Gene Page/AMC
March 19, 2012 at 09:01 PM EDT

Say, have you heard about this Walking Dead finale? AMC’s breakout-sensation zombie drama closed out its second season last night with a slate-wiping hour of television. An undead herd invaded the much-despised farm which has housed the cast of survivors for most of this season. Then, in the episode’s closing minutes, there were two big developments. We got on the phone with Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara, who’s preparing to speak at the 2012 NAB Show in Las Vegas — alongside fellow Dead producers Dave Alpert, Gale Anne Hurd, and Robert Kirkman — on Tuesday, April 17, for a panel called “Walking Dead: Creating a Thinking Person’s Zombie Drama.”

Mazzara famously took the reins of Walking Dead after original showrunner Frank Darabont departed at the season’s halfway point, and he summed up his stewardship of Dead in simple terms: “I had a clear-cut goal to put Rick first, to pay off stories that we had been telling, to make the world around them seem more threatening, and to get them off the farm and out into that threatening world.” Read on for more information about new characters, new storylines, and T-Dog. (A note on spoilers — I’ve mostly kept questions relating to the Dead comic books confined to common-knowledge information, but there’s one plot point in particular that I’ll frame with a spoiler warning. So keep an eye out. Or just read the comics already.)

I tried to keep track of how many zombies got killed in the season finale, but I quickly lost track. By your estimate, how many walkers did we just see get shot in the face?

Not enough.

Based on that last speech, Rick is clearly in a much darker place now than he was at the start of the season. Is the responsibility starting to get to him?

I think he feels that he has sacrificed for this group, and that sacrifice hasn’t really been appreciated. His confession to Lori did not get the reaction that he had hoped. He thought she would be supportive. Instead, she reacts in a particular way that he feels is hatred and disgust. I think that’s really affecting him. Let’s not forget: This is taking place hours after he murdered his best friend. So he is still reeling. He’s trying to keep that a secret. He opens his heart to his wife, and it doesn’t go well. So I think that he’s just done with these people. I think he doesn’t want to be the leader. As he says: If they don’t like it, they’re free to leave.

I will also say, it’s interesting that he’s in that place going into season 3. Because there will be antagonists for him to face in season 3.

We’ve heard about the casting of David Morrissey as The Governor. What’s your vision of how the Governor plays into the TV show?

In the comic, the Governor is a villain. Our Governor is also, clearly, a villain. He may not be as readily apparent as what’s in the comic book. We will certainly put our spin on that. But we have a dynamic, compelling character that we’re excited to bring into season 3. We expect to tell a story about two different groups of people: Rick’s band of survivors, and the Governor’s world of Woodbury.

That’s interesting, especially since the most common critique of this season is that the world of the show felt hermetically sealed, with just the characters in Rick’s gang.

I think we’ve told our story about this group. The story about the love triangle of Rick, Shane, and Lori, and about trying to find a safe place, and life on the farm. We’ve given that story more than enough screen time. Moving forward, we want to open this up. To introduce new characters, new stories, new locations, new dynamics. I think next year will feel like a radically different show. We’ve improved the pacing drastically. We’ll still have our characters, and still tell stories about people that we care about. I think that everything we’ve done so far has been a warm-up, and I think our best episodes lie ahead.

NEXT: On Rick, and how Walking Dead can be more like Breaking Bad

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