'Walking Dead' writer Robert Kirkman talks about last night's episode, 'Vatos': 'It's upsetting to get rid of somebody.'

The most nerve-shredding thing about AMC’s new hit zombie show The Walking Dead is that you never know when somebody is going to get killed by a zombie. That being said, in the first three episodes no one actually did get killed by a zombie (well, if we don’t count the billions who were presumably felled by undead fiends while Andrew Lincoln’s hero-cop Rick Grimes was in a coma. And we don’t!).

All that changed in last night’s show, “Vatos,” as a campfire fish dinner suddenly turned into chow time for the undead, who feasted upon both sweet Amy (Emma Bell) and the much more sour Ed (Adam Minarovich). The episode’s other major plot line followed Grimes and a handful of other survivors as they searched for Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in Atlanta and came across a gang who weren’t quite what they seemed (after of course, coming across Merle’s severed hand).

“Vatos” was also the first episode written by Robert Kirkman, who pens the ongoing Walking Dead comic book and is an executive producer on the show. After the jump, Kirkman talks about last night’s show and why killing people onscreen is a lot harder than offing them in a comic book.

Be warned: the Q&A features a photo of one ugly-looking zombie.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It seems appropriate that the honor of writing the first deaths-by-zombie went to the guy who created this whole Walking Dead shebang in the first place.
ROBERT KIRKMAN: I was pretty happy that the first death in the show was in an episode that I got to write. That was kind of cool.

What exactly does it mean that you “wrote” last night’s show? Because there is a writers’ room on The Walking Dead, right?
Yeah, it’s not like comic books. When you read comic books and it’s like, “Written by Robert Kirkman,” I totally wrote that comic. But most of the people that are listed as executive producers — guys like Jack LoGiudice and Chick Eglee — those are the guys in our writers’ room. Then [Shawshank Redemption director] Frank Darabont did a lot of polish on all of the scripts for this season, as the main executive producer-creative director. There’s a lot of things that I did in the script while I was typing it and stuff. But for the most part, everything is a team effort and I think that’s a really cool thing. That was the strangest part of writing a television show. It was like writing with a safety net. I think it makes the writing that much stronger and it’s a really fun process.

Scott Garfield/AMC

Rick’s return to Atlanta Rick wasn’t in the comic, certainly not in the form we saw in “Vatos.” Was it fun to go back and essentially add another chapter to the Walking Dead mythology?
It was very exciting. I got to write the attack at the end of the episode — which was very much something that happened in the comic book series — so I knew I would be revisiting something I had already written. But as we were in the writers’ room, when things started shifting which led to all this new stuff that wasn’t in the comic book series, I thought that was great because it wasn’t me writing the same-old same-old or rewriting something I had already done and trying to make it interesting for myself. It was really an entirely new story: getting the gang members in there and getting to write Daryl — played my Norman Reedus — which is one of my favorite characters on the show, despite the fact that he’s not in the comic book. It was a blast.

Daryl is a fascinating character and, as Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd says, he’s the kind of guy you want around in a zombie apocalypse. But you feel guilty for even slightly liking him, because both Daryl and his brother Merle seem to be flat-out racists.
Well, if you do your job right, you find some kind of sympathetic thing to every character. He’s definitely not the best of guys. But as far as entertainment goes, everybody likes a villain, and I guess there are good aspects of his character. But he is a racist, which is not a good thing. So I guess people feel guilty for liking him. I can understand that.

It is worth pointing out that Steven Yeun’s character Glenn has just gotten endlessly crapped on so far in this show.
[Deadpan] That’s because everyone hates Steven Yeun.

It was the point when Daryl put Merle’s severed hand into his back pack that I thought, “Come on, leave the guy alone!”
[Laughs] I think that it’s a testament to his ability as an actor that there’s just this little glance that Steven gives when that hand is placed in his backpack. It’s obvious that he is not wanting to do this. But at the same time you can see his dedication to their survival. There’s a lot going on there without him saying anything and I think it’s remarkable.

