'Walking Dead' Dissection: Robert Kirkman, Glen Mazzara on the Group's Major Fatalities
"Moving forward, they're all going to be much more on edge and shell shocked coming out of this," Kirkman says of the events that transpire in the "Killer Within" episode.
[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Sunday's "Killer Within" episode of The Walking Dead.]
AMC's The Walking Dead delivered one of its most shocking episodes in its three-season history Sunday when two series regulars failed to survive the hour.
During "Killer Within," Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) decision to lock Andrew (Markice Moore) out amid a sea of walkers came back to bite the group in a major way as the former prisoner winds up setting a deadly trap for the group.
After chopping the gate lock away, Andrew sets walkers loose amid the prison grounds and cellblocks, prompting an all-out panic among the divided group. Newly mobile Hershel and Beth find safety, while Rick, Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) attempt to find the source of the blaring prison alarm leading every walker and their dead brother to the compound. Elsewhere, T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Carol (Melissa McBride) are forced to fend for themselves in the dark hallways, while Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) are tasked with protecting Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), who naturally goes into labor.
But not everyone makes it out alive, as T-Dog -- shortly after being bitten by a walker while trying to secure the prison -- sacrifices himself in order to help Carol escape. Lori, experiencing complications during labor, tells Maggie she's going to have to cut the baby out of her. During the scene, a tearful and determined Lori says an emotional farewell to Carl and insists that the baby is the group's best sign of hope. Lori passes after Maggie cuts the baby out of her, leaving Carl to fire the fatal gunshot to ensure that his mother doesn't turn.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producers Glen Mazzara and Robert Kirkman to discuss the stunning events of the episode, why Lori and T-Dog needed to die and what's next.
The Hollywood Reporter: What was behind the decision to kill off Lori?
Glen Mazzara: We did think it would be interesting if like in the comics Lori was killed in the strife between the prison and Woodbury and that is a storyline we're developing. The decision to move up Lori's death was to make sure that Rick was suffering as much as possible, that Rick was at his breaking point, at the exact moment that his most formidable foe was coming right for him. The Rick at the end of episode two can take on the Governor but the Rick of end of episode four is a broken man. Now everything is up in the air and anything could happen when the two groups meet. That was the catalyst for the decision: Lori's death and the affects on Rick and the rest of the group would be a devastating loss.
Robert Kirkman: That was something we were always planning on building to. It's very important in the comic series that Rick loses his wife after everything he's tried to do; it's unavoidable and that informs his character moving forward. That's something we wanted to adapt and as we started plotting season three out, we came in wanting to make the show as intense as possible and hit the ground running and pack as much stuff into each episode as we possibly could. As we were plotting things, that storyline kept moving closer and closer to the beginning of the season. The first four episodes of this season, every one of them could have been a finale of any other show but they're just another episode for us. We wanted to spend a lot of time with Carl and Rick in the aftermath of that. As the season progresses, you'll see just how important Lori was to the show and how much of a loss that's going to end up being.
Lori and the baby don't make it out of the Governor's assault on the prison. Was skipping that seminal moment disappointing?
Mazzara: We discussed it for a long time and we're always looking forward to playing with audience expectations but we felt that the events in episode four and beyond were as really as gut wrenching as possible.
Kirkman: I don't think by losing that event we're radically altering the confrontation between Rick and the Governor and the clash between the people in the prison and the people of Woodbury. We're definitely building to some pretty climatic stuff. That one element has been taken off the table and as the season progresses people will understand why we made that decision.
How will Rick's decision to lock Andrew outside haunt him now that Lori's gone?
Mazzara: It will haunt him and he'll have to wrestle with that. He believed he was committing an act of murder to save the group and that murder led to deaths within his own group and forced his own son to put down his mother. What a horrible set of consequences. It's going to break Rick. It has to break him. Who could possibly suffer that? You see Rick at the end of episode four, he's a broken man and how do you possibly get him back together again when the Governor is coming? We showed a c-section without anesthesia in a boiler room, which is one of my favorite sets ever and we've been saving that set to showcase for this scene. Then we have a boy having to put down his own mother, this is a very fearless storytelling on the part of all the writers, producers, cast and crew. We're fortunate that we can follow Robert's book and yet are free enough to create some pretty cutting edge drama.
