Dalton Ross
December 11, 2017 AT 03:00 PM EST

[SPOILER ALERT: Read only if you have already watched The Walking Dead midseason finale, “How It’s Gotta Be.”]

The Walking Dead just unleashed the shocker to end all shockers when it was revealed at the end of the midseason finale that Carl had a chunk of his flesh missing thanks to a walker bite. Star Andrew Lincoln told EW it was the biggest death we’ve ever done,” and the actor at the center of the storm, Chandler Riggs, spoke about having to say goodbye to the cast and crew in the next episode.

But what about the man responsible for all the misery? No, not Siddiq! Rather, we’re talking about showrunner Scott M. Gimple. Why do this to the Grimes family? What does this mean for Rick and the show moving forward? And why depart so wildly from the comics, where Carl is alive and well?

Those aren’t the only questions we have. What about Maggie’s decision to execute a prisoner? And Eugene’s decision to help Gabriel and Dr. Carson escape? And will we ever see Alexandria again? We asked Gimple all that and more.

Gene Page/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So let’s get right to it: Why do this to poor Carl?
SCOTT M. GIMPLE: You absolutely will see. It’s just a huge part of the story moving forward and this event is front and center in the story moving forward and it affects all the characters’ actions. It’s just a critical piece of how the story evolves.

It seems like one could draw a pretty straight line from those lessons we heard Carl telling Rick in this episode to those scenes with Rick from the premiere in some sort of time and place talking about his mercy prevailing over his wrath, right?
I don’t want to comment and get ahead of the story. It’s just the next episode, Dalton! It’s just the next episode where you have to wait to see some of the things you’re talking about.

Does that mean we’ll see more Old Man Rick in the next episode?
I believe you’re going to see more of Old Man Rick. I’ll give you that. You pinned me down on that.

You’re creating lots of story by doing this to Carl, but you’re also sacrificing lots of story from the comic book in terms of things coming up there with a very much alive Carl. How much did that factor into the decision and how bummed are you as a fan of the comic book that you won’t get to explore that, at least not in that way?
That was a big struggle about it. It’s a difficult aspect of it but you still want to tell those stories from the comic, and we will. We have seen major stories from characters in the comic go to different characters on the television show. We’re committed to keep telling the story from the comic book. Yes, it’s going to be different. And yes, Negan’s relationship to Carl was a big part of the story moving forward, especially in the world changes we see early on. But, as usual, we do plan on telling those comic stories. It just will have to be with different people and it’s a different way to tell those same stories. But we hope to still fulfill what those stories do.

There’s also the general sense in the comic of the leadership torch perhaps being passed at some point from father Rick to son Carl, and Andrew Lincoln and I spoke the other day and he always assumed that would happen on the show. That’s harder to replicate, right? You talk about moving things over to different characters but that’s a little bit harder.
It is, but it still can happen, just in a different way. We haven’t seen it in the books yet. Robert [Kirkman] hasn’t written it yet, but we’re still going to try to do right by Robert’s story.

What is this going to do to Rick? We saw what happened after he lost his wife Lori? What about now losing his son on top of that?
The way it happens is critically important to Rick’s state of mind. This is a story that allows characters to say goodbye and to have a closing statement in some ways. And Carl challenges him in certain ways that are difficult, and we’ll see how Rick can reconcile the type of things that Carl tells him.

Let’s talk about Maggie’s decision to straight up execute one of her Savior prisoners in cold blood. What percentage of that is pissed off revenge and what percent is a calculated strategic maneuver with the whole “We have 38 more, stand down” message on the coffin?
I think because she thought about it from the moment she asked for that coffin, the majority is strategy. The majority is trying to take care of her people and be a good leader. I’d give it 60 percent strategy, 40 percent anger and emotion — maybe even a little bit less because you see her walking away from it. It wasn’t anything that Maggie felt great about; it was something she felt she had to do considering the people she’s up against. In some ways, she’s offering them some sort of way to move forward — just because she’s saying stand down, we have your people, we have to come to some sort of conclusion here.

Since the beginning of the season, Negan has said he wants the king, the widow, and Rick. Then, in this episode, we see Negan saying he’s there to kill Rick, we see Gavin saying they need to bring Ezekiel in, so why does Simon let Maggie go?
They want the Hilltop to continue producing. They want an example to be made of the place in that they keep producing for the Saviors. Their supplies are a little low considering everything that just happened. But having them under Negan’s thumb has great use for them as well.

Where is Eugene now on his dark side meter after helping the Saviors escape yet then also helping Gabriel and Dr. Carson?
That’s where we’re seeing some of that ambiguity that Dwight had in terms of where does he stand? That got ported over to Eugene a little bit.

Will Alexandria be rebuilt as in the comics? We saw it get the crap bombed out of it.
I shan’t tell you that. But it did indeed get the crap bombed out of it. And I couldn’t be there that night which bummed me out so much. Because there’s a whole lot of real people that live there and I just wanted to see the neighbors taking in watching their community being surgically blown up. It was an incredible accomplishment, and I will say in some ways about three or four years in the planning. Because when we originally designed some of the things that were built in Alexandria, I knew that this was coming and had to put them in certain places so we could do what we needed to do and use certain materials. There are certain aspects of it that we wanted those buildings to be very recognizable. So it was crazy to have that finally pan out.

We do see, at the very end, them all talking about going to the Hilltop, so will that become the new base of operations?
I will say that it went that way in the book.

You like to think of the show in eight-episode story chunks, so tell me what these first eight episodes were about and what the next eight are about?
These eight episodes were about Rick just lunging forward with a point of view and a plan, and the danger inherent in that plan. And the world ultimately reminding him that there are things outside of his control and that there are things even beyond the conflict that he finds himself in. There are things just beyond that. The next eight are about who he is going to be.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss. The Walking Dead returns in February on AMC.

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