I’m usually pretty good at working out plot twists before they happen. But I did not see the switcheroo with the gang coming at all.
Well good, we gotcha! That scene was really to illustrate that nothing is what it seems in the Walking Dead. In order to survive, people do what they have to do and sometimes people who are gangbangers and very violent individuals become protectors. It’s kind of a cool thing to see all these different role reversals and people growing and changing over time. I’m excited that we’ll get to see more of that in the show. I think that it’s a really good indication of what we may end up doing with Daryl. He starts out as a very rough, dangerous character, much like his brother, but even in episode four we kind of start to see him calming down a little bit and becoming more helpful and kind of integrating into the group better. It’s fun to see that evolution.

The gang leader was called Guillermo. I appreciate that’s a common Hispanic name, but was it a nod to Guillermo del Toro?
If it was, it was from Frank. Because Frank is the one that came up with that name.

Scott Garfield/AMC

I read an old news story which said that at one point Guillermo del Toro was in the frame to direct the show.
There was a point where Guillermo wanted to be involved but it just didn’t work out.

Moving on to the campfire massacre at the end of the show, I know there aren’t supposed to be many zombies up where the characters are staying, but I would have posted sentries of some sort.
[Laughs] They had cans hanging from ropes, alright?

And I’ll tell you one thing I would never do in a zombie apocalypse: weep over a fresh corpse, as Andrea (Laurie Holden) does over her sister, Amy.
[With mock outrage] Oh, stop it! You don’t know what you would do if you were ever forced to deal with something like that. You have no sympathy for these fictional characters! And how dare you — how dare you — question the actions of a fake character who is dealing with the death of another fake character. I mean, come on!

There must be a big difference for you between killing someone in a comic book and killing someone on TV, because you’re essentially ending an actor’s involvement with the show. Is that a tough thing to do?
Screw those people! No, in all seriousness, it’s something that’s very difficult for me. Because it is lines on paper when I do it in the comic book series. It’s like, “Oh, okay, Charlie [Adlard, Walking Dead illustrator] doesn’t have to draw that arrangement of lines anymore, that person is dead.” But it’s very uncomfortable for me to be on set, because I see these actors that are there and, in the source material, I have killed all but two of them. I walk through the set and I’m like, “Yep, killed that one, killed that one, killed that one.” And it is firing those people. I feel really bad for Emma Bell, just because she was great and I would have liked to have had her in the show. But, you know, this is the Walking Dead, characters have got to die. Thankfully, Emma was brought onto the show with the understanding that she was only going to be in a certain number of episodes and she knew that she was going to die from the very beginning. But it doesn’t really make it any easier. When they were shooting those scenes, I had to fly to Comic-Con and so I wasn’t actually there for when she died. But it was very emotional on set and I know that she was very upset about having to leave the crew and the actors. You kind of become a family when you’re doing a TV show and it’s a little upsetting to have to get rid of somebody.

Scott Garfield/AMC

Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) gave a big shout-out to William Faulkner on the show. You’re a fan?

I don’t know why you’re laughing. That’s a perfectly reasonable question!
Well, that’s one of those lines where, you know, Dale says that, and I’m watching it and I’m going, “Yeah, my friends are going to know that line’s not from me.” That’s why I’m laughing.

I Googled Johan Renck, who directed the episode, and discovered that he was once in ’80s ’90s Swedish pop act Stakka Bo.
I did not know that about Johan. But having met him and spent some time with him, that does not surprise me.

Are you familiar with the musical act of which I speak?
I have no clue what you are talking about. But I will definitely look that up.

Okay, I think we’re pretty much done. If you can just tell me who’s to die in episodes five and six, then we can wrap this thing up
Well, Andrew Lincoln got a little lippy on the fourth episode and so I think there’s going to be some surprises in store for episode five. I hope everyone learns to like Shane because he’s now the lead of the show. I mean, whatever…


Just to be clear, we’re (99%) sure Kirkman was joshing at the end. But what think you of last night’s show? Did you see the gang switcheroo coming? Were you sad about Amy’s demise (or even to see the end of Ed)? Any guesses as to the whereabouts of Merle? And does anyone else out there remember Stakka Bo? I’ve embedded their hit “Here We Go” below, as a memory jogger.

