On tonight’s midseason premiere of AMC’s zombie show The Walking Dead our band of postapocalyptic survivors continued to mourn their beloved Sophia. Who is this girl, the Kim Jong-il of zombiefied tykes? In fairness, while it’s been many a week since we last saw Rick and crew, no time at all has passed for them. Moreover, there was plenty of other stuff happening in “Nebraska” as Lori contrived to have a car accident (despite the fact she may have been the only person on the planet actually driving at that moment) and two strangers (Michael Raymond-James and Aaron Munoz) walked into a bar (alas, as neither of them were a horse or French I don’t have a joke for that).
Below, Walking Dead comic writer and TV show executive Robert Kirkman ruminates on the episode and explains why the rest of this season is going to be as good as… Smokey and Bandit!!!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, first things first. There’s a bar near to Hershel’s farm? Couldn’t Rick have organized the search for Sophia from there? That would definitely have been my plan. I mean that’s where they keep the booze!
ROBERT KIRKMAN: Obviously, their priorities were not in order.
Look, if you’re just going to poke holes in the show, this interview is over. [Laughs] No, you’re right. They should have been at that bar the whole time. I think Hershel was keeping it a secret. He didn’t want them to drink up all the booze.
When AMC recently released a clip which briefly showed the two new cast members coming into the bar we put up a post asking readers to guess their identity. Frankly, given how quickly they got killed, that now seems like a colossal waste of everybody’s time.
[Laughs] Well, hopefully it wasn’t until the very end of that scene that you thought they might not last a long time. With the casting of those two guys and everything involving that scene we were really trying to convince the audience that they were going to be new regulars, so the end would be that much more shocking.
One of my colleagues wanted me to tell you he “couldn’t believe they got that f—king great guy from Terriers on the show just to shoot him.”
[Laughs] He’s a huge fan of the Walking Dead. Or at least he was.
When we spoke about the last episode you said the writing staff was aware it was going to be the midseason finale and tailored the killing of Sophia to that. What were your thoughts with regards to this midseason premiere?
I think this was a particularly good episode coming back because the two guys in the bar represent new threats and they are really just the tip of the iceberg. It’s really good to come back and be off of the farm and see that there are more dangerous things out there than the zombies. Things just keep getting worse from here.
Is it fair to say there’’s a good chance they weren’t lying about having friends?
It is very, extremely… Yeah. They got friends.
Was the episode’s title, “Nebraska,” a tip of the hat to the most depressing album Bruce Springsteen has ever made?
I’ll go with that. Evan Reilly that wrote this episode — brilliantly I must add — and I know he’s a huge Springsteen fan.
Nice car stunt, by the way.
Thanks. I had nothing to do with it. But it did turn out really well. I love the trailers for this season where it’s like, “This is happening: People shooting guns! Cars are flipping!” [Laughs]
It’s basically Smokey and the Bandit, right?
Right. We come back and it’s basically… I was going to say Dukes of Hazzard, but that would sound like I was being critical of the show.
There has been criticism of this season’s slow pace. Are those trailers a reaction to that?
Maybe somewhat, maybe a little. But, to be honest, these episodes are so packed with stuff like that there’s really nothing else to put in the trailer, you know? There is an unfortunate side to us breaking the season up the way we have. I think if the whole season had run concurrently week-after-week you would have been able to see that the slow episodes actually build up payoff for the fast episodes. But, as it stands right now because of the break, it’s like, slow episodes in the fall and fast episodes in the spring.
Has the issue of who knew Sophia was in the barn been settled? Or is it something which is going to rumble on?
We’re not going to dwell on that. It will come up from time to time and there is going to be a bit of tension because of that. But our characters are going to have a lot of things to deal with starting very soon. They’re not going to have a lot of time to be bitching and moaning about who knew Sophia was in the barn. Rick trusts Hershel and they’re moving on.
Dale seems determined to keep on Shane’s case. Does that guy have some kind of death wish?
Dale is a character that represents the life before all this happened and Shane is a character that very much embodies what life has to be now. Dale and Shane are going to be butting heads. Dale is a very bold character. So, yeah, he’s going out on a limb now and then.
I don’t want to get into specifics name-wise but it has been widely reported that one of your main cast members may be appearing in the pilot of another show. Does that piss you off?
No, no, not at all. It’s a pilot and I don’t think it’s unusual for people to be on two shows, the way the scheduling works sometimes on cable. I think Lennie James himself was on, like, seven different shows last year: Human Target, and the Walking Dead and Hung… So I don’t think that any casting stuff is actually going to be spoiling anything moving forward.
So the fact that the person we’re discussing may have been cast in a pilot does not necessarily mean he is either being killed off or disappearing to points unknown on The Walking Dead.
Correct. Maybe he dies in that pilot!
So you don’t look at this as an “eff-you” to AMC by a certain former Walking Dead showrunner?
No, no, of course not. No, no, no, no, no. That’s absurd. You’re going to hire an actor just as an eff-you? That’s not how things work.
I don’t know how these things work out in Hollywood, sir. I’m just a humble scribe.
[Laughs] As far as I know, there’s not bad blood to that level.
How far have you gotten mapping out season 3?
Right now we’re finishing up our third week of writing. We’re constantly shocking ourselves. I can say right now the third season is going to be insane.
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