'Walking Dead' exec producer Robert Kirkman talks about tonight's show, 'Arrow on the Doorpost'

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Image Credit: Gene Page/AMC

We always knew that when Rick Grimes and the Governor finally met the result would be war. But who could have imagined it would be a war of words?

Yes, most of tonight’s episode of AMC’s zombie show the Walking Dead was devoted to a big pow wow between the respective overlords of the prison and Woodbury as Andrea played Henry Kissinger to Rick’s Richard Nixon and the Governor’s Mao Zedong. (Or maybe Ol’ One-Eye was supposed to be Brezhnev. Either way, I’m just happy my history degree has finally come good.)

Below, Walking Dead comic writer — and Walking Dead TV show executive producer — Robert Kirkman talks about the Rick-Governor meet, the Daryl-Martinez zombie-slaying competition, and why Steven Yeun has a problem keeping his clothes on.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the Walking Dead comic, Rick and the Governor don’t have the kind of pow wow we saw on this episode. What prompted you to do that for the show?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: The way the story was told had shifted. In the comic book, those characters met very early on and that’s actually how the Governor was introduced. As we were working on this season and as the actual meeting between the Governor and Rick kept happening later and later in the season it became clear to us that we needed to have some kind of big moment around this so we could get to watch Andrew Lincoln and David Morrissey match actor wits and have some really cool scenes. We felt the meeting deserved to have this air of importance around it.

And this is the first time they’ve really encountered each other, right?
Yeah, aside from the two actors running into each other at the cafeteria or whatever this is the first real meeting. They’ve kind of been like ships passing in the night up to this point and they’re finally coming face to face. I think it’s cool because to a certain extent the Governor has this myth of this man who overtook this prison and has caused all this trouble and he’s definitely built up this guy in his mind. And Rick’s heard all these stories about this Governor — all the kinds of things that he’s done. So these two men come into this meeting with so many preconceived notions as to who these people are and what they’re doing. It’s cool to have all that undercurrent.

You’ve talked before about how Rick, heading into this conflict with the Governor, is a very troubled and emotionally damaged person — and obviously he has recently been seeing things which aren’t there. But in this episode he seemed to be relatively sane.
I wouldn’t say that he’s quite healed just yet. But I will say that his encounter with Morgan last episode did help him in leaps and bounds to kind of get ahold of his madness and see the path that he was on so that he would make an effort to get off that. I also think that his conversation with Michonne, now that he’s kind of admitting to his shortcomings, are helping him heal at least enough that he can fake it in front of the Governor when he needs to.

What was the Governor’s purpose in telling Rick the story about his wife?
The Governor is a master manipulator and if he’s going to meet an adversary he is certainly going to take the time to humanize himself and try to derive sympathy. That’s just the Governor at work.

As a British person myself, seeing Andrew Lincoln and David Morrissey together like that, I couldn’t help but think that somewhere there’s a BBC drama missing it’s lead actors.
[Laughs] They’re all in America, baby!

I’m pretty sure the sex scene with Maggie and Glenn is the lustiest sequence yet featured on the show.
Yeah. You know, every now and then we sit down and say, “This show has tons of violence and it all serves the story but it’s still a very violent show.” Sometimes we find that we’re lacking in sex and so this episode we tried to remedy that. I have to add that Steven Yeun can’t go a day on set without asking to get naked so it was also about helping that guy out and making him happy.

Not entirely changing subjects, it was fun to see Daryl and Martinez basically embark on a d— measuring, zombie-killing contest.
Yeah.  That was definitely a fun scene and it served the purpose of getting some zombie-killing into the episode. But one of the things I really liked about that scene was the fact that, you know, these are two people who in an episode or two could be at each other’s throats. They’re very aware of that and the fact that they’re having this somewhat playful moment where they’re like, “Things are quiet now, so let’s kind of enjoy it,” it was cool to see those characters in that light, setting up what might possibly come, and I think that scene might be cool to remember as you’re watching future episodes.

Maybe this is just something I missed when I was watching the show but why was it called “The Arrow in the Doorpost”?
Everybody always asks me about these titles and I always forget to ask the writers of the individual episodes why they titled their episodes that. I probably knew at some point in the past but that was six months ago and I’m working on season 4 now. I’m sure there’s a very poignant reason for that title — but I’ve long since forgotten it.

What’s next? How soon are things going to get nasty? Or nastier?
I think it’s a clear path to the finale at this point. We’ve had Rick and Michonne’s side mission and we’ve had the war council where Rick and the Governor sit down and have their little pow wow. Now that we just have 3 episodes left, things ramp up pretty quickly and really don’t stop until the finale is over. And they may not even stop then. I’m not going to spoil anything.

Finally, did you see last week’s Walking Dead sketch on Saturday Night Live?
I did. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Although it was a little bit out of continuity. Zombies don’t talk!

Read more:
‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Mr. Governor, I Presume?
‘The Walking Dead’: Robert Kirkman previews rest of season 3; says ‘there may be a casualty or more’
‘Walking Dead’ exec producer Robert Kirkman talks about tonight’s show and the long-awaited return of Morgan


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