'Walking Dead' EPs Dissect the Season 5 Premiere, Preview Road Ahead

Scott M. Gimple, Robert Kirkman talk with THR in our weekly postmortem
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
"The Walking Dead"

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from "No Sanctuary," the fifth-season premiere of AMC's The Walking Dead.]

AMC's The Walking Dead roared back to life Sunday with an action-packed fifth-season premiere that was not only filled with blood, zombie guts and action but also two huge emotional gut-punches that truly illustrated what the show is at its core.

During the hour, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Bob (Lawrence Gilliard) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) came thisclose to having their necks brutally slashed at the hands of Terminus — a group (finally!) revealed to be cannibals. However, thanks to Carol's (Melissa McBride) swift and smart thinking, she literally lights the camp up, indirectly helping her friends free themselves from Gareth's (Andrew J. West) gang of goons.

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Speaking of the gang of goons, flashbacks illuminate that the Terminus camp originally really was a sanctuary for all — but it was another group of goons who invaded the peaceful group and seemingly raped, tortured and held Gareth and his mother and family hostage in rail cars. It ultimately turned the group into one that had to do anything — including cannibalism — to survive.

And while the episode was filled with gross and evolved zombies and savage kills (Chad L. Coleman's Tyreese finally got his groove back!), there were two standout moments that truly tugged at viewers' heartstrings. Carol, being recognized as the hero of the day, reunited with Daryl, and then led Rick and Carl (Chandler Riggs) back to the presumed dead baby Judith (and Sonequa Martin-Green's Sasha with her brother Tyreese). In the end, the group is back out on the road where Eugene claims to know a cure and wants to go to Washington.

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The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Robert Kirkman, on whose comics the series is based, and showrunner Scott M. Gimple to break down the events of the premiere in our weekly Walking Dead Dissection. (Check back to THR's The Live Feed at 8: 30 p.m. PT for more with Lincoln and at 10 p.m. PT for full details on the surprising last scene after the credits!) 

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How much more will we learn about the group that turned Terminus into cannibals?

Gimple: The important thing about that was seeing the chain — how Gareth and his brother, Alex, and his mom, Mary — were before those people came in and did that to them. It not only shows how they became who they became, but also that they then did something to Rick and his people and how that that changed them. It's an ugly cycle that has been started again. How will the events of Terminus change Rick and his group as the original events of Terminus changed Gareth and his group?

How much more of this group can we expect to see?

Gimple: I would be wary to tell you what to expect. I can say they are not Cylons [from Battlestar Galactica] (laughs).

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Rick took a shot at Gareth but the Comic-Con trailer showed he would later join Rick's group. How can these two coexist considering Rick vowed to kill him?

Kirkman: That's going to play out in an interesting way. That is a moment that I would certainly key in on to see how that actually plays out in an episode. There's going to be something fairly intriguing that happens there. Maybe we reveal that Gareth is actually Rick's long-lost brother. You never know (laughs). 

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Gareth tells Bob that they can't go back to the way things were. Does he really believe that?

Gimple: Consider that moment: Gareth is standing over Bob. They've just slit three people's necks and he says, "Can't go back, Bob." That could apply to whether there's a cure or not, but even if there is one, I don't think that [cutting people's necks] is going to be forgiven or forgotten. The things that they've been doing, they can't go back. It doesn't matter if they can go to Washington to fix this. They've gone so far away from anything that would be acceptable to anyone that it isn't going to be on their radar anymore.

Rick's group is back out on the road again. How this be different than their previous experience on the road when they lost Carol's daughter, Sophia?

Gimple: They have a complete lack of trust, a wariness from strangers and probably a much more aggressive stance and aren't hesitating. There's a story, there's a point to which we quote, from one of the issues, where Rick is talking to Carl and says, "You are not safe. No matter if you think you're safe, you think you know everything about what's going on around you, you're not safe." That's the feeling they have now.

Comics fans know that this is the point in the story where the group heads to Washington with Eugene and ultimately winds up at Alexandria. How long will they be on the road? That run of the series wasn't particularly well received.

Gimple: Even though they're on the road, there's going to be a wide variety of locations this year. When they are on the road, we will see the whole swath of life. There will be rural and there will be suburban and there'll be urban and everything in between.

Kirkman: It's also important to note that our world is continuing to change and evolve just like these characters are. So just because they're back on the road doesn't mean, "Oh, we're going to be telling the same sort of road stories we told in season three or season two." Things change and circumstances change and they're going to be encountering different things while they're out on the road.

Gimple: We're even going to see some of the same places that they've been that are in a very different condition.

Kirkman: And now you've said too much! (Laughs.)

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In the train car, Sasha doesn't seem to trust that Eugene (Josh McDermitt), this stranger with a mullet, knows a cure and pushed him for details. Will more members of the group grow suspect? Will they grill him for more information?

Gimple: It isn't completely going on faith. He is going to be providing them with more and more information about how he's going to do what he's going to do. That's going to help a lot — and he knows a lot.

Carol and Daryl — as well as Rick, Carl and Judith — were finally reunited in this episode. Why was it so important to have this huge emotional moment in an episode filled with violence and so many other things going on?

Kirkman: It's what our show does. That's what our show is at its core. It is this violent show, there are these horrible things that happen, but this is also a show about family, neighbors and people. You want to have those moments of pure heart, happiness and joy because it's a well-rounded world and you want to show all the different things that these people experience. That's what some of the best moments on this show are: When we do see something good that happens and we do get to let these characters breathe for a minute because — as we've seen time and time again — those moments often don't last, so they are very important.

Gimple: It's the whole point. It's why Rick has kept going. The reason he bit that guy's throat [in the season four finale] was because Carl, Daryl and Michonne were in danger. He lives for these people and certainly for his daughter, who is somebody that he was certain he had lost. There probably can't be any greater joy for him than to learn that that wasn't the case. The fact that he's gotten her back will only make him stronger and perhaps more defined in his aggression now because he's not losing her again. So to see that the depth of his feeling in getting her back only serves the other side of the story, too, which is the uglier side, as it were.

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Beth's (Emily Kinney) whereabouts remain a mystery, other than Daryl saying she was taken by a car with a white cross on it. Could that be the group that invaded Terminus or is it Father Gabriel's (Seth Gilliam) camp?

Gimple: You were right that it's a black car with a white cross but not about anything else you said! (Laughs.)

Kirkman: (Laughing)I'm going to answer in the form of a laugh, sorry that's all I got!

What did you think of The Walking Dead premiere? Sound off in the comments below. Season five continues Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. Click here to see what Lincoln has to say about the "new Rick" and come back at 10 p.m. PT more from Gimple about that surprise ending.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit