'Walking Dead' Creator on the "Ever-Present Danger" in "Most Intense Season Yet"

Robert Kirkman breaks down the premiere and previews what to expect from the remainder of season six.
Courtesy of Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Walking Dead season six premiere, "First Time Again."]

AMC's The Walking Dead returned Sunday with an extended season-six premiere that toyed with time and structure — and featured one of the zombie drama's trademark deaths as Rick looked to help protect Alexandria.

The episode cut back and forth between the past — in black and white — and the present as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) rallies the residents of Alexandria and devises a plan to move a massive horde. Only things don't go as planned, and Carter (Ethan Embry) — who was planning a mutiny that Rick overheard — is bitten and the former sheriff has to put down the man whose screams derailed the herd. Although Morgan (Lennie James) witnesses Carter's death, Rick sends him back to Alexandria to update the town. Thanks to Carter's screams, gunshots and a horn — which sounds like it's coming from Alexandria — the walkers are now off track and pose a major threat to the ill-prepared community.

Meanwhile, Morgan fills Rick in about the Wolves and stresses that the duo need to get to know one another as if it's their first time meeting. Daryl (Norman Reedus) pushes Rick that it's important to go out and find new people — though the duo definitely do not see eye to eye on that.

Here, comic creator/exec producer Robert Kirkman talks with THR about the premiere and where season six goes from here.

The premiere is structurally different than any episode you've done before. Why do half in flashbacks — in black and white — and half in present day?

That was [showrunner] Scott Gimple's construction. He wanted to do something that was vastly different from what we've done before. We're always trying to up our game and bring something new to the table every season. This is a big, extended episode and it's a very complicated and involved story. If you boil it down, there's a tremendous amount of story that's told between the flashbacks and big moments with the walker herd they're dealing with. In order to be able to squeeze that much story into one episode, we needed to come up with a creative solution and our time shifting and flashback structure was something we thought would help us accomplish that goal.

Where does season six go from here?

It goes to all kinds of interesting places. That herd at the end of the episode is an ever-present danger and it certainly hasn't been handled. You've got the horn, which is drawing them to Alexandria and that's bad news. It's probable that there's a storyline in the comic involving that big herd coming to Alexandria, which also might offer insight into some of the craziness that we have in store. The Wolves are also still in the mix, which is something that wasn't part of the comic book. This is our most intense season yet. Our premiere is one that's very much on its feet; it's a very fast-paced episode and that pace isn't slowing down anytime soon. If anything, it's probably going to pick up before it slows down. When we got to Alexandria, there was some concern that everything is nice and clean and [questions about] how the show will continue to be exciting. Season six answers that question in a big way.

How will the fact that Carter nearly derailed the herd impact how Rick approaches the remainder of those within Alexandria?

We'll see Rick being a little less trusting and little less forgiving when it comes to Alexandrians. If anything, it will probably escalate the confrontation that is clear that's on the horizon from that episode and the way people were behaving. It's not going to make things easier moving forward; it will make things vastly more difficult.

Carter had his own group of support interested in a mutiny. How will his death make Rick and the rest of his group's time at Alexandria that much more difficult?

We've seen there's not a lot of respect for these people. They definitely feel sorry for them but they know these people are not capable of surviving. Rick and his crew are moving in and we see how everybody is adapting to this new community and how they necessarily really fit in. You do have Carter's faction out there who seemingly want to have a mutiny to get Rick and his crew out of there. There's a lot of conflict brewing moving forward, despite the fact that you have this massive herd and the Wolves in the mix. There's no end of problems that Rick and his crew are going to have to deal with. The people in Alexandria represent one of those problems.

The horn that ruins Rick's plan does sound like it's coming from Alexandria. Is this another sign that there's trouble within the walls?

Rick and his group were off dealing with that walker herd and Alexandria is certainly vulnerable at that time. So, yeah.

The Wolves are still out there and Morgan has debriefed Rick about them. Have the Wolves been monitoring Rick and the rest of the Alexandrians as they spent time outside the camp? How smart is this group?

That's certainly possible. The Wolves are a group unlike the Claimers or the people from Woodbury or Termites. It remains to be seen how savvy, how prepared they are or if they're planning something bigger. They could be a roaming group of crazies, who knows? But we will find out soon what's going on with them.

Daryl tells Rick that bringing new people into the group is considered taking care of themselves. How suspicious will Rick be when he meets new people given his efforts to retain his humanity within Alexandria?

Very suspicious. The group in Alexandria, as far as Rick is concerned, is nothing but a nuisance. It's a detriment to their survival going forward. If Rick were to put the odds on himself, he'd say Alexandria would be better without any of these people here. He has his group and believes you need people to survive but he knows now that you need the right people to survive. That's his motivation moving forward. Whether Daryl can talk some sense into him remains to be seen but they do disagree on this front.

How will Rick and Daryl's conflict continue as the season progresses?

It's entirely possible that they may be too busy for the conflict to grow too much between them but they might find some room to butt heads a little bit going forward.

Morgan and Michonne (Danai Gurira) seem to already be bonding. Are you paving a path for romance here?

There is certainly a romantic connection between the two of them in the comic, and whether that materializes in the show remains to be seen but it's certainly possible. They're pretty friendly in the premiere.

Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan's interaction was incredible. Why is she treating him as an outsider?

Carol is smarter than Rick (laughs) and she's much less trusting of anybody — but she also handles it in a better way than Rick does, and a less overt way. She's much better at being suspicious without tipping her hand that she is suspicious. No matter how much Rick thinks he knows Morgan, I don't think Carol wouldn't be welcoming and open to any new people. She's been through too much and knows first-hand what can happen to people and how dangerous they can be. More than anyone else, Carol is going to be suspicious of anyone moving forward. 

Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in the flashbacks seemed to have another reason why it was important for her to stay back with Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh). Are you building to a pregnancy storyline with her? 

It's possible. Stay turned! We'll see, maybe it's something else and she had a headache!

How deadly will season six be, especially as the pace is going to be so fast and with a season filled with so many threats?

I hesitate to say that there's more death this this season, but I haven't crunched the numbers. There's certainly a lot of death this season but I don't know if it's more or less than any other season. We're always looking for new and interesting ways [to kill off characters]. That's part of the show, and moving into the sixth season we keep things exciting, refreshing and new. I'm confident that all of our deaths this season up our game, they evolve the story when we need them to and they're definitely going to surprise people.

What did you think of The Walking Dead's return? Sound off in the comments below and check back to The Live Feed later this week for more Walking Dead scoop about what's ahead this season from showrunner Scott M. Gimple.

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