'Walking Dead' writer Robert Kirkman talks about last night's explosive finale: 'I wish we had killed more people this season'

the-walking-deadThe Walking Dead has stopped walking (and shambling, and lying about going “Uuurgh!”), at least for now. Last night’s first season finale of AMC’s zombie show ended with a bang, literally, as the CDC blew itself up, incinerating both Jeryl Prescott’s Jacqui and Noah Emmerich’s Dr. Jenner. But what did Jenner whisper to Rick? Could Rick and his fellow survivors be heading to France (home of fine wine, foul cigarettes and, it seems, top notch zombie experts)? Will Michael Rooker’s Merle return in season two? And is my heterosexual man-crush on Norman Reedus’ Daryl getting way out of hand?

We put all these questions, and so many more, to Robert Kirkman, writer of the Walking Dead comic book and an executive producer of the show.

Entertainment Weekly: Obviously you guys plotted the finale, and the whole season, not knowing whether the show was coming back. What was that like?
Robert Kirkman: It’s something that Frank [Darabont, Walking Dead executive producer and finale co-writer] was very mindful of. He did a really good job of putting a button on the sixth episode, just in case things went horribly awry. At the same time, there’s a lot of questions and he leaves you with a sense of, “Where are they going down this road and what is going to happen next?” So there’s a lot of room for continuation. But if it had been a disaster we wouldn’t have looked like a–holes.

The season did leave a lot of questions unanswered. Like what happened to Merle? Michael Rooker has to return at some point, right?
We will definitely see Michael Rooker again.

Or what’s left him.
Yeah, we probably won’t see every little piece of him. There’s all kinds of cool stuff we can do. I definitely want to see Morgan and Duane come back at some point and find out what happened to them. There’s lots of little threads in there to keep people interested for next season.

TS-19-002Image Credit: AMCNot least the tantalizing whispered message that Dr Jenner gave to Rick towards the end of the episode. Would you mind telling us what he said?
[Laughs hysterically]

Come on, it’s just the two of us. It’s not like I’m going to go and blog about this—he said, with fingers crossed behind his back.
I don’t want to give anything away! Look, it could have been just like, “Hey, watch out for those zombies out there, dude!” But it wasn’t. It’ll probably be revealed in season two, what he said. And it’s pretty monumental.

I think it’s the same thing that Bill Murray says to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost In Translation.
We’re not going to keep in that ambiguous, I promise.

The episode featured undoubtedly my favorite exchange of the whole season, when Dr Jenner said, “Those doors are designed to withstand a rocket launcher,” to which Daryl replied, “Well, your head ain’t!”
[Laughs] That was a good one.

I am happy to admit that I have something of a crush on Norman Reedus in this show. Will you join me in that?
I will totally do that. Which is going to make it awkward when I see him on the set for season two. I mean, I don’t want to make out with the dude, or anything. But he’s awesome. I’m totally jealous of how bad–s that guy is. He literally is my favorite character in the show. He’s not my favorite actor on the show. [Laughs] But he is my favorite character.

TS-19-003Image Credit: AMCI appreciate that going to the CDC was Frank’s idea. But as a zombie fan, the finale couldn’t help but bring to mind the below ground-set Day of the Dead, which I know is your favorite zombie movie.
Absolutely. When Frank was pitching the idea to me, saying he wanted to bring them to the CDC and telling me all the different things that he felt would come out of that story, the science of it all and the being trapped in the small location, I was very much picturing a lot of Day of the Dead stuff. That’s one of the reasons I was so on board with the idea.

Is that whole business about the CDC eventually blowing itself up in the event of some total catastrophe accurate?
I’m going to say, “Yes.” Because that sounds awesome to me.

Is that what the inside of the CDC looks like?
That was actually shot inside the CDC.

No, it wasn’t.
Yeah, that’s a lie. [Laughs] I don’t think it looked anything like the real CDC. The CDC is very secure and locked down and I don’t think we were even allowed to get reference photos of what the inside of the CDC looks like. For all I know, they have actual real zombies in the CDC, so they’ve already prevented that whole thing. Who knows?

