[WARNING!!! THIS POST CONTAINS ‘WALKING DEAD’ SPOILERS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK]
It was only a few weeks ago that Walking Dead executive producer Robert Kirkman spelled out to EW one of the guiding principles of AMC’s zombie saga. “People have to die!” declared Kirkman, who also writes the Walking Dead comic. That idea was doubly — triply? — confirmed in the course of tonight’s show, which featured the demise of Sarah Wayne Callies’ Lori and IronE Singleton’s T-Dog while also replacing the headscarf of Melissa McBride’s Carol with a is-she-or-ain’t-she-zombie-chow? question mark.
Below, Kirkman ruminates on the episode’s shocking twists, the pros and cons of using the undead as fertilizer, and, of course, David Morrissey’s golf swing.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Greetings from post-hurricane New York, where you should know the Walking Dead is no longer regarded as a fictional drama but rather a how-to guide!
ROBERT KIRKMAN: Well, that’s certainly unsettling. The footage I saw of the Jersey coastline was just terrible. I was sorry to hear about all that.
On to the business at hand. Lori. Dead. Why?
[Laughs] I don’t think anyone else will ask that question that well. Well, like with any death on Walking Dead, it’s all about sitting down and figuring out what gives us the best story and what realistically portrays that world. I’ve always said that people are going to die — that’s just how we’re telling the story — and to not have people dying left and right would just be fake to me.
We didn’t think we could get through that prison riot-with-zombies kind of thing without losing a few characters. So, when we sat down to figure out who was going to go [we thought about] the things that Lori’s death does to Carl and Rick but also to Maggie and other characters. It’s really important that we focus on that kind of stuff and I think that death gives us the most story coming out of it. So, that’s what we did!
Lori dies in a different way in the comic book but her demise does come at the prison at a similar-ish stage in the saga. Did you always have it in the back of your mind that this was something which was likely to occur on the TV show?
Yeah. I mean, I always knew from the beginning of writing the comic that Rick would eventually lose his wife. That was something that I think was important to the development of his relationship with Carl. I also liked the idea of adding more danger to Rick’s life by saying, “Oh, by the way, you’re now responsible for this baby.” I thought that that would be something which would make his life that much more difficult and make his life that much more interesting to watch unfold.
Right, because that guy’s life has been a f—king garden of roses up until this point.
The Walking Dead really is us in the writers room sitting around trying to make Rick Grimes’ life as unbearable as possible.
I appreciate why you wouldn’t show a young kid shooting his own mother in the head. But as you didn’t, it does raise the question of whether Lori really is dead, dead, dead — in every sense of the word.
[Laughs] I think we’ve seen enough that we know Carl would not miss from that range.
It is a reasonable question to ask, though.
Yeah. I think the bad version of this show would definitely have a half-alive, half-zombie Lori living in the prison doing all sorts of nefarious things in the background. But, no, that poor child did shoot his mother and, yeah, we’re going to be dealing with that.
Did you ever consider having Lori and Shane go off into the sunset to have zombie sex together?
No, no. But I think it does show that, in the world of the Walking Dead, infidelity will get you killed.
Next up, sir. T-Dog. Dead. Why?
Well, again, we’re just trying to portray this world realistically. I think T-Dog really stepped up this season and was extremely heroic and we really wanted him to go out with a hero’s death. The fact that he knew that he was dead but still tried to do whatever he could to hopefully save Carol – although it is pretty ambiguous as to what exactly happened to her. But, yeah, we wanted to show someone really just making a sacrifice and doing whatever he could to protect someone.
I’m not accusing you of coming over all Richard Dawkins, but T-Dog’s plan of putting his fate in God’s hands did not really work out very well.
No. I’m not going to get into any religious debates. But God is not very kind in the world of the Walking Dead.
On the subject of Carol, I have twenty bucks says she’s still alive.
Well, you didn’t see a body. You never know though…
Next: “That stuff is hard for even me to watch.”
I could watch zombies get killed all day but, as someone who used to have to squeamishly watch E.R. through my fingers, I found the caesarean sequence almost impossible to sit through.
Yeah. Look, even though I work on this show and even though I see this stuff in various forms as it goes through, that stuff is hard for even me to watch. That was definitely a moment where I’m sitting in the editing room going, “Really? Really, they’re letting us do this? Okay!”
I also couldn’t help notice “they” also let you use the phrase “rug-muncher.”
[Laughs] Well, we’re doing our due diligence to get around the censors as best we can.
How is all of this mayhem going to affect Rick? It’s fair to say that guy was not the life and soul of the party in the first place.
Right. Coming out of this, I think there’s some really interesting things coming up for Rick. You saw him in sheer agony at the end of this episode. This is something that’s going to affect him for a good long while. I like to say that this is absolutely the worst thing that could possibly happen to him on the eve of what looks like a coming conflict [with] the Governor and Woodbury. So I think he’s in the absolute worst head space he could be for the things that are coming up.
I know you have these farewell dinners for actors whose characters get killed on the show. Did you have a joint one for Sarah Wayne Callies and IronE Singleton?
Yeah. They both got robbed and they had to share a dinner, which is kind of unfortunate. But it may not be the last time that happens!
My favorite line in the show came from Daryl when he said of the two prisoners “They’re degenerates, but they ain’t psychos!” Which leads me to believe Daryl has some sort of graph charting the different levels of maniacs.
[Laughs] I think we’ll have to do that on the AMC website: Daryl Dixon’s Varying Degrees of Maniacs.
I have to quibble with you about something Rick said early in the show. I would have thought “walker-rotted soil” might actually be good for growing vegetables.
Theoretically. I don’t know, though. It might get into the water table and then there’d be some ramifications from having that zombie gook hitting the water supply. I don’t really know how this all works. We’re going to get some farming experts in here very soon!
And now to the really serious stuff. David Morrissey’s got to be a golfer, right? Boy’s got a hell of a swing.
Yes. Yes. I think he did a lot of golfing over there in the U.K. and has been adamantly saying, “Hey, can I do some golfing in the show, so I could show off my form?” We try to keep the actors happy so that’s why we worked that scene in for him.
There was mention of the Governor’s daughter. I’m looking forward to meeting that cute little tyke!
[Uproarious laughter — which will be appreciated by readers of the comic book] I don’t want to reveal too much. But I will say that the opening scene of episode 5 is, uh…It’s going to be a pretty memorable one. So be on the look out for that.
How did you celebrate Halloween?
I went trick-or-treating with my kids. It was a lot of fun. We had some friends over and I got to run around with a bunch of kids in costume from house to house making sure they didn’t get abducted or anything.
Did you dress up?
No — because I am an old man and I’m no fun at all.
Finally, I’m not trying to put words into your mouth, but Rick is Obama and the Governor is Romney, right?
Holy smokes! Don’t box me in like this! Sure…