More about The Walking Dead:
‘Night of the Living Dead’: How a 42-year-old zombie movie refuses to die
‘Walking Dead’ comic creator Robert Kirkman talks about last night’s episode, ‘Tell It to the Frogs’
‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Dissecting Frogs
‘The Walking Dead’: Robert Kirkman talks about last night’s ‘Guts’-y episode
‘The Walking Dead’: Robert Kirkman talks about last night’s shocking pilot
‘Walking Dead’ star Andrew Lincoln talks about making AMC’s new zombie hit
‘The Walking Dead’ walks on Google Maps

Comments (95 total) Add your comment
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  • Paul

    I didn’t see the switcharoo coming, and it was a little jarring. Once Guillermo explained, though, I liked it.

    Where did all those zombies come from at the end? And where’s Merle?
    Thinking the attack on the camp had a lot to do with Merle’s revenge for being left behind, but where’s the van, then?

    Also, Rick and the others made it back to camp awfully quickly for not having any wheels, but now I’m just nitpicking. Fantastic episode!

    • shelleybear

      The zombies came from the truck that Merle stole.
      How else could they get there so fast.
      And who is such a scum bag as to do that?

    • Heather

      My theory is Merle lead the zombies there

      • Paul


      • Paul

        @Heather. Not Angle. Yeesh.

    • Tonya

      My assumption is that Merle filled that van up with geeks and let them loose on the camp for revenge.

    • Brian

      Earl could have led them there by driving the van very slowly but he could not have loaded them up in the van because the van’s cab was open to the back of the van.

    • amelia in portland

      I think Glenn led them there when he was cruising down the highway with the car alarm on BLAST.

    • Andy

      Merle is off in the wilderness somewhere becoming Governor of a brand new city. You’ll see.

  • waya

    I love the show, but its just stupid that Rick doesn’t even ask anyone WHY all these people turned to zombies. I mean, come ON, that’s the first thing I would ask someone!

    • Paul

      I’d also like to see the early days of the zombie apocalypse and how it came about explored, but I think I remember Kirkman saying that he deliberately steered clear of that sort of thing in the comic. Probably because it’s been done to death, and he wants to focus on the ongoing story of survival, which is usually left to the viewer’s imagination in this kind of story after the credits roll.

      • kimmy

        i’m wondering if they will go into more detail about that later on. i think they will have to eventually. that’s a lot to cram into 6 episodes, on top of the inititial survivor stories. i just don’t see the show lasting very long if all they do is show rick and co running around avoiding zombies.

    • brandon

      Did you not watch the first episode? There was an entire scene were Morgan explained to Rick, what was going on. Rick was more concerned with finding Lori and Carl more than anything, so right now he is more concerned with them and the survival of the camp. I would say we will see why all this happened explored in episode 5-6.

      • Paul

        I’ve seen all the eps. I do remember Morgan talking about how it started, but I don’t remember the explanation being in depth.

      • Arnaud

        It follows the Romero rule that the reason for the outbreak is never explained.
        The reason does not matter. It can be a military virus, a curse, aliens from the future, it is of absolutely no importance !

    • melissa

      I know right,you would think it would of come up by now

    • jen

      they might get to it since they do go to the CDC in a future episode. I think next week even. So surely they will explore what caused this to all happen a little

    • p90xCoach

      not only does the question of why it all happened, but my biggest question is how long ago it happened and how long was he in the coma… unless I missed that in the first episode.

  • Ded

    @Paul. I also believe Merle brought the zombies in the van, and he could have brought it up the road (no cans on ropes there), let the chompers out and then hid the van anywhere in the valley. I love this show!

    • Paul

      @Ded. One leading theory is that he brought them in the van. If so, then how’d he manage it without getting chomped himself, especially with the whole stumpy thing going on?
      Only two episodes left! Nooooooo!

  • Redvector

    Adam Minarovich (Ed) is a friend of mine hope this is the start of big things for him.