Would it be fair to assume Dr Jenner was named after my fellow Brit, Edward Jenner, who developed the smallpox vaccine.
I would imagine so. I guess you’d have to get confirmation from Frank on that. He originally…

I’m sorry, but are you not familiar with the history of the smallpox vaccine?
RK: Uh, no, I am sadly not. Although thanks for making me admit that. [Laughs]. But a fun little bit of information: Dr Jenner originally had a different name, but because Rubicon had already used that name we had to change it.

And I think we all know what happened to Rubicon.
I wasn’t trying to go there. I was really upset about that. I think Rubicon was an awesome show and I wish they would make more. AMC? What a bunch of a—holes! [Laughs]

At one point in the finale, Dr Jenner said the French had gotten the farthest in working out what the hell is going on. I find it hard to believe they would have gotten farther than the British. We developed the smallpox vaccine! You’ve kind of embarrassed yourself and your family there.
Listen, if you want to talk about hating the French, I think [we] could give you guys a run for your money. But you’ve got to throw them a bone every now and then right?

TS-19-004Image Credit: AMCSeriously, though, Rick and the gang can’t go to France can they? I mean, I know they wander around a lot in the comic book. But they never go as far as France.
A couple of seasons ago you probably didn’t think the bikers from Sons of Anarchy were going to go to Ireland. But that happened. Who knows, man?

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the show got renewed. How do things stand at the moment in terms of writing season two?
There’s been a little bit of behind the scenes stuff going on between the producers on the show and AMC, just figuring out when we’re going to get started and how we are going to do things and what our overall plan for season two is. That kind of stuff has been going on. But I don’t think any actual heavy work will be happening until after Christmas.

Were you tempted not to kill anyone in the finale, given that it could have been the last show and how much the characters had already suffered?
No, I think everybody’s pretty committed to killing people on this show. It’ll be a while before we start thinking, “Well, we might as well let some people live, we’ve put these guys through some horrible things.” If anything, if I were to criticize the first season at all—which I think went great—I would say, “I wish we had killed more people.”

And that’s that! Well, not quite. At a couple of points in our conversation, Mr Kirkman referred to crucial, nay seismic, events which have happened in the Walking Dead comic but not yet on the show. Indeed, they may never occur on the show. But as they do fall under the general heading of “spoiler,” I thought it would be best to post them in a different item which I’m going to put up tomorrow. Enjoy! Or not. The choice is yours.

More about The Walking Dead:
‘Walking Dead’ exclusive: Exec producer Gale Anne Hurd denies Frank Darabont fired writers
‘The Walking Dead’ finale recap: Zombie life sucks. Deal with it
‘The Walking Dead’: Let’s meet our zombie cover stars!
‘The Walking Dead’: This week’s EW cover story goes behind the scenes on TV’s best new show
‘Night of the Living Dead’: How a 42-year-old zombie movie refuses to die

And you can also listen to this week’s zombie-tastic EW’s TV Insiders Podcast.

[AUDIO http://www.ew.com/ew/static/podcast/2010/12/EW_TV_Insiders_12_3_10.mp3%5D

Comments (94 total) Add your comment
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  • Dee

    I loved the season finale of Walking Dead, and just between me and you, I am very Gay and I have a for real crush on Norman Reedus. I think he is so cute–in a redneck sort of way :-)

  • majamababe

    Mr. Kirkman:

    I’m not much of a flesh-eating ghoul fan; my son is – but after watching the previews and then watching the whole 1st season – I am hooked and was sad when the first season ended. I am so hooked, that for Christmas, I bought my son the first six books of the graphic novel! I realize there are things in the comic that are not in the movie and vice-versa, but the characters are very compelling and I want to know more about them. I enjoy reading your insights into the making of the series and can see why the first series ended the way it did – just in case FOX didn’t order a second. Hopefully, the second and subsequent seasons (if the FOX gods allow it) will be just as good as this one was. Thanks again!

    A New Dedicated Zombie Fan

    • Redvector

      The show is on AMC not Fox.

