Walking Dead Post Mortem: Is [Spoiler]'s Death Inevitable? Romance For Andrea and Michonne?

Warning: The following story contains major spoilers about the season premiere of The Walking Dead, so proceed with the utmost caution…

You’ve just watched The Walking Dead‘s riveting, relentless Season 3 premiere and, let me guess, you have a few burning questions. Is Hershel a goner? Are Daryl and Carol on the verge of doing it? Is Michonne crushing on Andrea? What’s up with Carl and Beth?

Below, executive producer Robert Kirkman tackles all of those nagging Qs and then some.

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TVLINE | I think the premiere set a new record for number of zombie deaths in a single episode. Did you use up your entire Season 3 budget?
We have a raised budget this season, but I’m pretty sure all episodes this season have a pretty similar budget. This is a premiere, so it was definitely a little bit higher than some of the other episodes. But I don’t think it’s so much higher that you’ll notice any kind of real difference. This is a very big season. There are a lot of really cool, big moments coming up. The premiere episode is a good example of the kind of high-octane thrill ride you’re going to get out of this season. We hit the ground running and we don’t really stop for a good long time. It’s going to be a pretty intense season of television.

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TVLINE | Last season ended with Lori pissed at Rick for killing Shane. But when we pick up in the premiere, he’s pissed at her. What happened during the intervening months to cause the shift?
Honestly, not a lot happened during the break. These are two people that definitely have some serious issues. The apocalypse makes relationships quite difficult. Lori and Rick haven’t really had time to themselves to really work through their issues — they’re being pursued by zombies and there’s danger around every corner. They don’t really have the time to deal with that kind of a personal issue right now. Things are not going very well for them in their marriage and that’s going to be a big part of Season 3.

TVLINE | What’s the driving force behind Rick’s hatred towards Lori? Is it the affair? Shane’s death?
Both of them blame themselves and blame each other for quite a bit. They have a lot of conflicting emotions that we’ll be dealing with a lot moving forward. But there is that sense of, “My wife betrayed me.”

TVLINE | Daryl seemed more open to Carol’s flirty advances. Is she slowly wearing him down?
[Laughs] That remains to be seen. The scene you’re referring to [in the premiere] is much more of a representation of just how comfortable they’ve gotten with each other as friends. They do share a bond. That was some playful banter between friends. Whether or not that grows into a romantic relationship remains to be seen.

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TVLINE | What is holding Daryl back from going there?
Daryl has a lot of issues from his past that will be coming into play this season. There’s some darkness to him. He’s lived through some stuff and we’ll be peeling back some of his layers. He also has a tremendous responsibility to this group. With the absence of Shane, Daryl has really stepped up into that role. He’s dealing with a lot.

TVLINE | The premiere was 95 percent prison and 5 percent Andrea and Michonne. Talk to me about the decision to focus almost entirely on the prison? And what will the balance be like moving forward?
Rick and Carol and Lori and Carl and Glenn and Maggie — they’ve become our core cast. Coming into this season we felt it was more important to catch the viewer up on those characters and their situations, and just kind of hint at the different things that are going on with Michonne and Andrea. We have a lot planned for them. It ends up being almost two entirely separate casts and two entirely separate shows — we’ve got the Governor and Woodbury, and we have Rick and everyone at the prison. So we sort of start balancing the episodes out. Sometimes it’s 50/50, sometimes it’s 80/20, sometimes it’s a very Woodbury-heavy episode, sometimes it’s a very prison-heavy episode. It’s been a fun juggling act. And I think it moves the story along at a very quick pace.

TVLINE | Andrea and Michonne forged a pretty strong bond during their time together. How would you describe their dynamic?
One thing I wanted viewers to key in on is the fact that Andrea and Michonne have been together quite a bit longer than Rick and Andrea and that group was together in Seasons 1 and 2. More time has passed in the gap between Seasons 2 and 3 than passed in the entirety of Seasons 1 and 2. They’ve developed an incredible bond. These are two people that are at the edge of death together. It’s almost like they’ve gone to war together. They’ve been in foxholes together for months. They’re very close.

TVLINE | Was I picking up on some sexual tension?
There’s certainly not any indication of that thus far, but that remains to be seen. You never know.

TVLINE | Carl’s got a little crush on Beth.
That’s something [we’re doing] to bring some lightheartedness [to the show] — a little bit of a break from the unrelenting darkness. Carl is hitting puberty and he has no outlet for that. While they’re very far apart in age, she is the female closest in age to him, so he has developed quite an infatuation with her.

TVLINE | Why’d you have to go and chop off Hershel’s leg? 
Scott Wilson is an absolutely fantastic actor that we’re thrilled to have on the show. We love that character. Hershel is a good example of why it’s not a great thing to have the writers on The Walking Dead like your character, because we love doing things with them. And those things end up being pretty horrible. We really wanted to end the premiere with a big punch. Dealing with these ailments and these kind of things that would happen in this world, like handicapping characters and characters getting sick, is something we’re having a lot of fun dealing with this season.

TVLINE | So much of the survivors’ existence involves running — is there any way he can realistically survive in this world?
It’s definitely something that is going to be a burden on the group moving forward. We don’t know if they’re going to stay in this prison. And if they do stay, how long are they going to be hanging around? Hershel’s situation is something that’s definitely going to come into play if there’s ever any discussion of leaving. It’s something that will hold them back.