It was a fall finale filled with intense action, a wildly anticipated reunion, the introduction of a new key player, the killing of humans and zombies alike, and a super secret blast from the past. (SPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to watch Sunday’s Walking Dead episode, I suggest you stop right now before all is revealed. Seriously. Look away!) So we went to the man in charge, Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara, for answers to all the burning questions. In the following Q&A, Mazzara discusses the reason for adding comic book favorite Tyreese into the mix now, how they got Jon Bernthal to return as Shane, the shocking — and blinding! — fight between Michonne and the Governor, as well as the long-awaited reunion between Merle and Daryl Dixon. Plus, he tells us what to expect when the show picks back up again in February. It’s as essential download of information for any Walking Dead fan. (Click through all three pages to read the entire interview and see additional photos.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Wow, I seriously don’t even know where to begin with everything that went down in this midseason finale. This had to be the most balls-to-the-wall hour of action you’ve ever done. I felt like I didn’t have a second to breath this entire episode.
GLEN MAZZARA: You’re not supposed to. I feel last week’s episode really amped it up and this is what we’ve been waiting for, these groups getting together. Remember how when Rick and company were on that farm they were the plague to Hershel and his family? Now, here’s Rick and the group acting as attackers to the town of Woodbury. They’re terrorists, as the Governor calls them. They just come in and, rightfully so, shoot it up to get Glenn and Maggie out. But to the town of Woodbury, they feel like they’re under attack. So it was kind of nice to muddy the line between who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy because Rick and his crew definitely seem like the bad guys to the town of Woodbury.
EW: Let’s start with the introduction of Tyreese, a very popular character from the comics who joined up with the group at an earlier point in the comic books. Why bring him in and why now?
MAZZARA: We are really interested in expanding the world, and I think it’s interesting to introduce Tyreese, who is a good character, and to bring him in at a time when Rick does not want anybody to join the group. Rick s obviously losing his mind and just wants to shut off the world. Now we have these two camps clearly delineated: We have the prison group and we have Woodbury. Now let’s bring in Tyreese. Let’s bring in a third factor, and the story of Tyreese will be very, very interesting throughout the rest of the season. It will be very surprising to the audience and just throws another ball into the mix. So it is really about making the story as complicated and as surprising as possible.
EW: We’ve all been waiting for the big confrontation between Michonne and The Governor. Tell me about how you wanted to approach this stand-off when The Governor walks in and finds Michonne with his zombie daughter Penny.
MAZZARA: It’s the idea that The Governor is vulnerable — that he sees that girl as somehow still his daughter and sees Michonne as someone who has, in a way, taken his daughter hostage. And he says “please” and he puts his gun down. He’ll do anything to save that girl. Very different from the comic book. And it was also surprising to Michonne to see him vulnerable. That’s really the first time we’ve seen the Governor vulnerable. And we’ve always made sure to make that character as nuanced and textured and as complex as possible. And I think David Morrissey does a fantastic job of taking that character anywhere we want to go.
EW: He actually got me to pity him there for a minute. I genuinely felt sorry for the guy.
MAZZARA: In last week’s episode where he tells Maggie to take her shirt off — what was interesting about fan reaction to that is people were saying “Oh, he’s gone too far. We have to kill him.” Remember, in the comic book he is actually a rapist. We’re just perhaps setting that up, saying that character has that within him, because we do have a long term plan for this character. So to have one episode where you think, Wow, he is the arch villain, and then in the next episode for us to feel sympathetic to him, that he’s vulnerable and actually tearful about his own daughter is again just trying to make that character as complicated as possible and keep the audience on their toes.