Turns out one of the biggest twists in The Walking Dead‘s super-sized Season 6 premiere on Sunday was a technical one: The episode’s flashback sequences were… colorless. Sure, a bunch of other big stuff happened — namely, Ethan Embry’s rabble-rouser Carter died a surprisingly premature death (sorta) at the hands of Rick — but it was the show’s black-and-white detour that had us most intrigued.
Below, showrunner Scott M. Gimple explains his thinking behind the hue-mungous storytelling tweak, and also weighs in on Carter’s relatively early demise and the subsequent shade Morgan and Michonne threw at Rick.
TVLINE | Will all the show’s flashbacks now be in black and white?
It’s something we absolutely might do again. Black and white has such a relationship to The Walking Dead [ vis-à-vis] the comics. But this was a special thing for the premiere.
TVLINE | Why this particular episode?
From an aesthetic standpoint, it was always something I was very interested in doing. From a narrative standpoint, it really worked with this episode, because it has a very intricate structure to it. I wanted the audience to not have to sit there and do math as they watched the show. I wanted it to be effortless for them. It just so happened that it also really complimented the narrative. And it drew some thematic contrast to what was going on. The world of the black and white story does tell a specific story unto itself that compliments the color story.
TVLINE | I was surprised Ethan Embry’s Carter was killed off so quickly. It seemed like you were setting him up to be a long-term adversary to Rick.
That was [kind of] the point. Hopefully, it was nice to feel potential extinguished. We don’t want death to feel just like something to tick off on a box, so, that way when he’s killed the audience feels some sort of loss, even if it’s just story loss. We [also] want the impact felt of what Rick is doing and what Morgan feels for what Rick did.
TVLINE | Morgan and Michonne were clearly judging Rick for killing Carter…
Morgan maybe more than Michonne…
TVLINE | But what choice did he have?
I should’ve jumped in on your word “judge,” because there wasn’t an alternative. And it wasn’t that they were like, “Oh, I can’t believe you killed him.” The dark black and white moment that precedes [Carter’s death], where Morgan’s like, “I know you. I knew you wouldn’t have killed Carter in the Armory.” And Rick, in a performance that I really love from [Andrew Lincoln], sadly but certainly says, “I didn’t have to kill him. That kind of guy is going to die on his own anyway.” And then we cut to [the death scene]. And it isn’t like, “Oh my God you killed him!” It’s like, “Oh, you’re maybe not the guy I knew, because that philoshopy that you put out there… it’s true.” [It’s] a very sad moment, because they’re both recognizing that their individual truths are completely legitimate to each other, yet they are diametrically opposed. It isn’t that he killed Carter, it’s rather that he predicted that Carter would die one way or the other. And that [prediction turned out to be] true. And that’s the world they are living in. And they want to see the world as very different places. It isn’t a question of judging. It’s a question of recognizing that their worlds are very different and their perspectives are very different. And there’s something really sad about that, after finding each other after all this time. They’re not on the same page.
TVLINE | The scope of this premiere felt significantly larger than any previous Walking Dead episode. Was that a case of, “We need to raise our game in Season 6?”
Really, this season is about these characters, Rick’s group, who have been formed by their environment, and how they are able to do things that a lot of other characters that are around cannot do. We really wanted to see these characters doing remarkable things within this world, and that they have — this is very Stan Lee — this incredible power, which is survival in this world. And what are they going to do with it? With great power comes great responsibility. What is their responsibility here? Telling a story of them doing this unthinkable thing [from the POV] of a lot of Alexandrians was a way to kick that off. Then, on top of that, yeah, [we’re] ambitious with our scope and our creativity… The crew hit the ground running. There was no warmup. The crew delivered astounding stuff — feature film-level stuff on a television schedule. And the scope and the intensity is not over. It keeps going. It’s like the national debt. We are going bigger every year.