'Walking Dead' writer Robert Kirkman talks about tonight's episode '18 Miles Out'

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Image Credit: Gene Page/AMC

On this week’s episode of The Walking Dead the long simmering relationship between Rick and Shane finally became physical. No, the show’s central love triangle did not become a ménage à trois, as much as that might have pleased slash fiction devotees. Rather the pair beat the hell out of each other in what I’m going to call “The Jackpot in the Parking Lot.” (Okay, that’s garbage. Oh, where is Don King when you need him?)

Below, Walking Dead comic writer and TV show executive producer Robert Kirkman ruminates on the big fight, the show’s other major plot line, and the episode’s horrifying lack of Norman Reedus.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This show featured Rick and Shane finally getting into it and in a very physical way. It wasn’t quite “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Keith David duking it out in They Live but it was well on the way.
ROBERT KIRKMAN: Well, thank you. They Live is one of the best movies ever made. But, yeah, one guy dropped a motorcycle on another guy. That’s a pretty intense fight. It’s definitely a testament to how intense the rest of this season is going to be. This is a faster-paced, more action-packed Walking Dead.

At one point in the show, Rick told Shane he had quickly figured out that something had happened between him and Lori. There seemed to be a suggestion that Rick’s knowledge predated Lori’s confession.
Absolutely. That’s something that we were playing with. It would be somewhat obvious to Rick, even back in season 1, that there was definitely something going on there. What we were always trying to play is the fact that Rick is such a great leader and such a good guy that he was willing to bottle that up and more or less ignore it for the sake of the group and the sake of surviving. So, yeah, I think he knew for a while.

I enjoyed the way that Shane was almost hoist by his own argument-petard with regards to being ruthless in the post-apocalypse.
Yeah, he kind of put his foot in his mouth on that one a little bit. But I mean, that’s really Shane’s character. This is a guy that is reckless and is scared and is trying to hide it and he’s making snap decisions and most of the time he’s doing that to protect himself and he’s not really thinking about the big picture and he’s not really thinking about the people around him. That’s really his flaw and this is a big example of that.

There was talk of winter coming down the pike. How much time has gone by now in the series?
I’d say we opened up in maybe June or so in the first season and the first season took place over a matter of days. Uh, you know, we are, uh, looming into maybe our third or fourth or fifth month…

You can just say, “I don’t know.” There’s no shame in that.
Winter is coming! Other than that, I don’t know.

I think the most chilling moment in the show was when Shane was on the bus and saw the empty child seat. Of course, it could be that someone had just bought a child seat but you are left to wonder, “What happened to that kid?”
[Laughs] I’d say what happened to that kid but you might get upset.

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Image Credit: Gene Page/AMC

What was the significance of Shane staring at the walker in the field?
We’re really just trying to show that that kind of thing is inescapable. You’re just driving down the street, you look over and, “Oh, there you go, there’s a zombie.” We’re trying to show that this world is becoming more and more populated by zombies. Our thinking is that large population centers like Atlanta are really where the heart of this began and as [Rick and crew] moved out to Hershel’s farm they didn’t really encounter very many walkers because they are moving out of the city center at a faster rate than the zombie population. And that zombie population is starting to catch up with them. The area is starting to become more and more dense with walkers.

The other half of the show concerned Beth’s seeming desire to commit suicide. The abortion plot line earlier in the season caused a minor media brouhaha. Are you bracing yourself for similar eruption over this?
Bring it on! I don’t know. I don’t think politicians debate suicide as much as they do abortion. So maybe it won’t be as large. But, whatever, we’re not going to be pulling any punches on the Walking Dead. We’ll continue to play with hot button issues in the apocalypse while people are cutting zombie’s heads off.

Obviously this would have been a disappointing episode for members of Dixon’s Vixens and other Norman Reedus fans. But one of my colleagues said one of the things he liked about this show was that you didn’t feel the need to check in with every single member of the cast.
Yeah. That’s something we’re going to have to do from time to time just because of how large our cast is becoming. It’s definitely an unfortunate thing that we didn’t get a little Daryl Dixon action in this episode. But we’re going to bounce around. It’s an ensemble show with an ensemble cast and every now and then people may drop out of an episode.

As a fan of Rescue Me I have to ask: What is it about Michael Zegen that makes TV producers and writers want to do terrible things to him?
[Laughs] He’s actually really good friends with (writer-producer) Evan Reilly who’s on the Walking Dead and was also one of the key writers on Rescue Me. Any time that guy can be brought into a show that Evan Reilly is working on so they can torture him, I think Evan Reilly does his due diligence and makes sure that happens.

I didn’t understand the significance of the corpses which had scratches but not bites.
Well, they’re definitely trying to figure out how those two guys became zombies and they didn’t have any bites on them. That’s something that is a bit of a mystery to them, exactly what a bite does, how it makes someone turn into a zombie. So from time to time they are trying to investigate things and learn a little bit more about the world around them.

To be clear, this was a case of what I believe in the trade is called “foreshadowing” rather than me being an idiot?
Possibly.

Possibly what?
Possibly you’re an idiot. Possibly it’s foreshadowing. I don’t really know where I fall on that.

Read more:
‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Mega Shane vs. Giant Rick-topus
‘The Walking Dead’: David Morrissey cast as The Governor
‘Walking Dead’ ratings hugeness continues
‘The Walking Dead’: Writer Robert Kirkman talks about tonight’s show, ‘Triggerfinger’
InsideTV Podcast: Andrew Lincoln dishes on ‘intense, brutal, and incredibly shocking’ upcoming episodes of ‘The Walking Dead’
‘Walking Dead’ return delivers monster ratings
‘Walking Dead’ writer Robert Kirkman talks about ‘Nebraska’ and previews the rest of the season: ‘Things just keep getting worse from here’

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