The Walking Dead closed out its fourth season Sunday with a doozy of a cliffhanger and a fair number of unanswered questions. To help make sense of the grim climax — and prepare us for what lies ahead in Season 5 — TVLine rang up series creator Robert Kirkman.
TVLINE | Are the citizens of Terminus cannibals?
[Laughs] There are a great many number of possibilities for that storyline and who those characters are and what they’re doing, and that is certainly one of them. It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility, but I can neither confirm nor deny anything at this time. Who the people of Terminus are and what their deal is will be dealt with fairly quickly when we come back for Season 5.
TVLINE | Do you want us to be thinking that Carol and Tyreese could be in the Sloppy Joes that Mary served Rick & Co.?
[Laughs] It’s entirely possible. I’m stopping myself from making very horrible jokes. We’ll just have to see. It’s certainly fine for people to speculate.
TVLINE | Why not give us a clue about their fate, especially coming off of last week’s harrowing episode?
Seeing that group in the train car and knowing that all of those people are together and that Rick is very capable and very prepared… We kind of felt like we needed more unknowns to keep people guessing. And leaving the fate of Beth and Carol and Tyreese and Judith completely ambiguous kind of gives us that. We’ll deal with [their whereabouts] fairly quickly when we come back for Season 5. They could be in another train car. They could be in part of the barbecue, as you say. Or, maybe, they found a Denny’s and they’re just having a good time.
TVLINE | How does the Terminus situation differ from Woodbury? In each case, we have a group of people whose method of surviving poses a threat to our core characters.
Woodbury was much more of a return to civilization. It was a safe place. It had a leader who had a lot of secrets, but, on the surface, it was a place where families could live and people could survive. Terminus is not that. It’s a completely alien environment with very strange people that live in a very specific and strange way that is in no way any kind of remnant of what we knew before. They’re actually a lot more dangerous and a little bit scarier when it all comes to light.
TVLINE | Has Daryl developed more than brotherly feelings for Beth?
It’s possible. Daryl is very protective and he’s formed very strong bonds with a lot of characters, Carol included. And now Beth. Whether or not that would eventually grow into a romantic relationship we’re keeping ambiguous, much like the relationship between Daryl and Carol was fairly ambiguous. If Beth ever comes back, hopefully, we’ll find a definitive answer to that.
TVLINE | We were reminded in the finale that Carl shot a boy who basically posed no imminent threat. Does it make Rick a hypocrite for banishing Carol for killing Karen and David, both of whom actually did pose a threat?
The situation with Carl was somewhat different. While Hershel felt like it was very definitive that the kid posed no threat, there was a little bit of ambiguity there. But, sure, there’s somewhat of a hypocritical element in Rick. I think that for all of his rules and all of his attempts at being a leader and trying to set a good example he would in a minute break the rules for Carl. He would definitely throw everything out the window for the kid’s safety — which, in a sense, is kind of what happened in the finale. He spent the whole season trying to show Carl that, “We have to retain our humanity, we have to not lose ourselves, and we have to not allow this world to darken us or steal away what it is that makes us people.” Yet, when the chips are down and he has no other recourse he loses all of that. He throws it all completely out of the window and kind of becomes an animal. When it comes to Carl there are no rules.
TVLINE | It was incredibly disturbing to see Carl almost get raped. What was the discussion like surrounding how dark to play that sequence from the comics — especially coming so soon after last week’s Lizzie horror show.
That was a tough one. That scene has always been a really difficult one. When I was writing the original comics, in the panel description for artist Charlie Adlard I [wrote], “Carl is on his back, and the guy is pulling his paints off – but don’t worry Charlie, he’s not going to get raped!” I actually included that in the panel description because it is such a heavy and dark scene, and I didn’t want Charlie to be freaking out while he was trying to draw that. But when it came time to adapt that for the show… We are trying to realistically portray the kind of things that would happen after the fall if civilization. We try not to shy away from the depths that people can sink to in various situations. It’s not like we’re portraying things that don’t, unfortunately, happen in real life. We’re not really pushing the envelope too far. It is a fine line that we’re trying to walk here, between being realistic and also being unrelentingly dark and morbid. I hope that we’re walking that line well. And I hope that people still see the entertainment value of watching these people survive. I do feel like we did push things to the edge in that episode, [but] I don’t think we went quite over the edge.
TVLINE | When Rick had his Dirty Harry line at the end, are we to interpret that as him kind of making peace with the monster that this new world has made him?
Yeah, he’s resigned to the fact that he’s going to have to be a different person in order to survive. He’s really accepted the fact that he is that guy. He’s the guy that can take that on, that can be that leader, that can go to those levels if he needs to. Now that he knows that that’s in him, there’s a confidence to him now that he hasn’t had before. And that confidence will carry with him into Season 5 and, theoretically, get them out of that horrible situation.
TVLINE | What were you trying to convey with the Hershel flashbacks?
That was an attempt to show that this entire season has been one story, and it’s been a story of Rick’s evolution into this new darker version of himself. [We wanted] to go back and show the influence of Hershel and how important that character has been and will continue to be. And to show how far Rick has come, and emphasize what they lost and where they’re going to have to go moving forward.
TVLINE | There were no major deaths in the second half of the season, at least not on the level of a Hershel or a Lori. How come?
After a while we can fall into a trap of, “Oh, here’s the finale!” or “Here’s the episode before the finale — we’re going to be seeing some big character deaths.” We kind of recognized towards the end of Season 3 that, for our show, the most shocking thing to do, the most novel thing to do, the most unexpected thing for us would be to not kill anyone. We want to keep people guessing. We don’t want things to ever get formulaic. The character deaths in our show are never done for shock value or just to have a bit of excitement. There’s always a story purpose. And sometimes you don’t need those deaths to do that. This finale was just as impactful and dark and shocking as you need a finale to be to carry viewers over that gap between seasons.
TVLINE | Lastly, the finale was titled “A” — what does it mean?
[It refers to] Train Car A. They were put in Train Car A.