'Walking Dead' EP Breaks Down the Show's Dual Blow

Greg Nicotero talks with THR about the bloody and shocking episode
Andrew Lincoln in 'The Walking Dead'  Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 503, "Four Walls and a Roof," of AMC's The Walking Dead and the comics series it is based on.]

AMC's The Walking Dead delivered not one but two major blows Sunday.

In its third episode of the season, the zombie drama based on Robert Kirkman's comics parted ways with not one but two series regulars, while kicking off a new mystery involving fan favorite Norman Reedus' Daryl.

After being taken by the Hunters and having his leg served up for dinner, Lawrence Gilliard Jr.'s Bob was returned to the church group after giving Gareth (Andrew J. West) and his cannibal clowns a surprise of his own in a scene ripped directly from the comic series: They were eating "tainted meat." As many expected, Bob was bitten by an underwater walker at the food bank and, rather than having his death pull the group down, opted to enjoy his last moments with girlfriend Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green).

See more 'The Walking Dead's' Most Shocking Deaths

As the group learns of what Gareth did to Bob, it sets Rick (Andrew Lincoln) off on a mission to make good on his vow to kill the head of the so-called Hunters. Gareth, meanwhile, has the same idea but is no match for Rick, who baits the Termites to the church. Sasha — going against her brother Tyreese's (Chad L. Coleman) peaceful wishes — joins Rick and company in a brutal slaughter that ends with Gareth's shocking demise.

The Hollywood Reporter turned to executive producer Greg Nicotero to discuss the episode and what Gareth's early exit means, why Bob was marked for death and what to expect when Beth (Emily Kinney) makes her long-awaited return to the series.

Bob was infected! What are the rules if you eat "tainted meat"? Were the Termites goners anyway?

I don't think so. Since everybody is already infected, I don't think eating "tainted meat" would make that much of a difference. It's great because you really don't know. Since we already know that everybody has already got it, it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference.

Why was it Bob's time to go?

Bob was happy because we learned in season four that he was always the last one to survive. When the prison was taken over by The Governor (David Morrissey) last year and when Bob was on the road and smiling and happy and Sasha questions why, it's because he was still part of a group. That was one of the things that was good for Bob. We took this fantastic moment in the comic and attributed it to Bob. He told a great story last year, in terms of his journey, but as we know on the show, it's really challenging to stay alive. I always loved that moment in the graphic novel — when it's Dale who is grabbed by the Hunters and his leg is cut off, and the whole "tainted meat" moment happens to him. We went to great lengths to be sure we shot images that mirrored that moment in the comic because Jeff DeMunn's Dale died in season two.

So it was sadly just Bob's time to go. It does a lot for propelling Sasha's story forward. Bob was an integral part of the group. He just started developing that relationship with Sasha, but in the first episode, Bob was the one that mouthed off to Gareth at Terminus, so it could be that he put himself in the line of fire.

Read more 'Walking Dead' Star on Shocking Demise: "Nobody Is Promised Tomorrow"

Was it always the plan to have Bob step in for Dale?

When we were headed for Terminus, we knew we were going toward that storyline. … There are times when characters that we intended on keeping — all of a sudden, the story shifts, and now it may make more sense for a person to move onward. We have a lot of other characters that have equally compelling stories as Bob does. Since last season, we've made an effort to stay close to the source material.

Every death on this show serves the story. What will Bob's death do for Sasha and her relationship with Tyreese?

Sasha and Tyeese are in two very different places. Tyreese is a good guy, and in this world, where you're forced to make hard choices, it's challenging. Tyreese, clearly after the first two episodes, it's hard for him to do it. He's going to be wracked with the guilt that maybe if he had killed Martin in the cabin in the first episode, maybe they wouldn't have found them. Tyreese has been through more hell than anyone with Lizzie and Mika last year, and at the beginning of the season premiere, Carol is planning on leaving Tyreese and going out on her own. Tyreese is that guy who saves babies; he is that guy who would rather not have to kill somebody if he doesn't have to, whereas this is going to affect Sasha in a different way because now she has no reason not to kill and do the things that need to be done.

I'm also surprised that Gareth didn't survive longer than he did.

It's very important that the show continue its momentum. We feel like we had teased the arrival of Terminus for almost the entire second half of the season last year. We want to keep our story moving forward. That storyline — the Hunters and cannibals — we want to be able to pay tribute to it from the comic, but we also want to keep moving forward. As we get into episodes four, five and six, in true Walking Dead tradition, we're going to step off and explore some other characters we may not have explored as in-depth in previous episodes.

Read more 'Walking Dead's' Andrew J. West Wanted Gareth to "Ride Off Into the Sunset"

So Beth?

Yes, and we're going to get an opportunity to get into some other characters' backstories. We did it very successfully with Michonne (Danai Gurira) last year, and we can expect to learn a lot more about Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and their backstory and how they met and things like that.

