WARNING: If you have yet to watch The Walking Dead‘s Season 2 finale tonight, run don’t walk to the nearest exit. We’re serious, folks. The following Q&A with exec producer Robert Kirkman contains massive spoilers. Trust us on this one. Everyone else, you may proceed…
The Walking Dead closed out its second season Sunday night with a pair of deaths (R.I.P. Patricia and Jimmy), a game-changing revelation (Jenner did whisper to Rick that everyone is infected), one major character introduction (Michonne!) and a confirmation of Season 3′s setting (prison!). Oh, and Rick finally started channeling his inner badass! Below, executive producer Robert Kirkman deconstructs the spectacular episode’s most memorable moments and teases a Season 3 he promises will blow Season 2 “out of the water!”
TVLINE | So, Patricia and Jimmy got the hook. Was it just that they were the most expendable at this point?
We never treat a character as expendable, nor do we treat a character’s death as being something that is of varying importance. This was very much about these characters who had lived on this farm pretty much all of their lives. Hershel was very connected to the farm, and losing the farm and losing these people at the same time is going to mean a lot for him — as well as Maggie and Beth — in Season 3. It’s unfortunate to lose Jimmy and Patricia, but every character death is going to have ramifications for all of the other characters that continue on and each one of them is important in their own right.
TVLINE | Which surviving character made it off the farm by the skin of their teeth. In other words, did you come close to killing anyone else only to change your mind at the 11th hour?
This is going to sound coy, and I apologize for that, but almost all of them. One of the things that’s always been important to me with the Walking Dead comic book series is that you always be willing to get rid of every character at any moment if it serves the story. I’ve always tried not to grow any kind of attachment to any character. And also, there have been times where I’ve had big arcs plotted out for [someone] but at the moment it seemed like the right thing to do to completely get rid of the character. And now that we’re getting further and further into the show, and we’re able to tell the stories [with] high stakes, pretty much everything is on the table when we sit there in the writers room. There’s some pretty terrifying, crazy things discussed. And every character, at some point, we’ve talked about, “Now? Later? When are we going to do this?” It’s a dangerous show.
TVLINE | Some fans were grumbling about how there were long stretches this season without any major Walker sequences. Were you just saving your zombie budget for the finale?
It really comes down to storytelling. If you listen to music at maximum volume at all times, it eventually becomes quiet to you; you get used to it. We do stories where there aren’t a lot of zombies so that when there are a lot of zombies it’s that much more jarring and terrifying. If we had five zombies in every episode that did five cool things, it would eventually become white noise. So we have to bring it out, show it to you, get you terrified and then pull it away and watch the characters react to what they’ve just gone through… Lull the audience into a false sense of security. There’s obviously a budget — I mean, it’s TV. But the season is structured in a way that we know what’s coming and we know when to show our cards and when to hold our cards. It’s all part of an overall plan.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about Rick. As I was watching his big speech to the group I couldn’t decide if this was a man in the throes of a psychotic break or someone who was finally, for lack of a better turn of phrase, growing a pair. Which one was it for you?
I like to think at [all] times it could be 50/50. This world definitely takes a toll on you. Rick just murdered his best friend, his wife appears to be disgusted with him and, instead of going, “I’m really upset; let me figure out how I deal with it,” he turns around and he’s got nine people going, “We’re scared — what do we do?” He’s forced into this leadership role and, at the end of the episode, we see that he is taking this on and it is affecting him. And he’s growing darker. And he is saying, “Hey, you want me to be the leader? That’s fine. I’m going to be the leader. You don’t like it? Fend for yourself. Let’s see how you do.” He’s growing harsher in this world. And the series is always going to be about whether or not he can retain his humanity, or whether or not he is going to become some kind of hardened monster that really exists only to provide survival for him and his family.
TVLINE | Lori’s disgust over Rick killing Shane confused me a little. Didn’t she just a few episodes ago all but order Rick to whack him?
A lot of that anger [she's expressing] could be directed at herself. I think she feels partially responsible for sending these two men on a path. That’s the moment where she found out that Shane was dead. And not only did she find out that Shane was dead, but her husband totally killed the guy! This was a family friend. This was a guy that used to come over on weekends and watch football in the house and things like that. It was a really emotional moment that is going to drive her a little batty. Having to handle those emotions and looking at the guy that kind of caused the situation, she’s not going to be considering, “Oh, yeah. I did this. I should calm down.” She has these emotions and she doesn’t know what to do with them.
