The Walking Dead showrunner on that fiery cliffhanger
Warning: This article contains spoilers from "For Blood," Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead decided it would be cruel and unusual punishment to leave us with a cliffhanger while the show went off the air until 2022, so it didn't. Instead, the show left us with multiple cliffhangers!
The episode ended with Carol (Melissa McBride), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Aaron (Ross Marquand), and company out in a torrential storm… their status a mystery. The episode also ended with Judith (Cailey Fleming) and Gracie (Anabelle Holloway) stuck in a flooding basement… with zombies at the top of the stairs. And the episode also ended with Leah (Lynn Collins) — having killed Pope (Ritchie Coster) but then refusing to leave with Daryl (Norman Reedus) and telling her fellow Reapers that Daryl did it — firing off a crazy rocket-propelled arrow contraption directly at our heroes in the courtyard. With the rockets in the air, the screen went to black.
So, naturally, we have questions. Thankfully, we connected with someone who has the answers: TWD showrunner Angela Kang. What should we make of the triple cliffhanger explosion? Why did Leah turn Daryl down and then turn him in? And what can we expect when the show returns in 2022? Read on for insight and intel from the boss.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's jump straight to the end where Daryl and Leah combine forces to kill Pope. Why does Leah ultimately choose to not leave with Daryl but instead stay and essentially take Pope's place?
ANGELA KANG: We felt that Leah is a character who puts her family above all else. And there was a point where I think she hoped that Daryl was part of that family. But when she gets to the end of this episode, she realizes Daryl and his chosen family have a plot they've been executing and that he has been lying to her. He just killed somebody that's one of her own. She knew Pope needed to die, but she was hoping that could be to spare everybody else. She just makes a decision. Daryl's going to do whatever he needs to do for his family, but she's got to do the same for hers. So it really felt like that was the truest expression of who Leah was.
The weird thing is she's sort of like a dark mirror to Daryl in that moment. And I think ultimately their relationship was never on totally solid footing. There was a toxic element always, from the beginning. And maybe that's why people, when they watched the first episode with her, had reactions to her at times, but we always knew she was folding into this story. And so there's something honorable about what she believes, but it's obviously also not what Daryl was hoping for and maybe not the outcome that would have happened if things had played out differently.
She has a few choices about what to do after she kills Pope: She can leave with Daryl. She can let him go but then stay with her people. She can kill him, because he and his friends are responsible for the death of her friends. But instead she radios the other Reapers and tells them Daryl killed Pope. Why do that? Is she giving him a chance to survive? What's behind the decision to play it that way?
I think she's giving him a chance to survive. This is not a perfect example, but what comes to mind for me are certain superheroes, like Batman, that are known for not really killing. And sometimes there are these very complicated situations you can get into, but they both give each other almost like a fair fighting chance, you know? I don't think either of them in that moment feels like they need to kill the other right then and there. But they've got to get to their respective sides, and then they're just going to have a fair fight and see how it all shakes out.
I think Leah in her own broken way still does care for Daryl. There is emotion there, even if it's a very past, dead-end thing. For both characters, they saw a version of a person they cared about and thought was a good person. I don't think she's in a place where she thinks, "I'm going to kill him." She understands the honor behind his intention. It's just that she can't let it happen for her own people.
So tell us about this crazy firework–arrow contraption that Leah lights off at the very end.
So, I'm Korean American and I believe this weapon is some kind of ancient medieval Korean weapon called a hwacha. But I had never heard of this thing. It was the result of room research: What are old-style weapons that could potentially be built now because they've been built centuries before that are effective and that can do mass damage? And so it was something the room researched and came up with, and then they were pitching, and I was like, "What is this weapon? I can't picture it." And they're like, "It's rocket-propelled arrows flying at you out of this giant thing." And I was like, "Well, that sounds pretty cool!"
The original idea, which we actually didn't totally stick with, was that Maggie [Lauren Cohan] had this book from Georgie [Jayne Atkinson] about how to rebuild society in an apocalypse, and build a windmill to deal with water, and all of that. And we're like, "She might've had like weaponry stuff in the book. And so maybe the Reapers came upon it and built it when they got there." But then we're like, "You know what? You've got people with engineering skills in that group, so they would have their own military research they can draw upon." So that's where we went, but the idea generated from, "Maybe this was from Maggie's book of tricks."
Moving over to Alexandria, Aaron, Carol, Connie, and company went out to try to fix the wall and then we never saw them again, so what can you say about how they're doing out there in that storm?
It's an intense storm. There's definitely going to be a lot more related to that situation [when we come back from break in a few months]. This is a version of the same storm that our group passed through during the first two episodes when they had to go down into the sewer tunnels. It's the equivalent of a tropical storm building force and getting bigger and stronger as it sweeps across the landscape. And so they're just on the receiving end of some of nature's wrath. We don't always get to explore what weather does, but even just shooting in the South, we have storm stuff shutting us down all the time. And so it just felt like one of the things that would compound existing problems, like it really, truly does in our world.
What's going on with Judith this episode, where she's intently watching Rosita [Christian Serratos] battle Walkers on the porch, and she's giving Gracie advice on how to use her fear, and then ending up with Gracie in the flooding basement with walkers at the top of the stairs? Where's her head at in this episode, besides trying to keep it above water at the end?
Judith is in a headspace where the community she has functionally grown up in almost her whole life — and probably the only place she really remembers — is just falling apart around her. And this is a time when Judith has to be strong for people like the younger kids, but she's still very much a child. We've been thinking a lot about this apocalyptic scenario we write and how there is so much weightiness placed on the children, and that there's so much they have to bear and [they have] be mature in the face of not knowing where their own family is.
We wanted to touch on that, but also show that in Judith is the child of her parents and her community around her. She does figure out how to pull it together, even if she feels like she's falling apart a little bit inside. She's been put into extraordinary circumstances, and how is she going to deal with that? Because much like Carl [Chandler Riggs], she's had to face things nobody her age should have to alone.
Okay, you end this block of episodes with two small children about to drown in a basement and this crazy death by a Fourth of July firework contraption being launched as the arrows are in the air. So what can you say at this point about how things end up in 2022 with the second block of episodes?
I think it's fair to say there's an epic start with really big, cool things going on, but also a lot of emotional stuff. So 11B is going to have a pretty different vibe from 11A, which is not unusual for us in a season. We tend to kind of switch up some variables in every block. We'll start to open up our world a little bit more and meet some more people and see what's going on for everybody. And there's going to be a really fun thriller vibe to the B block that we've been enjoying writing.
We know we're gonna meet Pamela Milton [Laila Robins], the leader of the Commonwealth. Any other new characters, groups, or communities?
I don't want to spoil it 'cause he would definitely be spoiler-y, but there will be another group that surprises our people. And we are going to get to know the Commonwealth more deeply with our characters. And there are particular ways that that plays out, and there are a number of characters we will meet for the first time. And for some, it's learning more about what's the deal with them and how they interact with our people as they try to figure out a brand-new world as well.
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