      • majamababe

        Yes – I know. I had just read another article about FOX and said FOX when I should have said AMC.
        Thank you.

      • ruth gallagher

        maybe it should have been Fox…AMC allowed me a preview of their channel, and wouldn’t ya know it, and i watched all episodes….then THEY discontinued this perk right at the last episode ….thanks AMC now i will never upgrade since you were ever so rude!! cudda given us that last episode..i might have upgraded since i do like your channel but cannot afford all the other junk that goes along with an upgrade! regards and disappointed

      • Michael Sacal

        Fox airs the show outside the US.

      • AT

        Ruth, if you got a free preview, that was because your cable/satellite provider gave it to you, hoping you would upgrade your programming package. Don’t blame AMC.

      • Bob

        Ruth, time to change your service provider. I don’t know of too many that don’t have AMC on their basic service. I’m guessing you have a cable company as a provider. They’re the cheapest providers around.

    • Hutchy

      How old is your son? Any younger then 16, and I’m not sure you wanna expose him to all that, and thats coming from someone who is FAR from a social conservative. The Governor storyline aint for kids.

      • majamababe

        He is 37 and a PhD candidate, thank you.

      • Brandon

        Are you kidding me? Worry about your own kids.

      • rerun

        What about the children?!?!?! Won’t someone think of the children?!?!?!

  • Lincoln

    Robert Kirkman kinda sounds like a douche.

    • Redvector

      No more than you do.

    • Richard Whitman

      He’s actually a great guy.

    • RaRa

      I didn’t see anything particularly douche-like in Mr. Kirkman’s interview.

      • MCS

        He possibly was referring to the comment about AMC being a-holes? Even though it was in a joking manner. Biting the hand that feeds is pretty douche-like.

    • Fatima

      He’s definitely a bit douchey in the mailbag of the comic books but it’s always sorta charming.

    • darclyte

      Over the weekend, I heard an interview with Kirkman where he implied that the first season DVD box set may include all 6 episodes in black & white (like the comics) as a bonus. I’d rewatch the first season in B&W.

      • Snsetblaze

        I would rewatch in b & w too. Now its going on the Christmas list.

      • Ne Oublie

        cool!

    • Alex

      I’ll re-watch it in color, again. :-)

  • J-P

    I think they should definitely go to France. But I’m only saying that because I’m French.

  • Loyal

    I think we all know what Dr. Jenner whispered the following to Rick

    SPOILERS

    “Lori’s blood test, she’s pregnant Rick.”

    Which means to me Season 2 will pick up shortly after, if not immediately after the CDC events.

    If I were planning season 2, I would

    Reveal the pregnancy
    Have Carl kill Shane
    Introduce Tyrese
    Have the group go to Wiltshire Estates
    Have Carl get shot
    Have the group go to Hershel’s farm

    and end season two with the group going over a hill and seeing the prison in the distance.

    So how does Merle fit into all that? I guess who could have a separate storyline with Merle in Woodbury but you run the risk of introducing that storyline too soon. And no, Merle isn’t the Governor. He’s his “right hand man.”

    That also means no Michonne or Governor until Season 3 :(

    • Pierre

      SPOILER ALERT
      Dr. Jenner whispered the following to Rick :

      “This show went even more phoney than the comic, so Kirkman has been fired : you all have to improvise the whole Season 2 !”.

  • kdog

    I think the whisper was that Lori (his wife) was pregnant. Rick knows its not his cause he was in a coma when the baby was conceived.

    • Bulloch

      Good point! I figured it had something to do with Shane/Lori but I didn’t even consider the bloodtests…then again, Lori & Rick got it on the first night Rick came to camp, so he may think it is his unless he knows how far along she is…

    • Survivor

      I believe so. Dr. Jenner probably whispered to Rick “your wife’s blood sample shows she’s pregnant.Congratulations!”

    • RCB

      Makes sense. I was thinking that the doctor saw the conversation between the wife and the friend through a security camera, but yours makes better sense. Lol…

      • Bijou

        Conversation??!! He was raping her!

