The characters on The Walking Dead spent most of tonight’s show enjoying a nice, quiet day — if the word “nice” can be used to describe (in the case of Rick) searching for the ghost of your recently eaten-by-zombies wife and (in the case of Daryl) reminiscing about being physically abused by your father. But things turned very nasty in the final fifteen minutes as the Governor and his goons sent hirsute convict Axel to the great Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in the sky and unleashed a, literal, van-load of walkers onto our beleaguered heroes.
Below, Walking Dead comic writer — and TV show executive producer — Robert Kirkman says a fond farewell to the zombie epic’s latest casualty, explains why it’s best not to bother Andrew Lincoln before he shoots a scene, and confirms the unlikelihood of Carol ever settling down with Mr Right.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, by the time the show was three-quarters of the way through I had assembled a lot of questions for you about it being a calm-before-the-storm episode. And then—Bam!—the Allman Brothers Band roadie gets shot in the head and all hell breaks loose.
ROBERT KIRKMAN:[Laughs] Yeah, we don’t like to wait around on the Walking Dead. We knew there was a coming conflict. We thought we would go ahead and start things off.
Did the Governor think of this as a warning shot? Or did he have hopes he could capture the prison in one surprise attack?
If you watch that attack it’s clearly more of a fishing expedition and also kind of a posturing move. Lew Temple’s character Axel sadly gets it and I feel like that was almost more luck than something that was calculated. It was really a threat: We’re tearing the door down, we’re shooting some guns, we want to show you that we’re powerful, we want to see what your capabilities to retaliate actually are.
Would you care to say a few words about the late, lamented Axel?
I’ve got to say, Axel is one of the characters in the comic books that I miss the most. I had a lot of fun writing him. He was a good bit of comic relief and definitely served that purpose in the show to an amazing degree. Lew Temple did such an awesome job with the guy. We’re always sad to see our characters go but this one was rough for me. I’d spent years [being] like, “Oh my god, I can’t wait to write Axel again! I love Axel! I miss him so much!” And then I didn’t really get to write Axel very much so I was kind of upset. But it is what it is.
If only it had been within your power—as an executive producer on the show and one of its writers and one of the folks who created the Walking Dead in the first place—to give him a stay of execution.
It comes to a point where you’re like, “Okay, this is the only option moving forward.” It’s a sad thing but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
The Governor used zombies essentially as weapons. Obviously rounding up a bunch of the undead and sticking them in a truck is pretty hazardous. Did you have a discussion as to whether it would be practical? And, if so, was that a moment when you thought, “I can’t believe I get paid to think about this s—”?
Yeah, there’s always discussions in the room where we’re sitting around talking about “zombies-this” and “zombies-that” and whether that would happen. And I do kind of sit back and think, “I can’t believe seven adults are sitting in a conference room talking about what an eyeball would do if it was crushed out of a skull — for like two hours.” It’s really crazy. But it’s a lot of fun.
The Walking Dead is an apocalyptic world that is somewhat different from ours in that it has zombies running around. So when you think about ways to attack people there’s the normal, every day way that you would do it in real life and then you throw zombies into the mix…You know, it’s a zombie-Trojan-horse kind of thing and we thought that would be cool.
Next: “Daryl’s got a really sad past and we’ve only seen pieces of that.”
Going back, I feel we doubled or tripled our knowledge about the Dixon brothers and the nature of their relationship with the sequence in which we saw Daryl’s scars.
Yeah. It’s great having them together now so that we can start peeling those layers back and showing you more of who they are and how they became who they are. We like being able to take these moments with Daryl and say, “Oh, here’s this character that we know you all love and here’s a little bit more to him.” He’s got a really sad past and we’ve only seen pieces of that.
We only saw a glimpse of his back. Are those whip marks?
Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely the result of many severe beating.
But that really is Norman Reedus’ back tattoo, right?
Yes. [Deadpanning] Actually, those scars are his too. He actually did that just for the show. He was going ‘method.’
Well, speaking of which, I know that Andrew Lincoln does method it up a bit. Given that his character is in such a bleak place, what was he like to be around when you filmed these shows?
Andrew Lincoln is amazing. When I’m on set for filming, he’s intense. He has to do these really intense scenes, so he will sit off to the side with his headphones and listen to music. I’ve sometimes had conversations with him where I’m like, “Oh, oh, oh, you are preparing for this scene that you have to shoot in thirty seconds and I’m interrupting you, I’m very sorry.” He’ll do push-ups and jumping jacks and punch things and scream and all kinds of crazy stuff in preparation for those scenes.
Maybe that’s just his reaction to you trying to hang out with him.
You know what? Now that I think about it, everyone does that when I try to talk to them on set. I just realized that. Holy crap!
There was a very intense scene between Glenn and Maggie.
Yeah. Glenn is having a hard time dealing with what he believes happened, or what he knows happened. I think that this is him projecting his frustration over what happened to him and how he was helpless to save Maggie, or do anything there. It’s coming out in really odd ways. And I think it’s the matter of the tension of the looming Woodbury threat coming out in a relationship-damaging way that I’m sure he wishes he could prevent but it’s something that’s out of his control.
Finally, this show confirmed that Carol really does have the worst luck with men.
[Laughs] Yeah, yeah. That poor woman. Things just aren’t going well for her. But she’ll someone else eventually. And then they’ll die too!
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