    • jen

      he was very good at getting me to hate him so that makes him a pretty good actor to me! for what it’s worth!

  • Ded

    @waya. In the first episode the father and son (can’t remember their names) that helped him mentioned briefly about the virus but you’re right, a few more questions would have been in order.

    • anonymous

      No Spoilers. Please.

      • who cares

        what are you talking about? you are reading a recap of the 4 episode and are complaining about someone briefly mentioning a conversation topic from episode 1? get a life

  • Hennehn Reeves

    Merle will become the Governor.

    • shelleybear

      If that is the case, I’m done with the show.

      • Richard Whitman

        Then you are an idiot.

      • ltchy

        l won’t be ‘done’ with the show, but l would be sorely disappointed. l still think that this line of thinking is a bit misguided. The Governor is a character that l think Kirkman is attached to and wouldn’t have the show muck that up in terms of continuity…

    • Chris

      I was thinking that myself. Either the Governor, or someone similiar. Rooker can definitely pull it off.

      • Auth

        lol Melissa, it is luck…but believe me, I do get a hafudnl that I won’t post reviews for because they earn less than 2 stars…Since I’m all about positive I just can’t make myself post them.

    • laurie

      Seems far too early for any Governor. He may play a similar adversary though.

      • Hennehn Reeves

        Or perhaps the Governor took Merle! Who was in the helicopter?

    • anonymous


      • Tonya

        Why don’t you stop reading comments then!

    • majamababe

      That’s exactly my thought. In the novel, the Governor tortures Rick. I can see Merle in that role taking revenge on Rick for having to cut off his hand. After all, he was going somewhat crazy being up on the roof with no food or water and thinking the zombies were going to get to him.

    • Emily

      I actually think this would be great–as long as they keep it in their pocket for a LONG time and don’t try to spring the Woodbury storyline in, like, the beginning of the second season. There’s SO much groundwork to be done with the core characters before that plot can REALLY hit home in the horrific way it needs to. But I could dig Merle (and especially Michael Rooker) in that crazed, revenge-driven role. We’ll see…

  • Lala

    I think you got your decades mixed up there. Stakka Bo is most definitely (early) ’90s.

  • JB

    This episode was the biggest load of crap I have ever seen. PC nonsense throughout. I read the comic because the writer refused to bow to the idiots that called him a racist when he killed minority caracters but this “All white people are evil or cowards” nonsenae is getting old. Yeah right, hispanic gangnbangers stay and care for old people when all the white doctors and nurses run away. Pull the other leg why don’t you.

    • waya

      That happened during Katrina. A lot of the doctors and nurses fled leaving the patients. I read an article about an old folks home where that happened and a few nurses did stay along with cleaning staff, and they saved a lot of people. This part was based on a true incident.

    • Linda

      Well, I thought it was pretty believable so I didn’t get the impression you obviously picked up on. Sounds like you have an agenda yourself picking that out. I’m just wondering what that is? Why don’t you just enjoy the show for what it is -instead of thinking it is just one political statement on society! Things happen and it is not necessarily how you want it to happen.

    • Nona

      How do you know all the doctors & nurses were white? Some of them could have been black, asian, etc. Plus, not all the janitorial staff stayed. Guillermo specifically stated that ONLY him and special care provider guy stayed to help. Then others came and decided to stay.

    • pr

      seriously what is your issue, like Nona said a lot of the staff would have been of various ethic origin. This is Atlanta after all with a large population of non-white people. get over yourself. feeling a bit guilty about something are you?

    • Pete

      Ah, yes, the Teabagistan logic of television. Unless a program is an explicit celebration of white people, then the paranoid projecting anger comes in fast and furious.

      • Voodoo

        What? You’re insane.

    • anonymous

      Get real. It’s based on a Comic Book.

      • Chad

        Who said the doctors were white?!?

    • BJG

      All white people are evil or cowards?

      Hunh. Last I checked, Rick and Glenn are both white and are both rather courageous and decent people. Daryl maybe an asshole, but he certainly goes down on the courageous end. Hell, he even went after the people attacking Glenn. I swear that some of those gang members looked white to me.

