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'Walking Dead': Gale Anne Hurd on season finale

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[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Conquer” season finale of The Walking Dead.]

There was blood and death, but mercy as well. A few characters (Reg, Pete) said goodbye, while another one said hello…again (Morgan). All in all, it was a dramatic season 5 finale for The Walking Dead, and one which appeared to set the table for season 6 with the Rick-Morgan reunion as well as an impending threat outside the walls of Alexandria with a mysterious group known as the Wolves. We spoke with Gale Anne Hurd to get her take on what went down—and what’s coming up. (Also make sure to read our season finale Q&As with Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus, as well as a season 6 tease from showrunner Scott Gimple.)

EW: Let’s start with Rick’s big speech at the end after he dumps that zombie on the ground.  What’s it like to watch Andrew Lincoln do his thing and just take command of a scene like that?

GALE ANNE HURD: All of his Royal Academy of Arts training is certainly coming to the fore. Even when he was pitted against Pete, who was physically much larger than he was, I don’t think anyone doubted his ability to win. And he wins not only through his physicality, but his mental toughness and acuity. He’s someone who now knows who he is. Not everyone may like that, but he’s embraced the fact that the world has changed and he cannot return to being farmer Rick.

Andrew told me that he thinks that if the town meeting had gone badly—and I guess it did go badly in other respects—that they would have gone to plan B and just taken over the place, by force if necessary. Do you agree?You know what? At this point it is by far the best environment they have encountered since the zombie apocalypse. And one in which they can restart civilization, and he was not willing to lose it to fools. And this doesn’t mean that Deanna isn’t smart. Deanna just is not prepared to handle what’s out there and he and Michonne and Carol and his group are. And obviously they have a fantastic new addition in Morgan.

Obviously we have been waiting to Morgan get back to Rick for a while now. He seems like a different man. How has he changed since we last saw him at length back in season 3 with the “Clear” episode?

It’s interesting in that the Morgan you saw then is almost—if you just took a snapshot—the Rick you saw last night: you know, someone who can pull a trigger without thinking twice. But he had gone mad. And he has found not only his sanity but he has found almost this warrior peace and acceptance of himself and the world. He has a clearly defined moral code at this point, and what he saw Rick do in the season finale is probably in violation of that. [Laughs]

Any chance we might get a backstory episode with Morgan in season 6, kind of like what you did in season 4 with the Governor?

I hope so, but I don’t know is the honest answer.

What can you say about this mysterious group the Wolves whom we were finally introduced to here in the finale?

Sadly, nothing—other than I certainly don’t ever want to come across them in my lifetime.

Well, clearly a confrontation of some sort must be brewing for season 6.

Yes. We certainly saw them looking over photos from Alexandria and I doubt that bodes well for them.

We have Rick, Glenn, and Sasha all in positions of being able to pull the trigger on someone. Rick does it, but the others do not. Does that mean that everyone might not be on the same page going forward in terms of the approach towards dealing with problems in the new Alexandria?

I think that certainly it was quite a surprise to see Sasha choose not to dispatch Gabriel and to see them actually holding hands and praying together. But that’s what it’s going to take to heal the world. With Glenn, I’m sure that some of the last things that Noah said to him before he died resonate. And he doesn’t want to become Nicholas. He doesn’t want to become someone who believes that even if someone is trying to kill you it’s okay to essentially kill them in cold blood. Because at that point, Nicholas would have won.

One of the best parts of this season for me was seeing the continued evolution of Carol and watching her go undercover in Alexandria. And she’s on the other side of that spectrum that you just talked about. Talk to me a bit about her in this final episode—because she had a few big scenes—as well as how she may be reacting to what happened in that final scene.

Carol is committed to her group surviving, whatever it takes—whatever the cost to everyone else. And we’ve been able to slowly follow her reaching that point and understand where she’s coming from. She really can see everything in black and white; there aren’t very many shades of gray for her, so in that sense she and Rick are closest in how they now see the world and what it takes to survive. Now she’ll take on Pete. She can get him to back down—he’s much bigger than she is. Just imagine the growth from what she did to survive with Ed. I also think it’s interesting that she’s able to become a chameleon and fit in even though she’s hiding her true colors—which she had to do as a survival technique because she was abused.

Now that season 5 is over, talk to me about this season in general and how you feel it fits in with the whole arc of the series and what stands out about this one for you?

I think what stands out for me is that we’ve seen the moments of desperation. We’ve seen how they were able to survive, thanks to Carol, the threat of Terminus—survive incredible loss of so many people that were so close and so dear and important to all of them. And now they have found what at least seems like a sanctuary, but it’s one that they are going to protect and, if necessary, protect from itself—protect from the fact that they are not equipped to handle what is coming, or what may be coming. And that is represented by both the walker we saw inside and the threat of the Wolves. We’re excited to start the new season.

Also make sure to read our season finale Q&As with Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus, as well as a season 6 tease from showrunner Scott Gimple. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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