SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “The Obliged” episode of The Walking Dead.
Is this the end of Rick Grimes? It sure appeared that way at the conclusion of Sunday’s “The Obliged” episode of The Walking Dead. Rick was thrown from his horse and ended up with a giant metal spike through him while two herds of zombies approached from opposite sides. So is this the end for our steely hero? We asked showrunner Angela Kang exactly that, and you may be surprised by her answer.
Read on to see what she had to say about that whole situation as well as everything else that went down this week, including Negan’s attempts to get Lucille back, where Anne/Jadis just took off to, and the battle at the bridge. Kang also drops a fascinating behind-the-scenes tidbit from last season that led directly to the big Rick and Daryl pit scene we saw here. Continue on for intel!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with what for me was the most powerful scene in the episode: this battle of words and fists between Rick and Daryl. Maggie is on her way to Alexandria to kill Negan and Daryl keeps Rick from going to stop her. They jostle and end up in a big pit and then have this big debate about Rick keeping Negan alive. Tell me the genesis of this scene and how you wanted to approach it.
ANGELA KANG: The end of the season last year, there was a scene where Rick spared Negan under the tree and that was based on a really iconic moment in the comic book. What was really interesting was on the day when that scene was performed, Norman, who plays Daryl, he was watching, and he was watching Lauren Cohan playing Maggie screaming and wanting to go after Negan and being stopped and held back by Michonne. You could just really see in his performance how disturbed the character was by watching this. We were like, that’s great. It really plays into this other scene.
We kind of added him at the last minute to the scene where Maggie is saying she’s not down with what Rick does. That came a lot out of Norman’s performance in that moment. It felt right, that he was disturbed, because Maggie is his friend too. Rick is his brother, but Maggie is somebody he cares about deeply too, that he feels he owes a debt to.
That’s fascinating that you added him into that scene because of Norman’s performance in another one.
That was just one of the things that we always knew this season we had to pay off, this loyalty, this promise that he made to Maggie to help her. But also. he loves Rick. This is his true brother in the apocalypse. We wanted to explore the complicated relationships that people can have when they care about each other this much and the way that they can tell truth to each other in a way that people who care less can’t.
Usually, you see Daryl as such a true blue, loyal, right hand man to Rick, and we just thought it was really interesting to show him being a little subversive and deceptive. When that comes to blows, they eventually come to a point of words. I think, yeah, sometimes Daryl is a man of few words, but again, with people he trusts, he’s not afraid to state an opinion. It was really a gratifying scene for us to work on.
Then, Andy and Norman, they went to town — just rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing this scene. We also had conversations. My great writer, Geraldine Inoa, this is her first episode of television and I think she did an amazing job for us. She had conversations with them and we made some little adjustments to the scene just to deepen it even further. I think one of the big things was this idea that Daryl can be the only one who tells Rick, “Hey man, you gotta let this thing that you have driving you having to do with Carl, go.”
That came out of conversation with Norman and Andy. It just felt really true that Rick is chasing something and he needs somebody to tell him, “But look at the consequences it’s having on everyone you love that’s around you. Is this really the thing to do? Are you chasing a ghost? Are you chasing something that can’t be achieved? Look at the reality.” We love the idea of that in the scene. I just love what the actors did with it. They did an amazing job.
The most powerful moment of that scene for me is when Daryl brings up Glenn and says, “Man, your ass wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for Glenn. You wouldn’t have found Lori. You wouldn’t have found Carl. He did that. Or did you forget?” That has a lot of power not just for the characters, but for the viewers when you bring up a name like Glenn, doesn’t it?
Yeah, I think so. I really feel like these characters that have died live on inside these characters’ heads. They live in their hearts and it drives so much of their decision making. Sometimes we haven’t really explicitly talked about it that way, but we talk about it in the [writers room]. My mother died when I was a teenager and I think about her every day still and I talk about her a lot still. I feel like that’s a very true to life thing when people have had losses of people who are so important to them. It becomes a part of the conversation. It becomes a part of how you reckon with the decisions you make, and the person you want to be, and how you grapple with things like the wishes that they had versus how you’re trying to get through your day to day life.
For Daryl, he is thinking about the effect of Glenn because I think after Glenn died, he really felt guilty. He felt like it was his fault. He said as much to Maggie. She shows him grace because really how can you look at the actions of somebody like Negan and put any blame on anybody. Everybody was a victim. I think he’s really processing emotionally what it means in real terms that these people are gone. That is why he’s invoking these names of the past and the effect that they’ve had and the reasons why it’s so painful for Maggie, because I think Rick, he made a decision that might have been good in a theoretical sort of way and yet there are real people like Maggie who are in pain as a result of it. That’s the thing that Daryl’s trying to tell him.
Let’s move over to the big Michonne and Negan reunion. Why from a story perspective have her be the next person to go down there and talk to him in his cell?
We just thought that it was really interesting, the idea of Michonne and Negan having to be face to face because, I think, there is an aspect to Michonne where she’s gone to dark places before. She’s also risen to more of a position of more leadership.
One of the stories in the comic is that Negan develops a really interesting relationship with Rick over time and sort of ends up giving him advice in very strange ways, but it’s always this strange, contentious at times, relationship. We thought it would be so interesting to put Michonne in a position like that where here’s this guy who she just hates and wanted to kill, but ultimately was very much on board with keeping alive because of Carl’s wishes. And yet, she struggles with that decision too. That just seemed like an interesting, complicated thing.
We also just really liked the idea that for Michonne, going down there and talking to him scratches an intellectual itch that she has. Part of the story we’re telling in this episode is that Michonne has two lives going on. One is dealing with the bureaucracy of Alexandria and, at times, that can be dull. It’s important work, and yet she’s still going out there and killing zombies. We’re just really interested in the stories of what happens to soldiers after a war. There’s this trauma that they carry. Also, sometimes there’s this need that they can’t quite fulfill and they don’t know why. It seemed like Negan was the perfect way to explore all these new things, but also give Negan somebody new to bounce off of. He really hasn’t had this kind of interaction with Michonne too much in the past, so it makes for a different side of Negan as well, which we really liked. (Story continues on next page)