Kirkman: That's a big part of what's coming up. Rick has taken this leadership role and tried to make the best possible decisions moving forward. He got them through the winter and has definitely has a number of wins under his belt but despite his best intentions, he has made a few decisions that have resulted in other people's deaths. That's something that's going to weigh on him. It's extremely interesting to know there's this big clash on horizon between Rick and the Governor and that would have gone down a certain way at the beginning of this season but now we've got Rick in a very different head space and he's going to be dealing with a lot of things. It's the absolute worst time to really need to count on that guy and it's going to lead to some pretty interesting stories moving forward.
Is this the last we'll see of Lori or might she come back to Rick in visions the way she haunted him in the comics?
Mazzara: Nobody goes away on this show; we can always have flashbacks. The takeaway is that Rick is always going to feel that he had a hand in Lori's death. In a way, Rick is responsible for the death of both Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Lori but Carl is the final executioner of both. It's very dark material and I don't think we've ever said that in the writers' room.
Kirkman: We already miss Sarah Wayne Callies and would love to have her come back into the show, whether it be flashbacks or something else, stay tuned.
How will Carl's involvement in Lori's death continue change him consider he also had to put Shane down? He seems like more of an adult than half the adults on the show.
Mazzara: Carl has to wrestle with this and he shuts off from people and internalizes things. He's in a very desperate space and unfortunately we've seen Rick to be emotionally closed off and we'll see that with Carl as well, where he withdraws and cuts himself off from other people. That's a problem for the group because the group doesn't want that and they'll see a child at risk. It'll be interesting to see who steps forward and tries to connect with Carl and help him through this trauma.
Kirkman: (Laughs) That's the point of it all: having Carl accelerate his aging process to a certain extent in a way that's almost unhealthy is one of key aspects of the show. Watching Carl grow up in this world and be informed by the things around him, which are going to negatively influence his development, it really turns him into a pretty interesting character to explore. The fact that he was able to do that is completely bizarre. There's a lot more to reveal about Carl. That scene a the end of this episode is an absolute is a tear-jerker for me; it's extremely emotional and I tear up every time I see it even though I've seen it 100 times at this point.
Could Glenn and Maggie wind up caring for Lori's baby while Rick is mourning?
Mazzara: We'll see in the next episode -- That baby is very important. We'll see that the group steps up because there's been enough death and it becomes a mission for everyone, particularly Daryl who steps into a leadership position as Rick is dealing with this trauma. It becomes important for the entire group to keep that baby alive; that baby needs to live and how do you possibly feed a newborn in the middle of a decrepit prison.
Kirkman: Rick's certainly going to need some help moving out of this.
What made it the time for T-Dog to go -- especially considering you've already got the emotional wallop of Lori's death?
Mazzara: We felt he needed to be a hero. Sometimes when we break these stories, if the death feels real and escaping the death feels like a TV cheat we have to go with the death. It wasn't an easy decision and it was our most heroic death. Up until this moment we haven't had heroic deaths. I don't think Dale or Shane died heroically; we haven't had that and here we have two heroic deaths -- T-Dog and Lori, who sacrifices herself for redemption. That's important to show how much we love these characters, it's a particularly heartbreaking episode because those deaths are heroic.
Kirkman: It was important for us to us to show that there was quite a bit of chaos going on. Losing two characters and possibly three because we really don't know what's going on with Carol -- was pretty important to us. T-Dog really stepped it up this season and had become core member of Rick's strike team. We wanted to show in his loss just how important this character had become and how heroic he was so that he would be missed that much more. T-Dog knowing that he was about to die and take it upon himself to do everything he could to save Carol's really showed how much of a loss this guy is going to be.
