'The Walking Dead' creator Robert Kirkman breaks down the violent and emotional premiere
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s season premiere of The Walking Dead.]
There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on Sunday’s season premiere of The Walking Dead. Especially blood. We spoke to comic creator and TV exec producer Robert Kirkman to get his take on all the mayhem — including those emotional reunions, a secret post-credits scene, and the stuff they didn’t think would make it to air.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Well, I guess I don’t have to keep asking you if the people of Terminus are cannibals.
ROBERT KIRKMAN: It certainly looks like they are eating the people, yeah. I don’t know what else they would be doing. Maybe they’re making furniture?
There were a lot of super gory moments in this episode. I think maybe the most chilling thing for me was how absolutely cavalier these guys are as they’re slitting people’s throats — almost like they’re filing paperwork or doing menial labor or something.
They’re certainly horrible people. I mean, you’re either the butcher or the cattle. They are definitely butchers. That opening scene with the throat slits, I was standing next to [director] Greg Nicotero on set at one point and he just leaned over and was like, “There’s no way this is getting on TV.” But yeah, I mean I really have to hand it to AMC. They really do allow us to do what we think is necessary, and I think that you know as startling and as horrifying as some of the things that we do on the show are, I think people recognize that they also come from a place of character, and it’s always in the interest of telling the best story. And I think that AMC recognizes that you want the people of Terminus to ascend to that level, like you want to see just how horrifying they are so that you know what our characters are up against. And it actually adds a tremendous amount of value to the story, and so that’s what justifies these great lengths that we go to to, you know, disgust the audience.
Let’s talk about the Then and Now structure you did and how the flashbacks framed the story. Really unique and a nice way to give the Terminus backstory without too much expository dialogue. Showing backstory and flashbacks is something that you guys have done in places on the show. You’ve haven’t really done it much in the comics, but we’ve seen it here a few different ways now.
There have been some dream sequences that reveal the past, and a couple of snippets here and there that show things, but I use them as sparingly as possible in the comics. I think there’s only been like three in the 132 issues that are now out. We do it a little bit more in the show. It’s a lot of fun. I mean, again, it adds so much depth. You know so much more about Gareth and all of those people because of those two very minor scenes.
But because we did not see Gareth die, we see him clearly shot in the shoulder region…
He looked dead to me.
Didn’t look dead to me!
I certainly would not expect to see that guy ever again.
Yeah, especially considering we saw scenes of him in the trailer you guys put out that we did not see in that episode. [Laughs]
Why are you spoiling the fun, Dalton? That’s not how you do things. You’re supposed to forget that trailer the minute you start watching the show!
Well, I think a lot of people do want to see more from that character.
It just goes to illustrate the kind of people that you encounter now. This world has been around for a while, and we’ve seen Rick and how he’s survived, and what he’s had to do to survive. And now every single person you meet on the road and in your journey, you have to think, “How are they here? What did they do to get here?” And Gareth is a great example of somebody who has done some terrible things that have changed him, that have brought him to a place that has made him very dangerous. And we see those things. But as they’re now out of the boxcar and on the road again, it’s entirely possible that they might encounter more people that could be just as threatening. Or way worse.
A lot of emotional reunions this episode: Carol back with Daryl and Rick, you have Rick with Judith, there’s Tyreese with Sasha. Which one hit the most for you?
I mean, that baby, you know — when Rick grabs her. It’s definitely a big moment when Carol and Darryl are back together, but you know when Rick finds his daughter, and you see the emotion, and you know Rick and Carl thought that kid was dead. Even though we’re going to kill everybody on this show eventually, so you can’t get too close — still a big moment, you know.
I heard you had some issues with a baby being scared at a large hairy man charging towards her at top speed.
I hadn’t heard that. I was there for the filming on Episode 2, and I dealt a lot with the mannequin stand-in baby — which looks very real, and it looks very real on camera. Like, you can never really tell when it’s a real baby and when it’s not. But in person it is just the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s scarier than anything that has ever appeared on the show. I was just taking pictures of it. It just looks like a little monster baby: cold dead eyes, it’s like a baby shark in human form. No, it’s fun being on set with that kid, and you never know what that baby’s going to do. And you know you’re trying to film a scene where it’s like, “Hey, your father’s back! Aren’t you happy to see him?” And it’s like, “I don’t want that thing running at me.”
Let’s chat about Tyreese a little bit. Obviously, a big storyline here. He’s been struggling with sort of the violence of this world. Has this incident in the cabin now fundamentally changed him and his aversion to violence? Or what is it going to do to or for Tyreese?
I think it certainly illustrates that Tyreese is someone that is reluctant to step up, but is definitely someone who can and will when he has to. One of the things that interests me most about the character of Tyreese is the fact that, to a certain extant, he’s almost the most powerful. You know I don’t know if Rick or Darryl or Glenn could’ve killed those zombies outside that cabin the way that he did, or survive that herd in Season 4 the way that he did. And knowing that he can to that place, I think, terrifies him, and it’s that that’s kind of holding him back. It’s actually a weakness more than it is a strength, which I find infinitely interesting when dealing with that character. But it really is a question of “Can he manage this? Can he be who he wants to be?” That’s something that we’re definitely going to be dealing with this season.
Love the Kool-Aid moment, where he just busts through the door.
That’s going to be on the Internet soon.
What’s it like when you have a character like Tyreese, who has sort of outlived his counterpart in the comic? There’s less of a roadmap now for that character. Obviously, you guys deviate a lot in your adaptation — but he’s someone who hasn’t made it to this point, so is that freeing?
It’s incredibly freeing. I mean, it’s exciting. Just because then Tyreese becomes a character like Daryl, like Carol, who has also outlived her comic book character, that when we go to adapt the stories from the comic book, just their presence changes things, because they aren’t there in the original form of that story. And that really is the most exciting stuff in the room. It’s those characters that I just really love writing, just because, to a certain extent, a lot of the stuff that’s going on with Rick is stuff that I’ve written before, or some variation on something that I’ve written before. And same with Glenn and Maggie and so on. But when I sit down to write a Tyreese scene, that’s something that’s completely new now, and that’s really exciting.
What about the secret scene at the end? We have our credits, and then after the credits we see this masked man: It’s Morgan and he at least seems to look like he’s maybe in better shape than last time we saw him.
Possibly in better shape, but he’s on the road, he’s alone. You never know, we’ve got to see him interact with people. He could still be a loon. But yeah, he’s on their trail. Rick left him a map, so he knew roughly where Rick was, and it’s clear that he’s decided, “Hey, you know, living alone in this horrible town is not for me. Maybe I do need to reenter society. Maybe I do need to find these people.” And I like to think he got to that prison and was like, “Wait, what’s going on? Like, everyone’s gone now?” So yeah, he’s actually on their trail, and the Terminus thing is helping him hopefully stay on that trail. And it’s certainly a question as to whether he’ll meet up with them, or when he’ll meet up with them, but we’ve got a lot of big plans for the character of Morgan, so stay tuned.
You wrote the next episode we’re going to see. What can you tell us about that?
I can say that we’re possibly going to meet some new people, and we’re going to see a new iconic location that’s a big deal in the comics, so that’s some juicy spoilers right there, right? And, uh, and everyone dies.
Okay, well, you heard it here first! Series finale of The Walking Dead, coming up this Sunday!
Also check out our ‘Walking Dead: One-Minute Refresher ‘below. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.