Even as Walking Dead comic fans knew it to be coming, AMC viewers may have been taken back by the Season 7 trailer appearance of “King” Ezekiel and his pet tiger Shiva. Season 7 brought the creature to life with animatronics and CGI, while creator Robert Kirkman admits he wrote the tiger in to see how a TV series might handle it.

Kirkman elaborated to Entertainment Weekly on the decision to introduce his “wildest swing” of the generally grounded series, noting that “when I was writing the comic, I was like, ‘Hell yeah, let’s see how we handle this tiger in the show! This is going to be difficult!’” The creator also describes the Kingdom duo as a “turning point” for the series’ sense of style, praising the complicated work it took to get Shiva right:

Yeah, I mean, you have to get it right. You can’t have a fake tiger, because you know that’s not going to work. This is a very real world and if Shiva doesn’t walk on screen, and look like this amazing real tiger that’s existing amongst these characters, it’s going to be more farfetched than it is in and of itself. So you really have to sell it. You really have to have this deadly, terrifying creature coexisting with these people, and it has been a Herculean task to make sure that we get it right.

But between the mastery of Greg Nicotero, and all the practical effects that he’s able to accomplish, and our crack visual effects team, I’m very happy with how it’s turning out. You can see in the trailer, it absolutely looks amazing. You wouldn’t, you know, think we had a real tiger on set, but thankfully we don’t or else I would never go to set again.

We don’t yet know exactly how Season 7 will change up Ezekiel or Shiva’s introduction from the comic, other than to feature Morgan and Carol in place of Rick, but it’s also worth wondering if we’ll ever get to see the tiger in action.

The effect has been strong so far, but check out the trailers below, and stay tuned for more from the October 23 premiere.

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