T-Dog dies an honorable death after Rick vetoes adding Axel and Oscar into the group; had he realized this was no longer a world in which he wanted to be in?
Mazzara: That was more Dale's thing last year.
Kirkman: I don't know that he was giving up in any way. Had he survived, he would have continued to have press Rick on that issue until Rick relented. It was important for us to portray T-Dog as the most thoughtful and openhearted member of the current survivors as they descended into soldiers.
When did you know these two wouldn't survive the season? Was there a factor other than the creative decision that played a role?
Mazzara: It was purely creative. We knew before we started shooting because so much of the major arc is predicated on Lori's death, we knew that very early on in the breaking process. Strange story but I lost my mother this year and when Maggie is saying goodbye to Hershel in episode two, those are the words that I said goodbye to my own mother. I also had to tell Sarah that we were going to kill off the Lori character. I called her and then this thing happened with my mom and told my sister to hold the phone up to my mom's ear because I couldn't get there. So now I'm at home in a panic and I'm waiting for two phone calls -- one from Sarah and one from my sister at my mother's bedside. I did those two calls back to back. They were both difficult phone calls; obviously the one with my mother was more difficult and I did that first and 20 minutes later I spoke to Sarah and told her. She was stunned that I was even doing that but when you face that kind of personal tragedy you're in a fog. I told her on a day that I said goodbye to my mom and it was an incredibly weird, surreal and painful day.
Kirkman: No, it's all service to the story. We knew fairly early on that this stuff was going to happen. We were planning the Lori death for a while and the T-Dog death came naturally as we were plotting those scenes. There is more to come, this is going to be a pretty insane season.
How did Sarah and IronE respond that their characters were being killed off?
Mazzara: They were both incredibly professional. Nobody likes to get that call and I hate making those calls, I just dread them but there's nobody else to do them, I have to do them as showrunner, it's my responsibility. They understood and people are always disappointed. It's a family, and everybody understands that this is the nature of the show. We have these conversations and part of the process is that people become involved in scoping their own characters' death. Sarah arced her performances over these past few episodes to that point; she did a lot of research and we had numerous conversations about when she's in labor, when she has a contraction. IronE wanted to make sure he was doing justice to the character and it's by far one of our best episodes. The episode epitomizes everything that the show does right: it's scary, there's action, heart, tragedy, humor at the top with Glenn and Maggie having sex in the watchtower. There's every emotion running through that episode.
Carol's still missing and presumed dead. Is there hope for her?
Mazzara: What really happened will continue to play out. I can promise that we don't tease out mysteries in a frustrating way. People will have answers moving forward for certain things. It's part of a larger storyline that will be wrapped up in the first part of the season.
Kirkman: I don't want the show to be completely bleak, so there's always some level of hope but it's certainly not looking good. I'm sure we'll see her again, we wouldn't want her to be never heard from again. The way in which she returns, who knows what light we'll see her in when she comes back.
How will these losses fundamentally change the group?
Kirkman: They're going to be back on their heels a bit more. They thought they'd found their salvation in this prison but hasn't turned out to be best thing for them. Moving forward, they're all going to be much more on edge and shell shocked coming out of this.
Will Axel (Lew Temple) and Oscar (Vincent Ward) now become part of Rick's fold?
Kirkman: There's not a lot of people left, so they're going to need an influx of manpower. Whether or not Rick will be open to that remains to be seen.
How will the Governor (David Morrissey) rejecting Merle's (Michael Rooker) request to go find Daryl come back to hurt him?
Kirkman: I wouldn't get between a Dixon and another Dixon. I don't know that that is going to have any kind of positive outcome. What Merle does with that information and just how loyal he ends up being to the Governor remains to be seen.
Andrea is developing an affinity for the Governor, while Merle hits on her. Who has a better chance with her?
Kirkman: Right now the Governor, because he's in a much stronger position of authority and seems to be that much more appealing. Plus Merle and Andrea definitely have a lot of negativity in their past. I'd never count out Merle though.
How stunned were you to see Lori and T-Dog die? How do you think this will change the series? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.