Fans of The Walking Dead have been taking sides all week: Did Rick make the right move in not allowing Carol back to the prison after she killed two people in the hopes of stopping a deadly virus from spreading, or was she merely making the tough call that he was unable and unwilling to make because he was off farming? The woman who plays Carol, Melissa McBride, weighed in with her thoughts earlier this week, and now Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple offers his perspective on the debate. Will we ever see Carol again? And where did the inspiration for the big virus storyline come from? Scott Gimple reveals all! (Which is to say that he reveals as much as he feels like revealing, which is…some.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You gave Carol this great storyline of her evolving into this woman ready to embrace the extremes she sees necessary to survive in this world, and then you get rid of her. Why do that to poor Carol, Scott?
SCOTT M. GIMPLE: So I guess you don’t like Rick’s move?
EW: As I tweeted out the moment I saw it, I am total Team Carol on this one. Total Team Carol! What about you? Do you agree with Rick’s decision there to not allow her back?
GIMPLE: I agree with both of their decisions. I love that people are arguing about it because what we hoped to have was both sides of a good argument.
EW: And people do seem divided. I’ve seen people on our message boards upset about what Carol did, and others upset and saying that Rick essentially did the same thing by making a big impactful decision on his own without consulting anyone just like she did.
GIMPLE: But check it out! Because Carol was the one saying “You have to start making decisions.” He did what she wanted him to do, which was step up, make a decision. But more so, every episode has had something taken away from Rick that he had achieved at the beginning of the season when we first saw him. One of those things was making those brutal decisions. He didn’t want to do that. They have a council now. He was out of that business. And this illness has just been taking things away from him every episode. And that was one of the big things, that he had to go back to doing that. Clara told him “You don’t get to come back from the things you’ve done.” And he doesn’t get to be the kind of guy who takes his son’s gun away. He gave that gun back to Carl in episode 2. He doesn’t get to be the type of guy who raises pigs and farms. No, he had to kill those pigs. He had to burn part of that farm. He doesn’t get to be the type of guy to say, “Well, glad I don’t have to make that decision.” No, he has to be the guy to make that decision.
If this was debate club and I had to debate either Rick or Carol’s side, I would feel confident — very confident — that I could represent either party very well. And I love seeing people making great arguments on both sides. I love that. A huge part of this show is people asking, What would I do? which leads to the question: Who am I? Who am I at the end of the day when it all goes down?
EW: Not just who am I? But what am I willing to become or not become?
GIMPLE: And what would this make me? And what’s cool is that we get to ask these questions all day.
EW: Well, how are you going to answer the question right now when I ask you if we will see Carol again?
GIMPLE: That’s a very easy answer which is: I cannot tell you. I will tell you that Robert Kirkman said, “Hey, we saw Merle again!”
EW: And we saw Morgan again.
GIMPLE: We did!
EW: Tell me about the decision to make the virus storyline such a central part of the first half of the season. Where did that idea come from?
GIMPLE: When we were making the episode “Clear” it was kind of a long drive to the town that we were shooting it in. And I was like, you know. I’m going to better myself. I’m going to listen to Camus’ The Plague. You know, it’s not just gonna be comics. I’m gonna get back into literature! And from The Plague my mind just drifted off to The Walking Dead. I was like, man, that’s a cool book and that’s a pretty cool idea. So there was that, and it was in my mind and I was thinking about how in third world situations, things break out — cholera and dysentery and bubonic plague. Then I had taken a trip to Edinburgh shortly after that at the end of the season to visit my wife’s family and there was this tour underneath the city and there was a lot about the bubonic plague and how it had broken out, how it was treated, and how they burnt the bodies. And it all sort of came together with the theme of safety in this place. It was just one of those things where you’re like “Oh, wow, that could be cool.”
It’s part of the zombie milieu — this communicable way of dying and becoming a threat. But it’s weird. It exists in this life with things like bird flu and pandemics in general. You mix that in with a zombie apocalypse where it just accelerates the problem where first you’re a threat because you could make somebody die and that person becomes a threat by dying and then coming back. So it seemed very much in line with the stories we were telling. And it facilitated certain things in the comic, as you saw. Certain things in the comic that I wanted to get back to.
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