      I think making a blanket statement, like “All white people are evil or cowards”, is doing the show a real disservice.

    • Robert Singleton

      If you commune with caucasion zombies, I’m sure there’s a Glenn Beck-watching party in your all-white neighborhood….

  • Vince

    JB, maybe you have some serious race issues. I never got the “all white people are evil and cowards” thing, you’re talking about. I guess there were no black or hispanic staff in that nursing home that abandoned the old people..I mean it’s really hard to find black healthcare workers in Atlanta. I guess if you look hard enough, you can just about find anything.

  • Mallory

    If my husband didn’t insist on watching this show, I’d stop watching. The opening pretty much sums up why I don’t like it: whiny drama and not enough zombies eating people. I have never been so NOT emotionally invested in characters in my life. When Amy died, I was relieved…same with Ed. And it seriously was stupid that Amy’s sister kept touching her and hanging over her. They’ve got to know she’s going to come back as a zombie now. I also didn’t understand why they annoyed that Tim guy so much. Just let him dig; he wasn’t bothering anyone. I miss the father and son from the first episode. I really liked them; now we’re just left with annoying people and a random zombie pop-up. This show is 99% drama, 1% zombies.

    • Paul

      You say that like it’s a bad thing…

    • hunt4

      Yea, it’s actually you know, like the comic series it’s based off of. It focuses on the survivors and their day to day struggles in the face of an apocalypse. If you want to just watch mindless zombie crap, go rent a movie or something.

    • Richard Whitman

      Mallory, go back to watching lowest common denominator crap like Medium and Ghost Whisperer. It’s more your speed.

    • Nona

      If you don’t like the characters then you might as well stop watching this show. It is always gonna be about the survivors & not zombie killing.

    • e

      re: Tim

      Zombie apocalypse or not, if someone I’m camping with decides to spend all day digging what look like graves, I’m going to get concerned. Maybe that’s just me.

    • Todd

      99% drama, 1% zombies…kind of like life.

      • Bobby’s Robot

        I’d say there’s a much higher percentage of zombies in real life.

    • meh

      Do you always do what your husband insists upon? Does he force you to sit there and watch a show he likes and you don’t? Do you live in a studio apartment where there’s nowhere else to go to read a book or magazine for that hour?

    • Rain

      Mallory – I’m with you, I want more zombies!! I like the characters so I’m not as annoyed as you with all the whining and drama – but would like a bit less of that and a lot more zombies eating people.

      I also didn’t understand why they made Tim stop digging, he wasn’t hurting anyone. And if that’s all it takes to scare the kids then they should have died of fright when the zombies showed up!

    • Donald

      I like you Mallory. I’m really sorry you only have one TV set in your house.

  • melissa

    my faves rick,glenn,daryl

    • Nona

      I was surprised to find myself liking Daryl so much now. Maybe it’s the way he handles that crossbow, mmhmm…lol!

      • Steve

        Given how Norman Reedus brings a bit of the intensity in his roles – see The Boondock Saints – I find myself pulling for Daryl as well.

  • Lucy

    Read the review and comments because I loved this show so much!! Will watch it tonight!

  • laurie

    This episode was a bit boring up until the very end. I’m all for the people first and zombies second, but why so many new people? Why have this second group and the elderly? I’d rather be concentrating on one small group instead of new groups of new characters every episode.

    • who cares

      then write your own tv show

      • Tonya


    • BJG

      “why so many new people? Why have this second group and the elderly?”

      Well…because they’re gonna kill people off! It’s a zombie apocalypse, in case you haven’t noticed.

    • Jenbear

      Agree completely.

  • Leslie0929

    I loved last nights show the gang switch was brilliant I did not see that coming. I hate that Amy died right before her b day and as for Merle he would probably pop up and die before this season is over, hope he shows up I want to know what hapenef

  • Todd

    Would you really want to hang out at a retirement home in zombie-land? Old people like that die off all the time even in the BEST of circumstances. Do people who haven’t been infected rise from the dead too?

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