After one episode, AMC’s The Walking Dead finds itself in familiar territory: Back out on the open road. But this time, Rick’s band is not only experienced enough to fear the human threat but also has swelled to its largest group yet.
When the zombie drama based on Robert Kirkman‘s comics started, the drama had seven series regulars. That grew to nine in season two, 12 in season three and 13 in season four. This season, the cast totals a whopping 17 regulars — including one (Seth Gilliam‘s Father Gabriel) set to make his series debut in Sunday’s second episode — marking its largest cast to date. (With more new faces also expected join season five.)
With so many series regulars to service, and the crux of the group together on the road (save for Beth, whom we hope to see soon), how will the Walking Dead’s latest road trip be different? And, perhaps more importantly, can every member of Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) extended family survive season five?
“Some of them will die,” executive producer Kirkman says with his trademark chuckle. “Sometimes we kill characters very rapidly, sometimes we go many episodes without anybody dying and I think season five is going to be no different. We’re certainly not going to be killing less or more than we usually do. There’s not really any way to predict what it is that is coming but this is a very dangerous world that these characters live in, so we will be continuing the way that we inhabit this world. We’re definitely going to be dealing with some character deaths.”
For showrunner Scott M. Gimple, character deaths are only part of the story. The big change in season five, he says, will be how all the characters affect each other now that everyone is traveling together.
“It’s a balance,” Gimple tells THR. “Ultimately the way we did it last year — and the way we’ll do it this year and the way that the stories work — is what these characters go through and what they face a lot of the time are each other. These characters are affecting each other. These stories are involved between the different characters.”
Case in point: Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) grilled Eugene (Josh McDermitt) for more information about his “classified” cure, with the latter revealing just enough to appease her so she would fight and protect the man incapable of defending himself. Also yet to be explored: How Rick will respond to Abraham’s mission to D.C., especially considering the former has already seen what Washington looks like after his journey to the CDC.
“An individual story still has at least a couple characters from our show and often times more than that,” Gimple says. “It is a little bit of a juggle but it’s a great juggle because you can hit so many different aspects of this world and this group along the way. It’s a challenge and it’s also an opportunity. We’re enjoying it but sometimes it makes our heads explode.”
Co-star Norman Reedus, who started in season one as a recurring player before being bumped to regular for season two, warned that it’s unlikely that everyone in Rick’s central group will see eye-to-eye, though that may not be the case for everyone (ahem, Daryl and Melissa McBride‘s Carol).
“There are a lot of personalities that clash — and a lot get together to form unlikely bonds,” he says. Reedus also notes that Daryl and Rick still haven’t had a conversation about the former sheriff dropping Carol off on the side of the road after she killed Tyreese’s girlfriend, Karen. Also expect to see Daryl fight and try to find Beth as he goes through “a whole hell of a lot.”
Says co-star Steven Yeun (Glenn), who has been a regular since season one: “That’s what’s so awesome about this show is that you get to see how every single person affects another person. We try to show that, regardless of whether someone has lines or not. It’s a really beautiful thing.”
As for how sizable the season’s death toll can expect to be, Gimple reiterated that The Walking Dead doesn’t set out to be the “character death show.”
“That’s only part of the story,” he says with a laugh. “Some of them are going off to three-camera shows; the third spinoff is a comedy.”
Below, THR presents the inaugural Walking Dead Pool, where we take a look at the likelihood that each series regular will be killed off this season. Do you agree? Sound off in the comments section. Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
Andrew Lincoln (Rick) — .001 percent. We’d pay to see that fight.
Chandler Riggs (Carl) — .0000000001. They will never kill Carl. That’d be sacrilege.
Norman Reedus (Daryl) — 5 percent. There would be a riot.
Melissa McBride (Carol) — 2 percent. Carol iss the epitome of a bad-ass survivor.
Danai Gurira (Michonne) — 1 percent. Even without her katana, she’s still a force.
Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) — 40 percent. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. (See: Shane)
Lauren Cohan (Maggie) — 25 percent. The Greene family has been through so much, but Mags has adjusted well to the new world.
Steven Yeun (Glenn) — 50 percent. New season, same rumors about Glenn’s demise. Plus we know this happens in Issue 100 of the comic (spoilers, duh).
Emily Kinney (Beth) — 60 percent. Producers won’t even tease anything about Beth’s whereabouts.
Chad Coleman (Tyreese) — 70 percent. He’s learned how to kill humans, but is it too little too late? And now that he’s delivered Judith back to Rick, does he even have purpose?
Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) — 35 percent. She’s cynical about if Eugene really knows a cure for the zombie apocalypse, a compelling storyline for season five.
Josh McDermitt (Eugene) — .00001. Everyone is fighting for Eugene, he’s snug as a bug in a rug.
Alanna Masterson (Tara) — 20 percent. It took four seasons to get a LGBT character on the show. She’s safe … for now.
Christian Serratos (Rosita) — 10 percent. Abraham (and likely Eugene’s) love interest isn’t going anywhere. AMC hasn’t even cracked the surface of her story yet.
Larry Gilliard Jr. (Bob) — 90 percent. He’s happy with new love Sasha, but otherwise has no story. Sounds like zombie bait!
Andrew J. West (Gareth) — 50 percent. In a twist, producers said that Gareth isn’t season five’s big bad. Wow.
Seth Gilliam (Father Gabriel) — TBD. It’s unclear how similar his AMC character will be to his comic book counterpart.
* Judith — 100 percent. She’s not a series regular, but Rick’s baby girl has already outlived her comic book counterpart. Plus how long can a baby really exist in a post-apocalyptic world? Yep, it just got dark in here.