TVLINE | What does having Andrea cut off from the group do for your from a storytelling standpoint moving into next season — and we’ll get to her run-in with Michonne in a second.
Andrea had a really interesting arc in the second season. We start off with her somewhat suicidal and upset that Dale wouldn’t allow her to remain in the CDC and die. And over the course of the season, we’ve shown her find a purpose for living, and also find the means to survive at all costs. And at the end of the season, we really put her to the test. She is out on her own. She is for all intents and purposes in the most danger out of anyone in the group by the end of the episode. And we’re going to be exploring that a little bit more in the third season. But really just putting her in the pressure-cooker situation and seeing how she fares and how she’s going to do and how she’s going to survive is going to be interesting thing to follow in the third season. We have some really cool stuff planned for Andrea.
TVLINE | The introduction of Michonne was an incredible moment, but I’m curious: Why did you decide not to show her face? Was that just an issue of the role not having been cast yet?
We thought that it would be a little bit more mysterious. And, also, in the interest of keeping these things secret, the casting would’ve been announced right away. And because it is such a short scene, we didn’t cast an actress; we used a stand-in. And as far as her relationship with Andrea goes, she cut the head off of a zombie. She could easily stab Andrea next in the first minutes of Season 3, so who knows what that relationship will be like?
TVLINE | Have you cast the role?
There will be announcements forthcoming… [THIS JUST IN: Find Out Who's Playing Michonne!]
TVLINE | How will the TV version of Michonne be similar/different from her comic book counterpart?
She will be very similar to her comic-book counterpart. Most of the characters as they’ve been translated into TV are pretty much exactly the same character. Andrea is Andrea, Rick is Rick and Michonne is going to be Michonne. Now, the stories that we’re going to tell with her are going to be somewhat different at times. The show has always followed the comic book to a large extent, it just has different divergences from time-to-time and we’re definitely going to continue that in the third season. But the fans have expectations for Michonne, and I can say with full knowledge that their expectations are going to be met. They need not worry.
TVLINE | Did you always know the season would end with her introduction? Did you ever consider, perhaps, teasing the Governor’s arrival instead?
There was a lot of stuff thrown around. It wasn’t really planned early on to have Michonne show up at the end of the season. I have to give credit to [executive producer] Glen Mazzara. He came into the writers room one day and was like, “We’ve got to add this scene. It’ll have so much punch. We have to build to this. It’ll be great. Let’s go ahead and introduce her now.” The original plan was to hold her for Season 3 and introduce her then.
TVLINE | The episode ended with the confirmation that Season 3 would be set in the prison. Not a big surprise but a cool reveal nonetheless.
What I really like about the transition from Season 2 to Season 3 as opposed to Season 1 to Season 2 transition is that when we were moving into Season 2 there were so many unknowns. All of the questions were, “Are we going to see the farm? Are they going to follow the comic?” And now that we’re moving into Season 3, we’ve seen Michonne. We’ve seen the prison. We know that that the Governor has been cast. So the fans really have a clear indication of what kind of things to expect in the third season and where we’re going and some of the stories that we may be telling if they’re familiar with the comic book series. Our third season is definitely going to be our best season yet. I’m really excited to get into it. It’s actually hard for me to do interviews about Season 2 because I’m like, “Oh my God, Season 3 blows this stuff out of the water. You just wait.” We’ve been working on Season 3 for a few months now. We’re wrapping up the first half and we’ve got everything nailed down. I can’t wait for people to see it.
TVLINE | Any other major characters aside from The Governor and Michonne that will be introduced in Season 3?
There are still some surprises around the corner. We wouldn’t be revealing so much in our final episode of Season 2 if we didn’t have so much more to reveal in the marketing [campaign] for Season 3 and also in the episodes when the season begins. There are a lot of surprises around the corner.
TVLINE | Will Season 3′s 16 episodes be broke up into two parts?
I don’t know if this is 100 percent confirmed, but the idea is we will do eight-and-eight. Getting eight-and-eight will almost be like doing two seasons a year, which is cool.