'The Walking Dead' Dissection: Robert Kirkman Talks Death and What's Ahead
The comic book creator discusses Sunday's midseason finale and teases next year's "explosive" second half of the season.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's midseason finale "Pretty Much Dead Already."]
On The Walking Dead's midseason finale, Shane's (Jon Bernthal) outburst closed one book and opened quite a few more for the group as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was forced to kill Sophia, who turned up among the undead in Hershel's (Scott Wilson) barn. Breaking down the barn's barrier, Shane went against Hershel's humanitarian approach to the undead and put the group's already delicate home on the farm in a danger.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Robert Kirkman, who created the comic book series on which the AMC drama is based, to discuss Sunday's "Pretty Much Dead Already" episode, how the death of one of the comics' original characters changes the series as well as what's ahead when the zombie drama returns for its "explosive" second half of its sophomore season in February.
The Hollywood Reporter: Sophia (Madison Lintz) was in the barn the whole time! How come Hershel never mentioned it?
Robert Kirkman: I don't think that Hershel was ever doing a cataloging of the zombies. It was painful for him because his wife and son were also in the barn. It's not like he was actually hanging out in there or paying attention to all the walkers that were in there. He knew they were looking for a girl named Sophia but who knows what zombies were are in there and how often they'd been put in there. Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) was the one who was in charge and corralling them and putting them in there. So for all Hershel knew, Otis had put the Sophia zombie in there months ago.
THR: Was killing one of the comic's original characters an easy one?
Kirkman: When a good idea comes up, you have to go with it. Sophia is a character who is still alive in the comic book series and who has contributed quite a bit to the overall narrative and informed a lot of story lines for a lot of different characters. Having Carol (Melissa McBride) survive her daughter as opposed to the other way around as it is in the comics is going to lead to interesting but different stories.
THR: It's almost like a tradeoff for not killing Shane in Season 1.
Kirkman: Exactly. There are going to be things that are exactly like they were in the comic book series, there are going to be things that are radically different. We've have a lot of very different things this season: Otis survived a lot longer and wasn't killed by Shane; Sophia; the fact that Shane is still alive -- there are a lot of big fundamental differences between the comics and the show. Yet Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) relationship is almost exactly the same, Hershel's keeping zombies in the barn, the fact that they go to the farm -- there's a lot of things that are taken directly from the comics.
THR: Will Hershel's omission to Rick change his feelings about wanting to stay? Can they stay on the farm at this point?
Kirkman: That's going to be a big part of the second half of the season. Shane was very charged up at the end of this episode and Hershel is definitely going to be seen as being kind of in the wrong here. They're going to have to figure out what he knew about Sophia and exactly how involved in that process he was. These two groups are going to be very much at odds when we move into our second half of the season. Our opening to our second half of the season is going to be pretty explosive.
THR: Will the second half pick up immediately after the shooting or will it jump ahead?
Kirkman: We're not going to be doing any big time jumps. Whether we lose a day, hour or if it picks up the very minute after the scene, I wouldn't want to give away too early but there's not going to be any massive time jump this season.
THR: How will Sophia's death alter Carl's development?
Kirkman: One of the major story lines in the comics is Carl's (Chandler Riggs) dissention into a darker role; he's forced into adulthood to make terrible decisions. His character evolving over the course of the comic book series is really going to be accelerated by the absence of Sophia. That will remain largely intact and be sped up. There's going to be more darkness creeping in to the series in the second half of the season. Now that the Sophia question has been answered, they're not going to have that hanging over their heads and that's not going to be bogging them down making them have to devote time to that.
THR: Rick told Shane about Lori's (Sarah Wayne Callies) pregnancy, but not that he was aware of their affair. How long will he keep that over him?
Kirkman: I want the show to get a reputation as one that doesn't hang on to things like that for long. We have a lot of story to tell on this series and we're not going to be dwelling too much. I'm very excited that we got around to revealing that Rick knew about the relationship. Stuff like that is going to bubble up to the surface in very interesting ways in the last half of the season.
THR: How will the baby's paternity eat away at Shane and Rick?
Kirkman: It is going to eat away at them to a certain extent. This is an example of these people having to learn to let go of society and let go of the things that they were taking for granted before the end of the world. At a certain point you have to throw up your hands and say this is the world that we live in, this is a question that may never be answered. It'll be a bee in their bonnets for a bit.
THR: How much of Shane's confrontation with Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and breaking down the barn door was all a statement to Lori that she was with the wrong guy?
Kirkman: That's something that she's definitely going to be exploring. Everyone is seeing a different side of Shane. Shane is a very volatile person and everyone is starting to catch on to that. Some people, like Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), will see Shane as a problem based on his behavior. Other people, like Andrea (Laurie Holden), will see that as something necessary in this new world. Shane's behavior is almost going to endear her to him. It all depends on everyone's take on the situation. What Lori's take on the situation is will be revealed in future episodes.
THR: How will Rick handle Shane's outburst?
Kirkman: That's a big part of the next episode that opens in February: What Rick is going to do, what his response is going to be to Shane crossing this line. Shane's been very disrespectful toward Hershel and his rules and property and that's something Rick has been trying to maintain in order for them to stay there. This is very much going to put Shane and Rick at odds moving into the last half of the season.
THR: How will Sophia's death change Rick's decision-making? Will he continue to stand up and be the group's voice of reason and compassion?
Kirkman: The entire season arc is, is Rick a good leader? Is this something he wants to do? Is this something he's qualified to for? This is a role that's been thrust upon him; he didn't seek it out. Everybody looks to him for answers and they are very clear examples of him not having the answers and making a mistake. The situation with Sophia and the fact that she did turn up dead, that is going to weigh on him. It's something he's willing to feel responsible for.
THR: Daryl and Carol seem to have found one another. Will that friendship develop into something?
Kirkman: There aren't a lot of people around. Eventually, everyone is going to pair up. I definitely do see a little bit of some kind of a relationship forming between them. Whether it's a very strong friendship or something romantic remains to be seen. There definitely is something going on there.
THR: The Andrea-Dale dynamic, will he confront her again with his concerns?
Kirkman: It's a very nuanced relationship that we'll be exploring a lot in the coming episodes. He is fatherly toward her but he's being somewhat overbearing at times and it has pushed her away. She also has to recognize the different things he's gone through and what's informing those decisions and whether or not they will reconcile remains to be seen.
THR: Any update on when/if we'll see the Governor or Michonne?
Kirkman: I can say only that we will see them eventually. We will see some new characters popping up as early as the  premiere episode.
THR: Still unknown: What Jenner told Rick at the CDC. How much longer can you hold on to that?
Kirkman: It will be happening sooner rather than later.
The Walking Dead returns with new episodes Feb. 12 at 9 p.m. on AMC.