'The Walking Dead': Creator Robert Kirkman on the killer midseason finale and what's next

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Image Credit: Gene

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead.]

Destruction, terror and mayhem are not just the lyrics to an awesome LL Cool J song. They also properly describe what went down on last night’s midseason finale of The Walking Dead. In his thirst for revenge, the Governor took Hershel and Michonne hostage, and then sliced off Hershel’s head when Rick refused to have his people leave the safety behind the fence. The Governor then stormed the prison with his tank before being killed himself through a combination of Rick’s fists, Michonne’s sword, and Lilly’s gun. Now, the prison survivors are scattered and we will have to wait until the show returns on Feb. 9, 2014 for answers. Or will we? We chatted with Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman to get his thoughts on what went down, why it went down, and what to expect next. Read on for all the intel! (Also check out our interview with Scott Wilson, who played the dearly departed Hershel.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, you bastard. How could you do that to poor Hershel?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: He was the moral compass of the group and it’s always good to lose the moral compass. It will all become clear when we finally show you the back half of season 4. It wasn’t enough for these characters to lose the prison. They also had to feel some kind of loss over something important and Hershel was that thing that was important to each and every character, so it made the most sense to take him off the table and see how it affects the characters, which we’ll see when we come back in a bit. So there’s a lot of cool stuff ahead because of that.

EW: Why does the Governor put the sword to Hershel’s throat and not Michonne’s? We know how he feels about Michonne so why go to Hershel and not Michonne in that situation?
KIRKMAN: Well, there’s two things: I don’t think he knew that things were going to spiral out of control the way they did right after he killed Hershel so it’s entirely possible that he had a much more horrible plan for Michonne. But two, because of that exchange between Hershel and the Governor in the trailer, and because of Rick’s comments mirroring a lot of what Hershel said, I think the Governor got the sense that this was the guy that was advising Rick and kind of represented the whole “we can all live together in harmony” attitude, and that’s the guy you want to take off the table just to show this is not what’s happening. I’m going to take this prison.

EW: It felt like the one thing we never got last season was that big one-on-one battle between Rick and the Governor. Was there a conscious decision this season of, before this is all said and done, they need to have their big knuckle-blistering brawl?
KIRKMAN: We knew that the audience needed that payoff and ultimately did want to see these two characters clash. It’s also something that didn’t happen in the comics so in that respect I think it’s a cool thing to see some kind of confrontation between these two. So we really wanted to pay off that aspect of it’s Rick vs. the Governor and also do something pretty explosive, and having these two guys duke it out while the prison was falling seemed like a pretty big midseason finale moment.

EW: In the comic, Lilly kills the Governor because she’s mad at the horrible things he made her and the other people of Woodbury do in his quest for power and vengeance. Her motivation here is a little less clear for shooting him. Is it a mercy bullet she gives him, the same way he gave one to her daughter Meghan, or is it out of anger that he came along and ruined everything? Or is it both?
KIRKMAN: It is a little bit of both. In that moment Lilly is very angry with the Governor because she had in the episode prior said, “Let’s not do this. We don’t have to go after this other place.” And she was very much against everything that the Governor was doing and to a certain extent didn’t even see why he was doing it because she didn’t know that burning vengeance that was in the Governor or that desire to control and to have the prison. I think the Governor ultimately hated that there was this group out there that was existing without him and was possibly doing better than him, and it was eating away at him. So I definitely think in that moment when she shot him, she despised him quite a bit. I do think there was a lot of hatred behind that bullet.

EW: The prison has been such an iconic setting for both the comic book and the TV show. What’s it like for you to say goodbye to that?
KIRKMAN: It’s pretty emotional. I definitely do have some pieces from that place that I pocketed as we were tearing it down, so it’s a big deal. But The Walking Dead moves on. That’s what we do. We didn’t stay at the farm. We’re not staying at the prison. We’re always going to be going to new and cool and interesting dangerous places. We’ve had a season and a half of the prison and I think it is time to move on. I think the audience is ready and there is a plethora of really cool stuff ahead. And as hard as it is to leave that comfort zone to think about not really walking in the prison anymore, it’s good to be going off to new places and it’s very exciting doing something new. So I’m happy with it ultimately.

EW: Yet you still have this open-ended question about the identity of the saboteur at the prison? Is that something we will get more clarity on in the back half of the season?
KIRKMAN: Yeah. Definitely. And I will say if you go back and look at the first half of the season, there are actually quite a bit of unanswered dangling little plot threads that we will be picking up with and resolving to a certain extent in the back half of season 4. I’m really pleased with how layered this season has been.

EW: Okay, mister — where’s Baby Judith?
KIRKMAN: Well, she’s not in that car seat. I mean, there might be some of her in that car seat, but you know, the majority of her is not there. That’s another big unknown that we’ll have to find out about when we come back. She could be dead. She could be maimed. She could be fine. We’ll just have to find out.

EW: Maimed? Jeez, Kirkman, bring it down a notch! I thought we had already seen Rick at his lowest point after Lori died, but am beginning to fear we haven’t. What’s his mental state going to be when we pick things back up again in February?
KIRKMAN: Not good is the short answer. There’s always a new low. Whenever I see someone say, “Oh, Rick is at his low!” I’m like, really? Just wait. He’s definitely in a bad place. He and Carl are gonna be on their own for a bit. There’s some pretty dark stuff on the road ahead. They’re both in pretty bad shape. This will be the low for a while and then we’ll find a new one later on, hopefully.

EW: We know that after it all went to hell at Hershel’s farm they had a designated meeting point. Is there a similar plan in place here and if so, how long until people find their way to it? Are we going to see the group reassembled or scattered out for a bit with more individual stories as they try to find their way back?
KIRKMAN: We definitely have a lot of individual stores and I would not expect the group to be getting reunited as quickly as they did at the end of season 2. Or possibly ever. So there’s definitely a lot of unknowns going into the back half of this season. We’ll just have to see if they come together It’s entirely possible that there will be some parts of that group that just don’t quite make it back.

EW: I do know you have characters from the comics like Abraham, Eugune, and Rosita that are going to be showing up. What can you tell us in terms of how and when we may see them?
KIRKMAN: I can say that their introduction will be somewhat similar to how they were introduced in the comic, which I think is a very cool thing. I’m always pushing for big changes between the comic and the show, but when there is a good, natural process to adapt things directly, we do that from time to time to keep people guessing, so we will see a bit of that in their introduction. I think the main thing to look at is that these are some very interesting and dynamic and explosive characters that will be breathing some new life into the show, which is something that all of our new characters do. They’re going to be pushing things in new directions. So they will definitely be an X factor that changes the dynamic of the show quite a bit. There’s cool things ahead with them.

EW: You’ve told me before how you push to make things a little more different from the comic, but it had to be pretty cool to see that iconic image with the Governor and the tank brought to life on the screen.
KIRKMAN: I will admit I teared up a little bit the first time I saw that episode. It’s definitely an indescribable experience and continues to happen. There are always these little moments of making this show where I go, “Wow, I can’t believe that just happened.” And that’s definitely one of them. Seeing those moments and all those elements pulled directly for the comic is pretty bizarre and really cool. And I can say is that there’s a lot more of that coming this season. So stay tuned!

For more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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