Who will live and who will die? That was the question on the lips of fans before last night’s episode of the Walking Dead. Of course, given the nature of AMC’s undead saga, that tends to be the question on the lips of fans before every episode. But this week the query had a particular urgency given the (correct) assumption that the season finale would finally feature the showdown between the Rick-lead prison-ites and the Governor-ruled Woodburians.
By the time the smoke had cleared, both Rick and the Governor were left standing. Less fortunate were Andrea, Milton, and many inhabitants of Woodbury, whose out-of-town signage will now presumable be altered to read, “Welcome to Woodbury: If you lived here, you’d be dead by now.”
Below, Walking Dead TV show executive producer — and Walking Dead comic book writer Robert Kirkman — talks about last night’s fatalities, previews season 4, and admits he is not a big fan of bathing.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, let’s start with the living. I think a lot of people assumed the Governor would die in last night’s episode, which is what happens in the comic book. Did you always plan for this to be a character who lasted more than one season?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: That was always the plan. I think everybody involved in the Walking Dead has kind of caught on to that cable trope of bringing a big new character into a series and then, by the end of that season, that character magically dying or being written out of the show in some clever way. We really wanted to give people that sense that this was the kind of thing we were doing — but flip the script at the end. We’ve got a lot more to do with the Governor.
Did you tell David Morrissey when you cast him that he should properly unpack his bags?
[Laughs] Yes, he was aware that he was going to be on for more than one season.
I’m fascinated by what’s going to happen next time they have a census at Woodbury, as the Governor pretty much wiped out the entire population. Did you want to have a final, climactic reminder that this guy is absolutely crazy. Or were you saying, “You thought he was crazy before but he’s much worse now”?
It was really trying to build on that self-destructive moment when you’re seeing that this guy who seemingly had it all together — who seemingly was capable of running this town and rebuilding a civilization to some extent — actually didn’t have it together at all and can very easily be frustrated to the point of completely ruining everything he had going. It’s a downfall, to a certain extent. It is a resolution to this season. The Governor is without all of the things he had before and it is supposed to be showing just how much this guy has spiraled out of control because of his interactions with Rick and the other people in Rick’s community.
I feel sorry for his Big Book of Plans!
Yeah, he may have left that book in Woodbury.
Following last week’s Glenn-Maggie engagement, I was fairly sure one or both of them would be biting the big one in the finale.
Well, they still occupy our only hopeful area in the show.
Exactly! You want to be getting rid of that as soon as possible, sir!
[Laughs] Glenn and Maggie are our “Hey-look-the-show’s-not-that-bleak!” characters. Again, we try not to do the kind of things that people expect. It’s something that I’ve always tried to do with my work in comics: find those things that people are going to key into — you know, “Uh-oh, marriage proposal! This is going to end badly!” — and do things the other way, just to kind of keep people guessing.
Moving on to the fatalities. In the comic book, Andrea survives this part of the saga and, in fact, is still alive now. How much discussion did you have about whether or not to kill her on the show?
That was huge. We spent many months of figuring that out and coming to that decision. It’s never an easy thing to kill a character and that one was definitely tough, because Laurie Holden is such a huge part of the show and it is quite a departure from the comic books. I can imagine there are a good number of fans that are frustrated by it and heartbroken over it and that’s what we’re going for.
Your aim is to break fans’ hearts?
Well, we want people to be invested in these characters. We want every death to be as emotional as possible. When you see season 4 and you see how that death has affected Rick and how it’s changed all these characters and what’s come from that death, I think it will all make sense. But no deaths are decided upon flippantly.
…apart from the large group of Woodburians who bought the farm this week.
[Laughs] Well, the Governor doesn’t put as much care into those decisions as we do.
Who gave Laurie the bad news?
That was Glen Mazzara. He handled all that stuff when he was the showrunner. She took it well. All the actors on this show know what they’re getting into. It’s certainly not a joyous occasion. I think it was very hard for everyone to see her go. But she’s a professional and she knows that that’s what this show is about.
Next: “Either we loved Milton or we hated him and wanted to torture him.”