fun. It’s blatantly apparent that she too is a huge fan of this program, and I’m sure that if she wasn’t running the event, she would have sat in the audience. There was a time where she tried to get people to play a Talking Dead trivia game, providing incentives like coming up to the stage, but poor cell reception prevented a lot of people from actually getting in. Nothing ultimately came from it, but there was enough happening that no one really noticed.
It also deserves mentioning how Norman Reedus came to the stage. As Brown reached his name on her list, the crowd began screaming uncontrollably. With the lights flashing everywhere, it was like watching an announcement for a rock star or a major spots legend. Reedus absolutely lived up to this fervor too. Instead of walking in from the back like everyone else, he drove up the center on a motorcycle. He knows why people love Daryl Dixon, and clearly he’s more than happy to go the extra mile for fans.
As mentioned before, past Dead characters came back. IronE Singleton (T-Dog) and Chad L. Coleman (Tyreese) pulled some impressive cosplayers out of the crowd to ask questions. Scott Wilson (Hershel) received the first ever Walking Dead hall of fame award. Emily Kinney (Beth) participated in a Family Feud style game where everyone divided up by gender (the men won). Jon Bernthal (Shane) jumped on stage when someone asked about Judith’s parentage. When Ross Marquand (Aaron) tried to do a Merle impression, Michael Rooker rushed on to show him how it was done. Even David Morrissey (The Governor) dropped by virtually with a pre-recorded message apologizing for killing Hershel. All of this contributed to an insane experience for so many eager viewers.
It’s tough to imagine where The Walking Dead can possibly go from here. The biggest show on television essentially had a giant fan party at a hallowed ground of sports and music. Anything at the Javits Center looks like total garbage in comparison. Should this event ever happen again, and you’re one of the lucky few to get in, be ready for an amazing time. You’ll never forget it.
As an aside, the Season 6 premiere, “First Time Again,” was absolutely bonkers, and you should check out my review!
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.