By Clark Collis
Updated October 31, 2011 at 05:01 AM EDT
Credit: Bob Mahoney/AMC
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How shocking was that death on the latest episode of AMC’s zombie show, The Walking Dead? Let me count the ways…

Actually, let me not, or we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say, the decision by Jon Bernthal’s Shane to sacrifice Pruitt Taylor Vince’s Otis so he could escape from a herd of zombies came as a shock — not least to the unfortunate Otis himself, who didn’t seem to appreciate getting sacrificed at all.

Below, Walking Dead writer and executive producer Robert Kirkman — who also pens the Walking Dead comic — talks about the death of Otis and why the other Walking Dead scribes wouldn’t recognize poison ivy if it bit them on the butt.

Entertainment Weekly: So, I want to ask you about Shane’s shooting of Otis and, using all my years of journalistic experience, here’s my question: What. The. F—?

Robert Kirkman: [Laughs] Well, you know, the Walking Dead is a world where you have to do what you have to do to get by. Starting with [this] episode, we’re going to see that Shane is appearing to be uniquely suited for this world.

It was quite possibly the least heroic act I’ve ever seen a theoretically “heroic” character commit.

I mean, it ends up being a somewhat justifiable homicide in that they were trapped, Otis was slowing him down, and Carl’s life hangs in the balance. It’s the Walking Dead and we’re existing in that gray area and we’re really pushing the boundaries of that. But at the end of the day, Shane shot that guy and left him for dead and ran off. It’s a pretty dark moment and it informs Shane’s character and sets up a lot of things that are going to be happening moving forward.

One of my colleagues said that she thought it was partly a revenge killing because Otis had, accidentally, shot Carl. The worrying thing is that she said she also thought Shane’s actions were completely reasonable because of that. And the really worrying thing is that her office is just across the way from mine.

I have been writing the Walking Dead — if you count the comic books — for coming up on 9 years now. And I’m constantly made uncomfortable by the things I learn about human nature from people that read the comic and watch the shows. So…Welcome to my world on finding out that your colleague thinks revenge killing is totally fine. Be mindful of how many of her paper clips you borrow!

As a fan of the comic, in which Shane is killed very early on, I’ve always regarded his onscreen incarnation as a dead man walking. I often think, “Why is he still around?” But in the course of one episode, he’s has gone from being the character I’m least interested in to the one that I’m most fascinated by.

Yeah, exactly. This episode really does answer the question, “Why is this guy still around?” very clearly. He’s an integral part of the show.

The most famous villain in the Walking Dead comic book is the Governor. After this episode, I’m now wondering if Shane could ultimately transform into that character.

Everyone is dying to know who is going to become the Governor. Will it be Merle? Will it be Shane? Nobody knows!

You do! Or do you? Do you know? Tell me if you know!

I know exactly who the Governor is.

Fair enough. How did Jon Bernthal react when he read this week’s script?

Jon Bernthal is a tremendous talent and he’s got a lot of professionalism. A lot of the actors came in to the room as we were starting this season and Bernthal was one of those actors. He was aware of a lot of the things that were coming up and we talked to him about his character and what we had planned for him this season and he was on board with a lot of it. It was nice being able to run though scenarios with him and get his opinion on how he perceived his character. Because actors, a lot of times, think about their characters more than the writers because they’re focused on that single character for months of their lives, if not years. He was all prepared for this.

Can you confirm Otis is definitely dead?

That guy got torn apart!

Well, we didn’t see him getting quite the full Captain Rhodes-in-Day-of-the-Dead, “Choke on ’em!” treatment.

Were he to come back, I believe he would be discolored and shambling.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

There was another, earlier, moment on the show when I thought that maybe you were going to kill Carl. Just after he talked about the deer but before he started convulsing, his eyes kind of glazed over and I thought, “They’re going to kill the kid!”

That’s great. We want people to have that sense that anything can happen in this show and any character could go at any moment, because it is such a dangerous world. And we will be trying to instill that more and more into the mindset of the viewer as the season progresses. But I’ve got to say, let’s give it up for Chandler Riggs. I almost start crying every time I watch that scene. It is just absolutely horrifying. And the performances from Andrew Lincoln and Sarah Wayne Callies, watching their son go through that. That whole scene is just a stupendous chunk of acting.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed Norman Reedus’ Daryl recalling the time he wiped his rear with poisoned oak. Is that something that’s ever happened to any of you guys?

[Laughs] I can say it’s never happened to me. I cannot speak for all of the writers in the writer’s room. There are a few where it seems likely. But you know what? No! I’m going to go on record and say that never happened to anyone in the writer’s room. Because, when we were all gearing up to go to Atlanta, everyone was panicking about being in the woods and having to deal with ticks and snakes and what kind of bug spray to use. It was an entire ordeal. One of the writers actually got onto a website and showed me a bug suit that he was thinking of investing in. I’m not going to name which one it was but he was totally serious. He was basically going to go to Atlanta wearing a space suit. As a person who’s from Kentucky and has been in the woods before and has dealt with insects and thinks that kind of stuff is somewhat normal and mundane, I was having a field day chuckling at all the hubbub. So I don’t think any of these people have even encountered poison ivy before. That was all just writing!

What did you think of the latest episode of the Walking Dead? Do you think Shane was “justified” in shooting Otis?

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  • PG-13
  • 96 minutes
  • Woody Allen