It’s been an exceptionally punishing year for fans of The Walking Dead, who first endured the cop-out of Negan’s entrance, a summer spent waiting, and about eight episodes since of misery under The Saviors’ reign. Rick will finally fight back when Season 7 returns in February, and Andrew Lincoln insists “There’s a lot more levity, if you can believe that.”

Naturally, anything’s better than watching Rick and his people tortured or humiliated while Negan leans back and forth, but Lincoln tells Entertainment Weekly that the fight will energize Rick (and by extension the series) in a way that “certainly feels very much more like a show that I knew and recognized.” In fact, Lincoln went so far as to claim Season 7B will feel like “the opposite of what [fans] just witnessed” in the finale, and apparently a laugh riot:

It’s probably the opposite of what you just witnessed, certainly from Rick’s point of view. You see a man in action again with some of the members of his closest family … There’s a lot more levity, if you can believe that, than you’ve ever seen before in Mr. Grimes. There’s sort of a freedom in him, a feeling that comes from losing everything, and also the thrill of the fight. It’s the thrill of the fight again. He’s back in. All I’m saying is that the band is back together.

In fact, where Season 6 closer “Last Day on Earth” ended on a note of hopeless dread and violence, Lincoln suggests the back half of Season 7 will build to a finale worthy of at least some cheering. “It’s The Magnificent Seven in the back half,” teases the actor. “Rather, the magnificent eight episodes. Wait till [episode] 16. I promise you, there is one beat in 16, I dropped my script and started punching the air and did a little jig.”

The Walking Dead will pick up on February 12 with Rick seeking out Ezekiel and The Kingdom (hence all the LOLs, probably), so stay tuned for Season 7 to finally start winning back those viewers. Maybe.

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