The characters on The Walking Dead spent most of tonight’s show enjoying a nice, quiet day — if the word “nice” can be used to describe (in the case of Rick) searching for the ghost of your recently eaten-by-zombies wife and (in the case of Daryl) reminiscing about being physically abused by your father. But things turned very nasty in the final fifteen minutes as the Governor and his goons sent hirsute convict Axel to the great Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in the sky and unleashed a, literal, van-load of walkers onto our beleaguered heroes.
Below, Walking Dead comic writer — and TV show executive producer — Robert Kirkman says a fond farewell to the zombie epic’s latest casualty, explains why it’s best not to bother Andrew Lincoln before he shoots a scene, and confirms the unlikelihood of Carol ever settling down with Mr Right.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, by the time the show was three-quarters of the way through I had assembled a lot of questions for you about it being a calm-before-the-storm episode. And then—Bam!—the Allman Brothers Band roadie gets shot in the head and all hell breaks loose.
ROBERT KIRKMAN:[Laughs] Yeah, we don’t like to wait around on the Walking Dead. We knew there was a coming conflict. We thought we would go ahead and start things off.
Did the Governor think of this as a warning shot? Or did he have hopes he could capture the prison in one surprise attack?
If you watch that attack it’s clearly more of a fishing expedition and also kind of a posturing move. Lew Temple’s character Axel sadly gets it and I feel like that was almost more luck than something that was calculated. It was really a threat: We’re tearing the door down, we’re shooting some guns, we want to show you that we’re powerful, we want to see what your capabilities to retaliate actually are.
Would you care to say a few words about the late, lamented Axel?
I’ve got to say, Axel is one of the characters in the comic books that I miss the most. I had a lot of fun writing him. He was a good bit of comic relief and definitely served that purpose in the show to an amazing degree. Lew Temple did such an awesome job with the guy. We’re always sad to see our characters go but this one was rough for me. I’d spent years [being] like, “Oh my god, I can’t wait to write Axel again! I love Axel! I miss him so much!” And then I didn’t really get to write Axel very much so I was kind of upset. But it is what it is.
If only it had been within your power—as an executive producer on the show and one of its writers and one of the folks who created the Walking Dead in the first place—to give him a stay of execution.
It comes to a point where you’re like, “Okay, this is the only option moving forward.” It’s a sad thing but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
The Governor used zombies essentially as weapons. Obviously rounding up a bunch of the undead and sticking them in a truck is pretty hazardous. Did you have a discussion as to whether it would be practical? And, if so, was that a moment when you thought, “I can’t believe I get paid to think about this s—”?
Yeah, there’s always discussions in the room where we’re sitting around talking about “zombies-this” and “zombies-that” and whether that would happen. And I do kind of sit back and think, “I can’t believe seven adults are sitting in a conference room talking about what an eyeball would do if it was crushed out of a skull — for like two hours.” It’s really crazy. But it’s a lot of fun.
The Walking Dead is an apocalyptic world that is somewhat different from ours in that it has zombies running around. So when you think about ways to attack people there’s the normal, every day way that you would do it in real life and then you throw zombies into the mix…You know, it’s a zombie-Trojan-horse kind of thing and we thought that would be cool.
Next: “Daryl’s got a really sad past and we’ve only seen pieces of that.”