So is this the end of the Termites, or could we see more of their story in flashbacks to when Terminus was taken over?

Andrew J. West is tremendously talented, but you never know. We told a bit of their backstory in the season-five premiere. They set up Terminus to be a place where people could live, survive and have a chance, and then it was taken from them. It turned them from good people into not very good people, which is an understatement. That's an important motif we have on the show; that's what our characters are going through. Rick in season four put his gun aside and was determined to have the prison be a place where everyone can live, but it didn't work out. The world is a brutal place, and our people are on the same path the people from Terminus were on. When Rick says, "Don't hesitate because they won't," he's saying in order to survive, you have to kill and be OK with that. That is pretty much the exact opposite of what Tyreese feels. It's a great dramatic tool.

Speaking of the people who overturned Terminus, as far as we know, they're still out there. Is that a story that you may come back to?

I don't know. It certainly is a compelling story. We got a glimpse into who those people are. Knowing that the crazy, tattooed, long-haired guy that took over Terminus was locked in a train car, I always got the impression that none of them got away and that the Terminus people took the place back and either ate or killed the people who took it from them.

Daryl (Norman Reedus) has returned — but it's unclear if Carol (Melissa McBride) is with him when he says, "Come on out." Has he brought evil people with him? Or could it be Morgan?

I have a hard time imagining Daryl bringing anyone back to their group who wasn't good. He would never want to do that; he'd want to protect his people at all costs. It very well could be Morgan, but I don't think it is.

Rick refuses to leave the church without Daryl and Carol, who are going after Beth. But why were Glenn and Maggie able to leave with Abraham so quickly, especially considering Beth is still out there?

It was an opportunity for Glenn (Steven Yeun) to keep the peace. One thing we know about Glenn is that up to this point, they had it as good as you can have it in a zombie apocalypse. The prison was overrun, but he survived. He went on the road with Tara (Alanna Masterson) and found Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and made it out of Terminus. When Glenn says to Rick in the premiere that "we have to let those people out of the train car because that's still who we are," Glenn is committed to knowing that there could be good people out there. He is on board with Abraham's mission to get Eugene up to D.C. and believes those guys will follow.

It seems so out of character for Maggie.

They don't know for sure where Beth is. The only evidence she has is when they're in the train car and talking about the car with the white cross on it that Daryl saw. Maggie isn't around when Carol and Daryl see the car with the cross; as far as they know, there's no proof Beth is still alive. The audience knows she's still alive because we saw the Comic-Con trailer.

See more 'Walking Dead' Comes to Life: From Comics to the Small Screen

Is Rick's plan really to go to Washington? He seemed uncertain about following Abraham.

I think he is on board with that. He just needs to regroup and figure out what's best for his family and group. He doesn't know Abraham at all; the first time they met was in the train car. But as far as Rick is concerned, Abraham is a new addition, so there is a bit of a power struggle there between who is calling the shots. Abraham doesn't care who comes; he's going. But Rick also understands that there's strength in numbers. Why would you want to diminish a very strong group by splitting them up? Rick's intent, even though there is some tension between them, is to go.

Tyreese still is having a difficult time accepting all the violence in this world. How will he move forward after having to put Bob down?

Putting Bob down was an act of compassion and humanity in line with what Tyreese would do. Sasha is about to do it, and Tyreese comes in and does it for her. That's an opportunity for him to rebond with Sasha. But everybody deals with this world differently. Daryl recovered from Merle's (Michael Rooker) death and moved on. We always get hints of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) and the characters we've lost in the past, but you have to move forward. Sasha is a tremendous source of strength for Tyreese.

To use one of Bob and Sasha's conversations, what is the good that will come out of Bob's death for Sasha? Is there one?

It's really hard to say what good would come from this. I don't see that there's anything positive for Sasha with Bob's death — or anyone for that matter. The group's strength is partially in numbers, and when you start whittling those numbers down, the group becomes weaker. It's going to affect Sasha and will put a wall up around her and take some of the warmth out of her.

Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is haunted by his past in another arc from the comics. Is he to be believed, or is there more to his story?

There's more to his story coming up. He was in the church, and the people he had been responsible for came and looked for him to let them in, but he couldn't do it. He did something unspeakable by turning his back on the people who needed him. It's easy for him to turn around and judge Rick after the slaughter in the church. Gabriel witnesses people murdered in the church, where it's a place of worship. It's easy for him to judge what Rick does, but stepping back and looking in the mirror, he did something just as horrific.

We're three episodes in and still haven't seen Beth. What can you say about her condition when we next see her?

We don't even know what condition she was in when we last saw her, but Beth is strong and a survivor. She's going to be in pretty good shape.
 

What do you think of Bob's and Gareth's deaths? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Click here for our exit interview with West, and see what Martin-Green had to say about Bob's fate in our Q&A here.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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