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With new showrunner Glen Mazzara in place and twice the number of episodes to explore in its second season, The Walking Dead writers have a lot more room to play this year.
Now, the AMC zombie series can focus on the drama taking place on-screen, starting with the fiery finale and what Jenner whispered to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) before the CDC explosion. Plus how stable is Rick and Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) marriage? Will Shane (Jon Bernthal) continue to spiral out of control? And just what caused the zombie outbreak in the first place?
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and Robert Kirkman (who created the comics the series is based on) to get the scoop what’s next for the band of not-so-merry survivors. Here are nine things to know about Season 2.
1. What did Jenner whisper to Rick at the CDC? When Season 1 ended, the band of survivors was suddenly forced back onto the road to nowhere after Jenner blew up the CDC shortly after whispering something to Rick. What did he tell him and when will that be revealed? “We certainly tease it in the premiere,” Hurd tells THR. Is everyone infected? Is Lori pregnant? “We’ll definitely tell you what that is and resolve that while you’re still wanting to know about it,” Kirkman says, noting that the writers are very mindful of retaining viewers’ interest. “It will be wrapped up before the end of the second season — it could be the first episode, it could be in the last.”
2. What caused the zombie apocalypse? While the origin of the story has yet to be approached, even as Kirkman’s series approaches Issue 90, the AMC drama will reveal things “here and there,” the comic creator says. “As far as actually finding the answer to things, we’re probably not going to be doing that anytime soon.” In the meantime, the impact of the apocalypse will affect the survivors — and the new people Rick and company meet along the way — in different ways.
In the Season 2 premiere, for example, T-Dog (Robert “IronE” Singleton) cuts his arm hiding from a pack of walkers and the writers will use that to explore ways in which the world has changed. “With the second season, we wanted to show that there is still the natural amount of death — someone could still get the flu and get very sick and die,” Kirkman offers. “With T-Dog, he cuts his arm and he could just bleed to death from getting a cut in this world. You don’t always have to be getting eaten by zombies. We wanted to make sure people knew the world is that much more dangerous.”
3. More back story. With twice the number of episodes, Walking Dead‘s second year will delve more into their characters’ back stories, with the premiere flashing back to Rick and Lori before the world changed and exploring the nature of their marriage. “We’re going to learn a lot about Rick and Lori’s relationship from the past,” Kirkman teases. “Given the things that went on with Shane, we’ll be defining their relationships a lot more clearly moving forward.” Flashbacks, however, will be used sparingly and not a regular part of each episode, a la FX’s American Horror Story.
4. What happens to a marriage when the world ends? Asked if Rick and Lori are a stable couple, Kirkman noted that they weren’t OK before the outbreak and that a world filled with the undead may have helped their relationship. “What the end of the world has done is boiled things down to, ‘Are we good for each other? Do we love each other?’ ” he says. While Kirkman notes that taking a step back from the “nonsense of everyday civilized life” has been good for the couple, their revitalized relationship is going to make life increasingly harder for Shane.
“One of the big sources of dramatic tension in the piece is obviously the love triangle,” Hurd says. “Lori feels tremendous guilt and Shane is struggling with his love for her and Carl and how he fits in — does he fit in, is there a place for him in this community?”
5. Should I stay or should I go? With Shane left with no choice but to watch as Lori stands by Rick’s side, in the premiere he’ll ponder splitting from the group — but he won’t be the only one with branching out on their mind. “Everyone is seeking two things: first, a safe harbor, a sanctuary,” Hurd says. “Second, a feeling that they belong to something.”
“Shane is kind of being tortured by being around Rick and Lori, having had that relationship [with Lori] so of course he would be tempted to just kick himself out of the equation and go out on his own,” Kirkman says. “We see very early on in the second season that things aren’t necessarily easy and that the idea of going off on your own may hold less appeal than sticking it out and struggling with these people.”
6. Shane’s life really sucks. While Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) brother Merle (Michael Rooker) is out there somewhere and everyone has lost friends and family, Shane is the most miserable of the group and will likely continue to unravel. “More than anything, Shane is being completely tortured by this world and he’s having a harder time than anyone,” Kirkman says, noting that while Rick was presumed dead, he got the family he wanted and had a place in society. “Once Rick came back, all that was taken away from him in a very abrupt change and that’s something that’s not easy for him to deal with. That’s one of the core story lines of the second season: How does Shane deal with this and what does it drive him to do.”
7. Who’s The Governor? The legendary character from the comics has yet to make an appearance on the AMC series and, despite speculation that Daryl’s brother, Merle, could eventually be the twisted psychopath, Kirkman maintains that viewers have yet to meet him. “The Governor character will be introduced at some point and it will probably be an original character that hasn’t appeared in the show up to that point,” Kirkman says.
8. Andrea and … Shane? Still mourning the loss of her sister, Amy, Andrea (Laurie Holden) bailed on a suicide attempt at the CDC in order to save Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn). When Season 2 opens, she’s still very damaged and very upset to be alive. “Eventually she’s going to come out of that wanting to be able to protect herself,” Kirkman says. “We’ll definitely see the beginning of the evolution to the character that she is in the comic, of the fearless sharpshooter that she became.” Who she turns to as she transitions into that strong character becomes the fierce sharpshooter, meanwhile, may surprise fans of the comics. “We’re definitely going to see somewhat of a relationship forming between Shane and Andrea,” Kirkman notes. “Those two are definitely going to be spending a bit more time together.”
9. New characters. Rick and company are heading to a farm (as seen in the key art for Season 2), where they will meet Hershel (Scott Wilson), his daughter Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and farmhand Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince), as in Kirkman’s comics. However, the budding romance between Maggie and Glenn may not play out as they did in the pages. “There will be an attraction but it’s not going to be simple; it’s going to be complicated by things that are very clearly not in the comic,” Hurd says.
Adds Kirkman: “Shane is already dead at this point in the comics, so when they arrive at the farm, he’s completely out of the picture. Having him be a part of the story changes things in a lot of interesting ways and the Andrea-Shane relationship, what ever that entails, is a big part of that.”
The 90-minute Season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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