The Walking Dead will be back on the air on Sunday with a midseason premiere that some cast and crew have described as “polarizing.” The episode—written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and directed by Greg Nicotero—certainly will have a very different feel that may catch some fans off guard. Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman expects there to be plenty of debate about it.
“Episode 509 is going to be a fan favorite episode in a lot of ways, and it’s going to be a fan-hated episode in a lot of ways,” says Kirkman, “because it is a somewhat brutal episode. Those are very hard for the audience here and there, but there’s a lot of magic in that episode as well, and a lot of really cool stuff that people are going to be very excited about. So it’s going to be a very special, very unique episode that I’m really excited for people to see.”
We chatted with Kirkman to get some more intel on what to expect in the back half of season five.
EW: The group has left the hospital, the church is overrun, Abraham’s mission went bust. So clearly the question is: Where to now for these guys?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: Where to indeed. Look, I think that if you look at our season five B poster, there’s a map and there’s a line drawn on that map. So I believe it was Glenn or somebody had the argument of look, even if Eugene’s wrong, Washington would have infrastructure, Washington would be the place where they would be prepared for this kind of cataclysm. Washington would be a place where they would have resources stored up and plans in place. And so if there’s any place near us, and honestly we’re not geographically that far away, that would be a place where we could possibly find safety because where else are we going to go? And so it’s entirely possible that when we get back they’re going to Washington.
It’s interesting because you had the group together at the beginning of the season, they sort of splintered off, then they get back together again right there at the very end at that hospital. How much are we going to see them together in the back half of this season?
The show has evolved into a good mix of the group is together and people go off on side missions, and we do have episodes where the focus is squarely on one or a few characters and that will allow us to do the character development that we want. But this is an ensemble show and we do still want to do that. I will say that the back eight episodes probably has them more together than they are apart, so I think that we’re going to see a little bit more of the group dynamic. I think that it’s possibly a flip from season four where they were together more for the first half of season four and then separated for the last half of season four. And they were separated a little bit at the beginning of season five, and now we’re going to have them together more often. So we’ll definitely be exploring the group dynamic in a bigger way.
What’s the situation with supplies? Because they’re out there, food is scarce and the longer they go the more scarce it’s going to get. Same thing with ammunition and weapons. How are they doing in terms of basic survival needs like that?
Not well. I mean, it’s a struggle, it’s always going to be a struggle. This is a very harsh world to live in and the idea of traversing a long span of miles while trying to get to a place is a pretty arduous journey in modern days when you have to stop at gas stations and stuff. So, you know, there’s definitely going to be a struggle there, and it’s possible that they might get into some trouble while they’re struggling to go into places that they possibly shouldn’t go into in the search for supplies. So I think that we’re going to see these characters very desperate and that desperation is going to get them in some interesting situations, which leads to some good drama.
Rick wanted to kill the Terminus folks after they escaped. The group didn’t, and then Bob gets his leg chewed off. Rick wanted to go in guns blazing to get Beth and Carol out from the hospital. They didn’t, and Beth dies. So I guess, what is this doing to Rick’s world viewpoint, and how is that matching up with the rest of how the group feels?
I mean, we’ll possibly see a bit of a return to the Ricktatorship, if people still like that term from our old interviews, because I hope people are keeping track to all of our little phrase terms and in-jokes…
They’re probably not. But yeah. So his leadership style will probably get a little bit more harsh as we move forward. I like to think there’s still some humanity left in that guy, but you are pointing out that there have been some pretty clear instances where he allows them to kind of move off of the path that he’s setting them on and bad things happen, and that’s not something that he’s not noticing.
Talking to a lot of you guys, it seems like there’s definitely going to be a little bit of a shift going on with these next eight episodes. Is that tonally or just sort of in terms of what the action’s going to be like?
I think it’s a shift in all areas. You know, the tone is going to be somewhat different. The stories that we’re telling are somewhat different. The struggles that they are facing are vastly different. Our location is different than any location they’ve ever been in. There’s going to be a new place—like a new farm house, or a new prison. And this new place is going to change things in ways that we’ve never seen before. And that’s what they’re talking about. The show is going to be radically altered based on a new locale that may or may not be in the Washington area.
Well, obviously the speculation is out there that you guys would may be hitting the Alexandria Safe-Zone this season. Obviously the timeline seems to fit. And while we’re on that subject, you said yourself on Talking Dead that a very prominent gay character from the comics is going to be showing up soon. There just happens to be a very prominent gay character from the comics right about at this point. What would you like to say about the possibility of meeting Aaron in the near future, who is probably the biggest character from the comics that appears around this time?
You know, look: There are certainly fan favorite characters from the comic books that people are excited to get into the show, and I think that Aaron is one of them. Aaron’s a character that’s still around in the comic book series and has certainly been on a lot of adventures and has had a lot of memorable story line stuff, and as characters to be adapted from the comic book series go, certainly a big one. You know, the timelines do seem to be aligning, but you never know. We could be throwing you a curve ball. We could be bringing in a character from much later and bringing that up earlier. You never know with us. We could have changed things up. Or you could be exactly right.
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