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'Walking Dead' showrunner Scott M. Gimple talks about the 'very different episode' coming up

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Considering the season-five midseason finale of The Walking Dead ended with the group carrying out the lifeless corpse of one of their own, it probably is not a surprise to hear showrunner Scott M. Gimple say that the midseason premiere this Sunday night  “starts off with some pretty intense stuff, some very emotional stuff.” But if fans think they have an idea of what to expect, they should think again. “The first episode is something that we all just threw everything into, says Gimple. “We wanted to do something different, and episode nine is a very different episode for this program.  We definitely have not had a premiere like it. We’re very proud of it and we hope people dig it.”

Translation: Brace yourselves, people. We chatted with Gimple about what else to expect coming up in the back half of season five.

EW: You’ve left viewers with a big question at the end of the midseason finale, and that is: What now? Do they all have different ideas on what they should be doing and where they should be going? Where do we pick up with that in terms of what these guys are thinking?

SCOTT M. GIMPLE: We’ll see them dive right into a plan. We will get propulsion towards a goal very quickly. That’s based on both a survival imperative but also an emotional imperative.

We started the season with the group got together, then they split off, now they’re back again. How much are we going to see them together during the back half of the season?

We are gonna see them together a great deal. The first half story split them apart. The story is not gonna be splitting them apart so much the back half. Every scene will not have every character, I will guarantee you that. But this is gonna be very different from the last part of the season. Every half-season is different from the last, and to that end we’re gonna be seeing a lot of group dynamics coming up.

What is the situation with supplies?

It’s gonna come into play—just basic survival, being able to eat, get water. They have what’s on their backs, and that’s not a lot. Just that basic sort of survival is gonna be part of the story this season.

What does this death of Beth do to this group as a whole? And Maggie specifically?

They’re in a very, very bad place. They’re devastated by the loss of a future with Washington, and the loss of Beth—who meant a great deal to a great many of them and in so many ways symbolized a certain type of hope to all of them. And they’re left with much less than what they gained in the season in the way of safety. They’re lost, emotionally and geographically. They don’t know which direction is safety, they don’t know which direction is hope. And things are going to get worse before they get better. And so a character like Maggie, who wasn’t even broaching the issue as much—we heard her talk about Beth at the very beginning of the season and we saw her come back to life in many ways when she heard that Beth was alive—it’s going to be crushing to her. Is she gonna be able to get past that? We don’t know. In the comic, Maggie has an incredibly difficult time with loss. It’s not gonna be easy on her in the show.

What about Daryl in that regard? He and Beth had a connection they forged. How is he going to handle this?

It’s gonna be extremely devastating for him. It’s going to change him, though I will say his experience with Beth in episode 411, she didn’t want him to lose who he was, who he had become, and hopefully that’ll stay with him.

Let’s talk about Abraham and Eugene because I’m very curious about what we can expect from them after the bombshell that Eugene was not a scientist. Where are their heads at now with the D.C. plan going kaboom?

Not only losing Washington, but the events of episode five, when Abraham nearly killed Eugene—it’s those two things in Abraham that he’s still dealing with. Everything he’s lost and then everything he’s done. He’s not well-integrated in the group anymore. He’s not connected to Rosita anymore. He’s certainly not even talking to Eugene anymore for what he did—though Eugene, the last time we saw him, was barely awake. He was in the back of the fire truck. We have yet to see Eugene on his feet. Rosita is ground down from all of this, and devastated. All of these characters have been through it and now they have to face the challenge of surviving together. We’re gonna see what they’re made of.

Let’s talk Rick. He wanted to kill off the Terminus folks after they escaped and they didn’t,—and then Bob gets his leg chewed off. He wanted to go in and get Beth, they didn’t—and Beth died. So what does all this doing to Rick’s worldview in terms of getting things done and dealing with potential threats?

It’s doing what you would guess, which is only cementing him in his beliefs and in his approach. It doesn’t change the motivation for him wanting to play it safe, and playing it safe to him is going on offense all the time. But the motivation for that is how deeply he feels for the people he’s survived with. He’s not gonna take chances anymore. It’s their survival first, and if it means killing first or perhaps not helping, being not trusting, that’s what he’s gonna do.

We saw Andrew Lincoln out and about a bit without a beard while you guys were still filming. Can you confirm that the beard will go, Scott?

Uh, I can confirm that the beard was seen off his face, but the beard might’ve been on hiatus. That’s a hell of a beard, it really has to go through a lot. Andy is a stern taskmaster. The beard needed a break. Last I heard, the beard was hanging out in Norman Reedus’ freezer. That’s like a Hawaiian vacation for a beard.

What about Morgan? Is it safe to assume he’s getting closer? He’s got that map now that seemed to point to D.C. Could he intercept them at some juncture?

Well, I mean, the map was the second-to-last image of the half-season, so it absolutely will have some significance. It might just be that the map says Rick Grimes on there, and he might possibly believe that Rick is still alive and nearby and in the general area. Could be that Morgan is just a map collector. Probably the former. But yeah, the map will have a good deal of significance.

What can you tell us about what we may see from Glenn coming up?

I think so much of this show has been about the character Glenn growing up and the world becoming a more complicated place for him—more emotionally complicated. It’s exciting to see those characters who start in one place and end up in another and this is Glenn winding up in a different emotional place than he began.

You guys were all telling me recently about how the back half of the season is gonna feel a lot different from the first half. Tell me what you mean by that.

You’ve hit upon a couple of the things, which are big things. We’re not gonna see the group split up as much. They’re gonna be dealing with survival, really hardcore survival. The dynamics of that story are different than what we had in the previous eight episodes. Beyond that, we’re gonna see these characters really ground-down, really tested. Somebody could probably grab that quote from me regarding last season, but this is gonna be a test in many ways of how much they can emotionally withstand. Like I said, things are gonna get worse before they get better, and these people are going to be pushed to their emotional breaking point as well. And then the story will shift quite a bit and we are going to see a show that in its look and circumstances is very, very different from what we’ve seen on the show.

You can buy the new Norman Reedus EW cover right here. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.