'Walking Dead': How Far Will AMC Stray From the Comics?

The Walking Dead Episode 313 Rick Governor - H 2013
Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Episode 313 Rick Governor - H 2013

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Image Comics' The Walking Dead.]

AMC's The Walking Dead always has used Robert Kirkman's comic series as a jumping-off point for its story, but the zombie drama took a major turn from the Image title it's based on earlier this season when Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) died during childbirth. With only two episodes remaining in season three and the brutal battle between Rick and the Governor still to come, the big question remains: How closely will the series adhere to the deadly war between the duo featured in the comics?

In the long-running title, Lori spent more days at the prison than her TV counterpart, perishing -- with daughter Judith -- during an attempted escape amid the epic battle with the Governor. (Under orders to kill Lori, Lilly -- one of the Governor's soldiers -- shot the new mother, unaware that her bullet also killed her baby girl.)

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"It's going to get pretty bloody," executive producer Greg Nicotero tells The Hollywood Reporter of the impending battle. "We've spent a lot of time setting it up, and it's not going to end well. Clearly, we've strayed a little bit away from the comic book because Lori and Judith don't die together. That's the trick of The Walking Dead: You never know. It's kind of sad that nobody is safe, but we've already shown that in the first half of the season."

Lori and Judith's deaths in the comics, however, were not in vain. After realizing that she also claimed the life of an innocent newborn, Lilly turned her gun on the Governor and threw his nearly lifeless body to a horde of walkers to finish off, ending the conflict between the two communities.

"Things are going to be pretty intense; it's a huge conflict, and we've been building to it this entire season," Kirkman says. "There's definitely going to be some dire consequences, and there will certainly be some casualties."

EP David Alpert warns that the conflict will have a "big body count" but still balance those genre moments with true human emotion. "It's going to surprise you, no doubt about it," he says. "We do some things that are a little bit different than in the comic. If you've read the comic, you don't want to do the same thing. We're going to do something that's going to surprise and shock you while rewarding the fact that if you read the comic, you're going to recognize all the milestones that were built into it."

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Case in point, the "rape room" featured in Kirkman's comics appeared Sunday during the 14th episode of season three. After an intense cat-and-mouse game, the Governor (David Morrissey) captured Andrea (Laurie Holden) and brought her his evil chamber -- where in the comics Michonne was brutally raped and tortured (after she attempted to seek vengeance when the Governor chopped off Rick's hand). Michonne -- and Andrea -- remain part of a small group of core characters in the comics who are still alive and kicking as the title approaches its 109th issue.

For its part, Walking Dead has teased seminal moments from the comics multiple times this season: The Governor's arena battles, his collection of heads in fish tanks and Michonne (Danai Gurira) claiming his eye, among them. Many viewers also worried Maggie (Lauren Cohan) would suffer the same fate as Michonne while she was held prisoner and nearly sexually assaulted at the hands of the Governor, who now appears to have Andrea in his cross hairs.

Andrea's fate remains one of, if not the season's biggest questions. After starting the year paired with Michonne on the road, Andrea opted to remain in the Governor-led Woodbury, eventually learning that she literally was sleeping with the enemy. Whether she'll suffer the same fate or worse -- or if her escape will mirror how Michonne was freed in the comics (by Martinez and Rick) -- remains to be seen.

"I think there will be a couple of collective gasps in those episodes," EP Gale Anne Hurd says. "There's no way to predict what's happening. With this level of cast, even when there's action, it's all character-based, so you're really invested. We were doing music the other day and even though I knew what was coming, I still gasped."

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While Kirkman says he'd like to avoid having one human "big bad" per season, producers continue to rave about Morrissey's multilayered performance as the Governor, leaving the door open that the villain could potentially survive the season.

"The potential is always there -- or he could die in the next episode," Kirkman says with a laugh. "This is The Walking Dead; you never know."

Adds Hurd: "Do I want to keep David Morrissey? Yes! Do we? I can't tell you. There are so many colors to his performance. In the comics, he's pretty one-note, but here, he's got so much more humanity."

As for next week's season three finale, Alpert says eagle-eyed fans are in for a reward. "There's stuff in the finale specifically that's going to call back to the beginning of the season that will pay off for people who have been paying attention and are invested in the show," he says. "You don't need to have seen it, but your experience of the show is going to be much more rewarded if you watch the first half closely. That type of storytelling and emotional payoff we're going to give in the finale is exactly the thing that makes The Walking Dead so special and unique."

The Walking Dead airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on AMC. Hit the comments with your theories below.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit