'Walking Dead' Dissection: Robert Kirkman Talks Torture and the Impending Conflict

The Walking Dead 306 Episodic Merle Gun - H 2012
Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead 306 Episodic Merle Gun - H 2012

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's "When the Dead Come Knocking" episode of The Walking Dead.]

Held prisoner and physically and emotionally tortured by the Governor and Merle in Woodbury, Glenn and Maggie held strong for most of Sunday's episode before revealing that Daryl, Rick and the group of 10 were taking up residence at the nearby prison, which the small but mighty group was able to clear out.

Meanwhile, Michonne (Danai Gurira) was welcomed into Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) fold as the group cared for her Merle-inflicted gunshot wound. The details of her injury -- specifically that they came from a guy named Merle (Michael Rooker), who resides at a camp of which Andrea (Laurie Holden) has voluntarily chosen to become a part of -- remains her secret as she leads Rick, Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) to Woodbury in an attempt to free Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).

While Glenn's abuse was in the form of a severe beating and attempted death by walker at the hands of Merle -- who was re-creating what it felt like for him on that Atlanta rooftop -- the Governor (David Morrissey) threatened to rape Maggie, a nod to his attempts to break Michonne in the Image Comics on which the AMC series is based. However, it was the Governor's gun held to Glenn's head that eventually led Maggie to reveal the group's numbers and location, prompting the Woodbury leader to question whether she was lying about its size or if Merle's brother and company were really able to do something the elder Dixon brother said couldn't be done: clear the prison.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer and creator of the comic series Robert Kirkman to discuss the burning questions from "When the Dead Come Knocking."

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The Hollywood Reporter: Has Michonne pieced together that Rick and company are Andrea's former group? Is she holding on to that or does she not realize it?
Robert Kirkman: Clearly the names haven't lined up or she hasn't had enough information. To be honest, there is a fair bit of coincidence at work this season and it wouldn't be natural to assume that this group you've encountered that's living at a prison is the same group that abandoned your friend unless there were clear references to these people. We're very mindful not to have her get a lot of information from them about who they are. She doesn't know a lot of their names yet and she's not aware of that yet.

THR: Michonne's incredibly smart, is that something she could piece together?
Kirkman: Oh yeah. All that is going to be coming together very quickly.

THR: Merle said the prison couldn't be taken over and he has family confirmed alive out there (Daryl). Might the Governor trust him less?
Kirkman: The Governor is an intelligent dude and this stuff is very much on his radar. He relies on Merle for quite a bit of his dirty work -- as seen in this episode encounters with Glenn. Now that he knows that there's this chink in Merle's armor, this weakness, he now knows that his brother is alive and is out there and that's something that's distracting him. That's something that's going to be concerning the Governor moving forward and is going to inform the way he deals with Merle coming up.

THR: The stranger in the cabin bites Rick -- might that come back to, pardon the bad pun, bite him in the ass?
Kirkman: (Laughs) We're probably not going to see that guy again because he's dead but that scene is going to inform his relationship with Michonne to a certain extent and his level of trust in her. Because of his current state of mind, things could go either way -- the Rick that we knew before Lori's death might have seen the way that Michonne handled that guy and thought, "Hey, this is a resourceful person who could be useful." But now we don't really know what kind of thinking is going on in Rick's head because he's in a bad state of mind. That could have made him much more cautious around Michonne and could make him distrust her.

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THR: Might anyone see the bite on his arm and think he's been bitten by a walker?
Kirkman: That's a possibility (laughs).

THR: We're watching the scene with Maggie and the Governor covering our eyes because we fear she's following Michonne's rape story line from the comics. Is the Governor through with Maggie's emotional torture?
Kirkman: I certainly wouldn't think that would be it. I think the Governor has quite a bit more up his sleeve and that certainly wouldn't have been the be all, end all of his encounters with her. The Governor is not a nice guy and there may be more planned for her.

THR: The Governor doesn't rape Maggie or cut off Glenn's hand, which he threatened to do. Were both of those moments nods to the comics or are they more foreshadowing for what could be coming up?
Kirkman: I couldn't rule that out for you but there were definitely nods to the events of the comic book and also very realistic things in the moment that could have occurred so we're not going out on a limb to reference the comic. Woodbury is a very dangerous place and you're supposed to be terrified. Glenn and Maggie are in these people's clutches and we don't know what the future holds for these people. The audience should see that Rick is very incentivized to get to these people as quickly as he can and try and get him out of these. The stakes are extremely high moving into our midseason finale. Because it is The Walking Dead, we don't really know what's going to happen next.

THR: The Governor sends Merle and Martinez to check out the prison. Will they make it that far or might they cross paths with Daryl and Rick first? 
Kirkman: That would certainly be interesting if that were to happen. If that were to occur it would be a pretty explosive confrontation that would be worthy of a midseason finale but whether or not that will actually take place, we'll just have to see.

THR: At this point Daryl doesn't know for certain that Merle is alive. What might that look like?
Kirkman: From the first minute that Merle stepped onto the stage this season, fans have been saying, "When are we going to see these two together, when is there going to be a Dixon brother reunion?" We've been inching closer and closer to that as the season has progressed, but going into our eighth episode -- the midseason finale -- we're getting the closest that we've come to that reunion so far. Whether or not it will occur remains to be seen but it certainly seems like a good place for it.

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THR: If Merle and Martinez did indeed make it to the prison, how would the rest of Rick's group fare considering their best fighters are gone?
Kirkman: That's certainly a danger. We've got Hershel, Beth, Carl and Axel with Carol still at the prison and that's not necessarily the people you would think of to be the group to defend the prison. If Merle and Martinez do make it to the prison, they theoretically could take over, which could add quite a bit of complications to Rick's life.

THR: How will Andrea play a role in the impending battle between the groups? Where are her allegiances? Might she discover that Maggie and Glenn are there?
Kirkman: That's a possibility. It's interesting to note that Andrea has been integrating into Woodbury quite easily and has become a part of this community as much as anyone else living in Woodbury. But she's done without the knowledge of Rick and the rest of her former group being around; she has no idea where they are. Now that they're coming into the mix and these two groups are going to be interacting a lot more, the real question is: Where does Andrea's allegiance lie and what is she going to do when she does find out that Rick and the group are still out there.

THR: Milton and the Governor finally learn that there's nothing left once a human reanimates. How will that change what the Governor's end game is?
Kirkman: It's another piece of information that he's going to put away and use to his advantage in the future. As far as his relationship with Penny goes, I don't think anything definitive was laid out there; there's certainly evidence that there is no part of that person left when a person turns into a walker. The Governor's devotion to Penny and the fact that he's keeping her alive and around shows that he's not going to be buying into that anytime soon. He has a vested interest in denying that possibility. Things are still very much in the air and there's quite a bit more to discover when it comes to what is actually going on with these walkers.

THR: How high can we expect the body count be during next week's midseason finale?
Kirkman: I certainly wouldn't expect everyone to get out of this coming confrontation completely unscathed. As far as how many people or if anyone is going to die, that remains to be seen. This is The Walking Dead, so I certainly wouldn't expect them to hold hands and start singing at any time. 

THR: With the Governor, the show has strayed very far from the comics. How might we expect Tyreese follow suit?
We'll just have to see how closely we stick to his story line.

Are you worried about Glenn and Maggie? How do you think the groups will eventually come face to face? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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