7:01pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead' Dissection: Robert Kirkman Talks Rick and the Governor's Haunting Secrets
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's "Say the Word" episode of AMC's The Walking Dead.]
A week after the gut-wrenching deaths of Lori and T-Dog, the group began to rebuild the prison and care for Rick's late wife's newborn daughter, while Michonne and Andrea clashed over their residency in Woodbury.
While Rick (Andrew Lincoln) spent the bulk of the hour taking out his emotional pain on a cellblock full of walkers, he was somewhat awoken from his mental turmoil when a phone rang near the boiler room where Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) ultimately perished. But was the phone call real? The scene is a familiar one to readers of the comics, who recall that Rick clung to Lori's memory by continuing to talk to her through phone calls that he staged with her in his mind.
Fresh from returning for a formula run for Lori's baby girl, Daryl (Norman Reedus) pays his respects to his late friend Carol (Melissa McBride), delivering a Cherokee rose -- the same flower he gave her when they were searching for Sophia (Madison Lintz) -- on her grave.
Meanwhile in Woodbury, Michonne (Danai Gurira) discovers what she believes to be the Governor's secret when she finds Penny's name scribbled in a journal with a long collection of stick figures counting something. What she doesn't realize, however, is that Penny isn't just some girl he's loved but instead the Governor's (David Morrissey) daughter, whom he's still caring for.
After Michonne leaves Woodbury, Andrea (Laurie Holden) learns that her friend was more right than she'd imagined about the community when she has a front-row seat to the Governor's gladiator battles.
The Hollywood Reporter turned to executive producer Robert Kirkman, who created the comic on which the series is based, to answer our burning questions from the episode.
The Hollywood Reporter: That's totally Lori on the other end of that phone line, right?
Robert Kirkman: (Laughs.) There are certain hints to certain storylines that you can get from the comic book series. I'm not going to reveal one way or another, but there's a chance that if you have taken the time to go out and buy the comics, you may have a leg up on the television show. But I'm not going to say anything.
THR: I think you just did! Can we expect this to continue?
Kirkman: He's definitely not in a good place. This is a guy who has had the weight of this entire world on his shoulders for a very long time, and what we've witnessed in this last episode and the one before it is his breaking point. And now that he's broken, it's a question of whether or not he comes back from that or if he continues to go down the dark path. That's what we'll be seeing moving forward.
THR: Is Carol really dead? Did the group find her body? Lori's grave is still open as if they're going to stick her body in it. Daryl sticks a Cherokee rose -- the same flower he gave to Carol when they were searching for Sophia -- on the grave
Kirkman: That implies that they believe that she's dead. We would never do a thing where, "Oh, they found her body and they buried it, and we didn't make that clear." They definitely have not found her body but have very good reason to believe she's dead because everything that has happened implies that she is in fact dead. Whether or not they are going to find her body or they're going to find a zombie Carol or they're going to find Carol alive, that is definitely a storyline that we'll be dealing with moving forward.
THR: What do the tallies in the Governor's journal represent? What about the names?
Kirkman: That's definitely going to be a mystery for now, so we'll just have to see. There's definitely something going on there. The guy is keeping a notebook for some reason, and what that reason is right now remains to be seen.
THR: The Governor's daughter Penny is a zombie! How convinced is he that Milton will be able to find a cure?
Kirkman: That's really the answer as to why he puts so much stock in Milton (Dallas Roberts). He is desperately clinging to Penny despite her status of being a zombie, and he's got this guy who's saying, "Look, there are certain things about these creatures that we don't necessarily know, and I'm going to study and find out more things about them." The Governor is certainly hopeful that there will be some kind of thing discovered that tells them that that is in fact still his daughter and he hasn't lost her. But who knows where that'll go or what his reaction will be when he gets the news.
THR: Why is he keeping Penny a secret?
Kirkman: He's an intelligent person, and the idea of keeping a zombie in the closet is going to be somewhat strange for a community to take. That news is not going to go over well in a community with that large of a group. So I think it's very wise of them to keep that as under wraps as he can.
THR: Is Michonne totally free of Woodbury now that she's left of her own accord?
Kirkman: I would say that this is a very dangerous show. The thought of her leaving and being completely safe doesn't seem to fit in my mind with how things are going. If I were you, I would pay attention in the next episode.
THR: Could someone from Woodbury could go out and bring her back in?
Kirkman: (Laughs) You'll just have to see.
THR: Andrea opts to stay in the community but quickly learns that Michonne was more right than she gave her credit for when she sees the Governor's gladiator fights. Are they really staged? What will she do with this information?
Kirkman: That's a very jarring and bizarre thing to go from this idealistic community of peace and solitude to seeing this very bizarre way of letting off steam and this very bizarre form of entertainment. It's very primal, and it kind of goes back to older human civilizations and calls back to ways we used to do things. It's definitely staged and something that is done for entertainment. Whether it remains that way throughout the season remains to be seen, but this is something that Woodbury has established and that Andrea is somewhat uncomfortable with. She's found that thing that does make her think twice and go, "Hey, wait a minute, maybe there was something to what Michonne was saying." What she does with this knowledge is something we'll find out going forward.
THR: Is she beginning to regret her decision to stay?
Kirkman: I don't know if I'd necessarily say that. She definitely believes the Governor and is taking what he says it at face value; on the surface, anyone would believe that guy -- he is charismatic and has established something remarkable in this world, so she would be enchanted by him. It's her relationship with him that is helping her maintain her belief in Woodbury. But there are definitely conflicting emotions at work here now.
THR: Milton, who with his walker-bite-proof jacket, seems to object to the gladiator battles. Is that just because it takes up their valuable resources, or is there more to it?
Kirkman: They have a very complicated relationship. I'm sure it's a resource thing, but there also might be more to it. I don't think Milton is someone who is necessarily in need of entertainment to occupy his mind, so he doesn't get the need for those gladiator fights. Maybe it's just that, or maybe there's something more bubbling under the surface.
THR: Merle (Michael Rooker) is the hotshot of Woodbury thanks to his winning ways in the gladiator fights. Will he use that to up his stature with Andrea?
Kirkman: It's definitely something that we'll be going back to from time to time this season. I think it looks cool; it's a cool moment, it's neat stuff so it's not something we're not going to see again. How frequently we see it will be something you'll just have to find out when you watch the show.
THR: Daryl has stepped up to help lead the group while Rick is dealing with the fallout of losing Lori, and at the same time, he shows his sensitive side holding the baby and mourning Carol. Is this a role he'll stay in?
Kirkman: He's definitely stepping up and taking on that role in Rick's absence, and that's something that he's very capable of doing. Whether or not that's something that he wants to do, we'll see. We've seen that Daryl is a character who, while he is very capable, is someone who is not exactly looking for a lot of responsibility. So I don't necessarily see it going that way, but Daryl is an extremely versatile character, and there's a lot of depth to that guy. The fact that he is so caring and is such a compassionate person just by being such a total badass, he definitely will make a good leader. But whether or not we go in that direction remains to be seen.
THR: Carl's attempt at names for his little sister was sweet tribute to everyone the group has lost. How soon will the baby have a name besides "Little Ass Kicker"?
Kirkman: Carl (Chandler Riggs) is, in a very strong way, dealing with what's happened. He's trying to move forward. But it's also a checklist to a certain extent. This is what this boy has seen. This is what has gotten him to this point, so it's just to go back and remind people about the extraordinary circumstances that this kid is living through.
What did you think of the Governor's big reveal? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on AMC. Check out a promo for next week's episode, below.