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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday’s “Killer Within” episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead.]
AMC’s The Walking Dead delivered its most brutal episode in its three-season run Sunday when not one but two series regulars were killed off the zombie drama in dramatic fashion.
Sarah Wayne Callies’ Lori Grimes, pregnant with a child that could either belong to her husband Rick (Andrew Lincoln) or his late best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal), died during childbirth after her water broke during an attack on the prison.
During the emotional scene, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) performs an emergency C-section and has to cut the baby out of Lori, who only moments before said a tearful farewell to her son, Carl (Chandler Riggs). After his mother’s passing, the child soldier has to deliver the fatal gunshot preventing Lori’s transition.
Meanwhile, IronE Singleton‘s T-Dog died in a heroic fashion when, after being bitten by a walker trying to secure the prison, he sacrificed himself to allow Carol (Melissa McBride) escape.
“The decision to move up Lori’s death was to make sure that Rick was suffering as much as possible, that Rick was at his breaking point, at the exact moment that his most formidable foe [the Governor] was coming right for him,” showrunner Glen Mazzara told THR. “The Rick at the end of episode two can take on the Governor but the Rick of end of episode four is a broken man.”
Callies noted that Lori’s death — one that she chose — was one that hadn’t yet been featured on the series thus far. “It’s crisis and panic; she’s clearly in a situation where things are going to go badly, with or without her choice,” she told reporters Monday during a conference call, noting the set was “pin-drop quiet” among the 80 people watching the scene in which she died.
The actress revealed that former showrunner Frank Darabont had an idea for a way around Lori’s death — which occurs in the comics during a showdown with the Governor — and she and Mazzara powwowed over how it would occur on the series. “The great gift to me was that I got to say everything I wanted to say to him (Riggs) and to the cast,” she said, noting redemption — for Rick and Carl — was a big part of what she wanted to portray in the scene.
“In my first conversations with Frank, we agreed we wouldn’t do the TV version of this, Lori wasn’t going to be some big-busted woman standing by her man, a saint of the apocalypse. We talked about doing the ugliest, dirtiest, most unlikable version of this as we could,” she said. “It was so exhilarating to be able to dig deep into the darkness of motherhood and marriage.”
Callies noted that Lori’s exit says that Carl is a force to be reckoned with; and her concern through that entire scene was her husband, Rick. “The most important thing to her is Rick not see her as a walker and have to put her down,” she said. “She all but says to Carl, ‘Take care of your daddy because your daddy is going to fall apart.’ That’s a sea change. For the first two seasons, Carl wept in our arms and was practically a prop the first two seasons. Lori’s death is a change in the balance between Carl and Rick.”
Lori has seen the pregnancy as a death sentence from the beginning, Callies said, and noted that that the paternity will really never be known — unless the baby has the blue eyes that both Rick and Carl have.
As for whether Lori would be back on The Walking Dead — the character in the comics comes back to haunt Rick in visions as he struggles to cope with her death — Callies noted she’d be open to returning should it serve the story. “Lori’s death says something important to Rick — it drives him crazy. In the comics, part of his madness is not being able to shake her. If that serves the story going forward, absolutely,” she noted. “At same time, we’ve taken so many departures, if they feel it’d be foolish for Rick to be seeing ghosts, I’m OK with that, too.”
While Lori’s death plays out very differently in the comics — the baby and Lori both die during the confrontation with the Governor, providing one of the seminal moments in Robert Kirkman‘s Image Comics series — Callies said that the AMC drama may feature that moment with a twist similar to how Hershel’s leg was amputated vs. Dale’s in the comics.
“[Comics readers] would see [Lori’s death] coming a mile away, so it makes good sense to change the circumstances,” Callies said of how her comic counterpart dies in the comics. “That kind of death, you still may get later in the season. … There may be proxies for Lori’s death later on.”
For his part, Singleton called watching the episode a surreal experience and saw the hour for the first time on the set of AMC’s postshow, The Talking Dead. “I’m totally and completely satisfied with how the show went,” Singleton noted of T-Dog’s story line.
“I had no idea I was going to go out so heroically,” he said of T-Dog sacrificing himself to spare Carol. “When I was first cast, I was told I’d do two may be three episodes and wound up staying for three seasons. I’m so thankful for that. When I got the death call from Glen, he was very gracious and appreciative. When I read the script and was told T-Dog was going to die and when I read it I was thankful he would go out as a hero; it made me feel rally good, really appreciated.”
Will you miss Lori and T-Dog? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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