'The Walking Dead' Dissection: Scott Gimple on the Group's New Threat(s)

The new showrunner breaks down the events of the season-four premiere: "The characters all establish things we explore throughout this entire season."
"The Walking Dead's" Andrew Lincoln

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Walking Dead's fourth-season premiere, "30 Days Without an Accident."]

AMC's The Walking Dead returned for its fourth season with a nuanced premiere that reestablishes the group of prisoners who have now become a well-oiled farm and thriving community.

The episode cements the new leadership ranks at the prison, with the era of the Rick-led group officially coming to an end in favor of a council comprising Hershel, Daryl, Glenn, Carol, Tyreese and Sasha, among others, who take over as the community's pseudo-government.

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Rick, instead, walks away from his leadership role in favor of a more conservative life overseeing the prison's garden and farm animals poised to feed the community.

After fighting off a group of walkers when a department store roof collapses, the group returns to the prison -- sans Beth's new boyfriend -- and sees Carl's friend Patrick succumb to a fever and turn, creating a new threat within the camp's formerly safe walls.

The Hollywood Reporter catches up with new showrunner Scott Gimple to break down the episode.

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The Hollywood Reporter: Aside from the department store roof caving in, the episode had a slower pace. How will future episodes compare going forward?

Scott Gimple: We mix it up quite a bit. We were starting the story, and the velocity ups quite a bit, and then it goes in a different direction, then it ups quite a bit. There are episodes that are much more frantic, and there are even episodes that are quieter. With this episode, one of the big challenges with this season was adding a story for every character. And the challenge was to start those stories all in a single episode.

There's now a council that makes decisions for the group -- but Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is not a part of it. What needs to change in order for him to get involved again?

That's really it: What does need to change for him to get more involved, and are those things about to happen? In the forest, Clara said something to him that might be akin to a curse, which is that you don't get to come back from the things you've done. That's what Rick has done up until this point, when we started with him in the morning. By the night of that day, he's heard that news and things are starting to happen, and the fuse may be lit.

Some of the zombies now appear to have been bleeding from their eyes, which we see when Patrick dies. Is it safe to say this flu is impacting other survivors beyond the prison and they're turning as well?

It is safe to say Patrick died of what ever that was. The walker that was at the fence that we saw was rather fresh; he's not very rotted. I would intuit that because it's a fresh zombie, that the person who died recently was by the same method Patrick died.

This is one of the new threats you've been talking about since Comic-Con. How will we see the group navigate this new threat in their pseudo-safe prison?

That's the trick. In refugee situations, when people are in close contact like that, bad things health-wise have usually happened. In a third-world situation like this, the effects can be even worse. If that zombie died of the same thing that Patrick did, and Patrick said he was feeling ill, that would mean you'd want to stay away from those zombies as well. So standing up against the fence and smashing and stabbing them in the face, there's a great deal of blood flying everywhere. It's very bad news and presents potentially a very difficult situation beyond the simple difficulty of being around other people, which you have to be.

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So it's a virus that travels via blood?

I'm not saying that, but if someone is sick with any sort of communicable disease, any bodily fluid is bad news. But there were also a couple of dead pigs in this episode, which also might have something to do with it.

Last season, Carl (Chandler Riggs) was becoming a killer and almost mini-Governor, and now there's been a big turnaround. Is it fair to say he's still on the brink of that?

He's a kid in this world, absolutely. Rick taking the path that he has, that is mostly for Judith and Carl. He's invested so much of himself and the way he's doing things toward Carl's well-being and maintaining his innocence and reestablishing his childhood. If Rick were to have to abandon that stuff, it would affect Carl.

Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Beth (Emily Kinney) seem to have some chemistry together -- and share an approach to emotionally dealing with this world. Could there be something more than friendship between them this season?

The scenes with all these characters are there for a reason, and it's way beyond a reason in this episode. The characters all establish things we explore throughout this entire season. Will we be exploring more of the Daryl-Beth dynamic? Absolutely.

New regular Bob Stookey (Larry Gilliard Jr.) has a drinking problem in his past. How will we learn more of who he is and where he came from? Could he be a spy for the Governor?

It will gradually come out. I'm not saying it will come out that he's a spy -- I'm neither confirming nor denying such speculation -- but his backstory is a big part of who he is and how these people at the prison and his experience there might affect and change him.

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Michonne (Danai Gurira) is on a mission to find the Governor. Does the council approve of this, or is she above it all? Is this her way of coping with her feelings about Andrea's death?

As far as approving or disapproving, the thing I tried to lay down was Daryl and his reaction to this. He doesn't seem too keen on it. God knows that Daryl has his beef with the Governor [over his brother Merle's death] and it's a pretty big one. We'll learn more about Daryl's involvement in how Michonne was doing this in later episodes, especially episode four. Obviously people are cool with it, but Daryl doesn't seem to think it's a good idea, and he's who would be most sympathetic.

Carol (Melissa McBride) is teaching the children how to defend themselves. Is this a Council decision or hers? How will Carl handle this information when his father has pushed him back to embracing his childhood?

It comes to a head for Carl in episode two with this information. We will see next week what Carl will do with it. He's very much his father's son, and he is trying to be the kid that Rick wants him to be. But that very issue both causes a rift and an understanding between them. It turns out to be a very big deal between Rick and Carl.

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Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) disagree about how careful they want to live in this world. How will we see them struggle this season after her pregnancy scare?

Right now it was a small exchange and theoretical discussion. Things are about to get much less theoretical. What they expressed to each other is going to test both sides of the argument through events that occur.

What did you think of the season-four premiere? Sound off in the comments below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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