    • LexLuthor

      THIS. +1

    • Dawn

      This is what he probably whispered. I kind of wish that it turns out to be something else though.

    • Ally

      WHy would he necessarily need to whisper this to Rick though? He would find out when her belly starts to grow. Seems like kind of a waste to make it that.

      • kdog

        I agree, however Jenner, being the doctor who finally decided to give them a chance, was likely giving Rick a heads up that his wife was pregnant, thus caring for her health is different than caring for the health of a woman without life growing in their womb. Rick puts together its not his child on his own.

    • Ne Oublie

      It’s kind of cheap and soapy.

  • Rand

    Mr. Kirkman, if you read these letters please don’t randomly kill off characters on your show. Last night was an awesome Season One finale; it put your show in the same stratosphere as Lost, which it reminds me of, along with Stephen King’s, The Stand, (one of my favorite novels). You’ve constructed an interesting storyline and characters we can empathize with–even Daryl. Allow your show to invest and reap what you’ve accomplished so far before you start eradicating what the audience loves about Walking Dead I am one fan for who next Halloween can’t come soon enough–and to think you achieved the success of Walking Dead in only six episodes!

  • Redvector

    That’s the same notion that I had too.

  • Fan of Murphy

    I am a HUGE Norman Reedus fan and am hoping that he becomes a somewhat regular in season 2. Finally to see him on tv is awesome!!!!

    • melissa

      I know Right….. I’ll be pissed if they kill him off next season.

    • Dawn

      I was surprised and happy that Daryl made it out of the season finale alive. He’s not in the comics, so I was worried he’d be dead by the end of the season.

    • Blanca

      Norman Reedus is the only reason I watch the show. I am a huge fan of his and would probably stop watching if they kill him off! AMC- more Daryl Dixon, please. :)

    • Ne Oublie

      I am loving him, Rick, and Andrea the most. And I love to despise Shane.

  • Bulloch

    For my $’s worth, I think Dr. Jenner told Rick that Shane’s scratches came from his wife, just because he’s probably got the place wired with cameras AND because in the comic, that’s pretty much the first thing Dale said to Rick when he meets him.

    • Mike

      Dude, SPOILER alert please. I couldn’t stop reading your comment, but if there was a “***SPOILER ALERT**” I wouldn’t have been sucked in!

  • majamababe

    I apologize for my previous post – I meant to say AMC and not FOX.
    Thank you.

  • majamababe

    For folks who may be wondering – my son is 37 and a PhD candidate.
    Thank you.

    • Flyer

      I can tell you’re very proud of your son – and rightfully so! A PhD is a significant accomplishment!

  • Survivor

    This is prediction to the next season although its not in the book. I think Shayne is gonna be Rick’s pain in the ass. What are your thoughts folks?

    • Cylon

      Im surprised he survived the first 6 episodes considering…..

      • Fatima

        Yep. Now I’m wondering if they’ll ever go there. Didn’t much like the CDC business. I know the show is carving a different path than the comic books but that felt like a completely different sort of zombie story at its core.

      • Hen

        I’m happy, he’s one of the best characters on the show. I’d prefer it if they kept him around as long as possible.

        Also, how is this a different sort of zombie story? It follows the comics just fine, it deviates enough to keep you guessing and follows them enough to keep you satisfied if you ask me.

    • kkkkkatie

      I agree. When the episode first came on and it showed how Shane tried to get Rick out of the hospital but couldn’t, I started to change my opinion of him. I haven’t care for the character up until that scene. I could understand why he told the wife Rick was dead. But after his “ugly” behavior toward the wife I am back to hating him again. I wish the wife were played by a more interesting actress.

  • Zedhead

    Walking dead is great!!Love Norman Reedus in Boondock Saints.Total badass in this too!!

  • shane crawford

    Dr. Jenner told Rick that Lori is pregnant. He took blood from all of them, remember?

    • Ssups

      I thought he told him that Lori was pregnant too; or that he had seen Shane try to rape his wife… Probably something completely different…

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