'Walking Dead' EP on Why Glenn (Finally) Had to Kill: The Saviors "Aren't Screwing Around"

The Walking Dead  - H 2016
Courtesy of AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 612, "Not Tomorrow," of AMC's The Walking Dead.]

Glenn Rhee is now a murderer.

Following nearly six full seasons on AMC's The Walking Dead, Steven Yeun's former pizza delivery boy had never killed another human being — only walkers. But that came to an end Sunday when Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) group attacked the Saviors in one of the show's most insane human-to-human combat sequences yet.

After Rick easily (save for Lennie James' Morgan) convinced the residents of Alexandria that it was in their best interests to attack the Saviors in a bid to open up trade with the neighboring Hilltop community, Glenn finally had to do what he once thought was unthinkable.

While everyone in the survivors' group escapes the shootout, their celebration is short-lived when a member of the Saviors comes barging out of the compound — on Daryl's (Norman Reedus) motorcycle — and a woman on the end of a radio reveals that they've taken Glenn's pregnant wife Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Carol (Melissa McBride) hostage.

It capped an episode that also featured Carol attempt to start over at Alexandria with a new romantic interest in Tobin (Jason Douglas) as the character struggles with having taken 18 human lives.

It set the table for the remaining four episodes of season six and a potential follow-up battle against the Saviors to rescue Maggie and Carol. Here, exec producer Greg Nicotero — who directed the episode — talks with THR about why Glenn finally had to kill, how the Saviors will respond to the bloodbath as well as Carol's struggles.

There are four episodes left of the season: How deadly will they be now that we've seen what the Saviors are capable of?

We're continuing to establish who the Saviors are and what they're capable of. The moment Glenn kills his first and second person and he looks up on the wall and we see Polaroids and all those people with their heads bashed in — which could resemble a baseball bat — we're more and more getting a sense of who these guys are. Even though they're portrayed as a bit charismatic and little less villainous than we would assume, they're not screwing around.

Glenn killed his first humans in this episode. Why now? And in terms of the photos over the Saviors' bed of people whose heads may have been bashed in by Lucille, is that an Easter egg for fans of the comic or foreshadowing of what may come?

I don't think it's an Easter egg. It's a firm direction on our part of seeing the result of what potentially could be the result of Lucille. Why now? I think Glenn has been pretty fortunate at this point to avoid having to kill someone but it's been decided by the group that this is what they need to do to survive. There's a lot at stake — he's got a wife and baby coming and he's doing what he needs to do to protect them. Maggie says that she was at Alexandria when the Wolves attacked and survived that. It's a very intense moment and Steven Yeun did an amazing job in that sequence. But there is some redemption in terms of his emotion when he looks up onto the wall and sees not only have these people been witness to murder but they took Polaroids of them and put them on a wall to celebrate them. There's definitely a dark twisted aspect to this and, in some way, shape or form, might alleviate a little bit of guilt for Glenn if he imagines that maybe by killing these guys, he's saving someone's life. 

We don't see how Carol and Maggie are taken. Might Carol have a larger plan in mind the way she did when she first arrived at Alexandria?

I don't think so. What we've established in this episode is the juxtaposition of Carol actually choosing to be that person. She goes out in woods looking for acorns and comes back, takes a shower and picks that sweater for a specific reason and is delivering cookies. Carol is seriously struggling with the things she's had to do. She sits up and pulls that notebook out and you see she's basically compiling a list of the number of people that she has killed. It's something she's struggling with and when she says to Maggie, "You're supposed to be someone else," that's a very intense Freudian slip. Carol is looking at Maggie like, "You have a baby coming; you're supposed to be a mom and representing life moving forward; you're not supposed to be out here. What's a matter with you?!" Carol is having a hard time that Maggie is there because Maggie is supposed to be back at Alexandria and Carol is there because she's supposed to be Rick's soldier. This is a different side of Carol than we've seen in a long time.

And she has a romance brewing with Tobin, too, and that has to be part of what's on her mind — and he's afraid of her!

But it's so sweet. I love the interaction between the two of them. There's a cute banter there. That whole montage — The Carol Show, where she's making and delivering cookies and flirting with Tobin and then Rick shows up and he's like, "By the way, we're going to have to kill people." It's the needle scratch of that whole light-hearted wacky song that's playing in the beginning. It messes up Carol's whole attempt to normalize her existence again.  

What can you say about the woman on the radio who is speaking for the Saviors?

It seems that Carol and Maggie may have let their guard down. It also goes to show that this group — just like our group is well-equipped and smart and has numbers — the Saviors are showing themselves to be a relatively formidable group. The fact that they'd send someone in to murder Gregory, the head of the Hilltop, and then bring his head back. And they're holding people prisoner? That's pretty substantial. It shows that these guys have some balls!

How closely will the Saviors story follow the comics? Will it be remixed as showrunner Scott M. Gimple tends to do?

I can't really say. We're picking up momentum as we head toward the end of the season. The second half of season six we really wanted it to be a very different version of The Walking Dead. We shot tons of zombies the first half of the season and after episode nine, now we've taken a very different and dramatic approach because it's about survival and moving forward and creating relationships with the Hilltop. The Hilltop provides a fantastic opportunity for our group to survive. So if they have to take matters into their own hands, they're going to do it.

How will Rick's group navigate negotiating with the Saviors? How much does the attack damage their ability to negotiate?

I would imagine it would. If someone broke in and killed 22 of your people, you wouldn't be as willing to have a conversation with them! As we learned in episode nine, the Saviors say, "We usually start our conversations by popping one of you and going from there." I think Rick's group is proving to be a relatively formidable force. Are they underestimating the Saviors? Are the Saviors underestimating our people? These are things we're going to learn over the next couple episodes. 

This is really our first look at the Saviors and their community. How will Rick approach this negotiation considering this shootout didn't make a dent?

I don't know if there is going to be a negotiation; who knows. Rick didn't seem very interested in having a conversation with them before — he's the one who said at the church, "We're going to take a vote, anybody who doesn't want to do this doesn't have to but I think this is what we have to do." And everybody went along with him. Now they've got a little predicament on their hands because two of their people have been taken and they're caught with blood on their hands. It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out for sure.

How do you think the rest of the season will play out? Sound off in the comments section, below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.