[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s midseason finale of The Walking Dead, “Start to Finish.”]
Alexandria under siege! The walkers finally got through the walls on Sunday’s midseason finale of The Walking Dead thanks to a crashing tower, and mayhem and madness followed. As if a swarm of zombies was not enough to deal with, Ron tried to kill Carl, Carol and Morgan fought over a Wolf, and, worst of all, Sam watched his cookie get overrun by hungry ants.
It also left us with a few questions: Why did Deanna have to die? Why did Rosita, Tara, and Eugene turn over their weapons and let the Wolf go? What should we make of that cliff-hanger ending? And then what of the Negan- and Saviors-introducing prologue scene that followed? We went to the main man for answers and asked showrunner Scott M. Gimple all that and more. (Also make sure to read our interview with Deanna Monroe herself, Tovah Feldshuh and our Q&A with Andrew Lincoln.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The Alexandria siege takes place over several issues of the comic and we have certainly not seen the end of it here because these guys still need to make it out. Was there ever a point when you were going to try to jam all of this into a single episode?
SCOTT M. GIMPLE: Yeah, the books did break it up. With this, when going through all the story we had for the 16 episodes and the way we wanted to do it, one of the things that hit me was doing it differently than last year. I love doing eight episodes as a whole chapter and then being done, but we did that the last two half-seasons, and I just wanted to do it a little differently and play around with it a little bit. It’s not always going to be cliff-hangers. It’s not always going to be closed-ended chapters. It will be both and I felt like I wanted to do it that way for this. There is very much between episodes 8 and 9 this connection and this yin and yang thing going on, so hopefully after 9, people will get why. And especially after 10.
It’s a very interesting place to cut it, sort of on a cliff-hanger here with them trying to get out through the herd and Sam potentially starting to freak out. How did you settle on that spot?
It was when each character reached their point of what their goal was or their highest point of peril. It’s the promise of watching all of those stories play out — each one of them.
Comic fans know Douglas Monroe dies right around this time in the comic, but that doesn’t mean his TV counterpart Deanna had to die here because you change that stuff up all the time. So why did you decide to kill off Deanna here?
She died helping Rick. That’s exactly what happened with her. There’s no absolute equation to it, but just for her story, we felt that there are senseless deaths and random deaths, but there are also those deaths where the character achieves in some ways what they needed to achieve and the thing they were always moving towards — that final threshold. And she fighting the world side-by-side with Rick in the exact same way that Rick had done it — she had achieved that transformation, and there’s a cost to that transformation.
But even the way that she faced that transformation was heroic, and she was who she always was. So we got to return to who she was in some ways. It felt like her time and in many ways she was passing along thoughts to Michonne that are very important for Michonne moving forward.
It seems like what you’re saying is that her speech to Rick there about them all being Rick’s people, that is going to fundamentally change him somewhat and sink in a little bit.
Absolutely. I ‘m glad you brought that up, and frankly I wish that I had brought it up. You know what, if you could ask and answer the questions, we’ll do a lot better here. I was working last night on 6B so I’m a little frazzled. But really, that is one of the most important things about that story, is where did we start with Rick in 601. We started with him not feeling the Alexandrians are ready and if they’re not ready then too bad for them.
Or in 603, he’s saying a lot of them aren’t going to make it and you can’t let them pull you down. To Deanna saying to him — and she died in some ways to save Rick and keep him safe — they’re all his people. That’s one of the most important things for Rick to realize and to come to, and it doesn’t seem like he’s entirely come to it yet. And Deanna with one of her final breaths is trying to get that through to his soul.
This is the worst timing possible for people to be carrying out their own personal beefs, yet we have Ron trying to kill Carl, and Carol and Morgan getting into a big fight as well, all while there are hundreds of zombies outside. So what’s that all about?
That’s the pressure in the situation and the claustrophobia of the situation and feeling like there might not be a tomorrow. Before attacking Carl, Ron says, “We’re all dead, and it’s your dad’s fault.” It’s very easy for him to pull a gun on Carl when he’s feeling that despondent. For Carol and Morgan, the moment could not be more intense. It all had to do with the fact that they were shoved into the same space and it wasn’t a moment for discussion — no matter how much Morgan would have liked that. Morgan wasn’t like “Hey, let’s fight.” Morgan was like “Hey, let’s talk about this.” Carol couldn’t let it go and I basically sympathize with both of their points of view.
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I actually yelled at my screen for Rosita and Tara to take a shot at the Wolf when he had Denise, but they did not and instead turned over their weapons, which seems like a terrible idea with that lunatic. Why don’t they take that shot?
Well, in my mind, I would say that’s being pretty responsible. I think Rosita had, like, an 80 percent chance of making that shot with everything going okay. And she was like, “You know what? I’m not going to play with the 20 percent here. There’s a chance I might shoot Denise in the face.” Or that he might be able to hurt her. For Tara, I don’t know if she would have gotten him either. I know that she probably wasn’t 100 percent sure. I do not blame them. If you have a risk of shooting someone in the face that you love or even like or don’t even know, I don’t blame them for erring on the side of caution at all. But you do, Dalton!
I do! Take the shot! Okay, let’s talk about the prologue scene which aired later during Into the Badlands. Was this a scene you originally shot to air right after the credits of 608?
It was a post-credits scene and wound up a little longer than I thought it was going to be, and I loved how it turned out. It turned out like this cool little movie. If it was shorter and it wasn’t as meaty I would be a little unsure about doing that and having it air later, but I wanted to keep it in tact for the audience, and thought it could very much stand on its own. Our post-credits sequences generally don’t go that long. So it felt like a cool little movie, and I felt that to keep it that way and show it a little later was a good deal because I just love the way it all came out. I didn’t want to cut a drop of it, so showing it seven minutes later was not a gigantic price to pay and I wanted to deliver the audience the best possible version of it
That scene is a bit similar but also different from how the Saviors first appear in the comic. What can you say about the introduction of Negan and the Saviors to people that are familiar with the comic and those that are not?
For people who aren’t familiar with them, I don’t want to say much. Though I do believe you should read the comics, if you haven’t yet you’re going to — I hope — have some exciting and fun discovery as the layers are peeled away on that mystery. And if you have read the comics, there are a lot of moments directly out of the book when it comes to the Saviors. And then some really cool expansions of the comic story. And some hard left turns from the comic story that do eventually wind up with a lot of very familiar small scenes form the book and big scenes from the book.
Not counting flashbacks, the first half of season all took place over the course of just two days. Is it safe to say that timeline will accelerate a bit the second half?
It accelerates quite a bit. You mean in terms of more days, right?
Yes, definitely. I would say there are some big jumps. Not a ton of days, but there are a couple of jumps.
Also make sure to read our interview with Deanna Monroe herself, Tovah Feldshuh and our Q&A with Andrew Lincoln. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.