[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Sunday’s season three finale of The Walking Dead.]
To say there were losses on Sunday’s season three finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead would be an understatement.
During the “Welcome to the Tombs” episode, written by departing showrunner Glen Mazzara, Milton (Dallas Roberts) paid the price for betraying the Governor’s (David Morrissey) trust.
After essentially confessing he was the one responsible for destroying the pool of biters the Governor was planning to turn on Rick (Andrew Lincoln), the Governor tortured Milton for turning on him. Following the brutal beat-down, the Governor demands Milton kill his partner in peace Andrea (Laurie Holden) to prove his loyalties. When only Milton refuses to do it and makes a play to kill the Woodbury leader, he’s stabbed in the stomach and locked in the torture chamber with Andrea, where he’ll reanimate and follow through on the job just the same.
It was a heartbreaking ending not only for Milton but also for Andrea. After Milton leaves a tool to help Andrea escape cavity, she barely manages to free herself and put Zombie Milton down — but not before he took a bite out of her and effectively sealed her fate.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Roberts to discuss Milton’s brutal demise and his message to fans of the Robert Kirkman comics who may be upset over Andrea’s demise.
The Hollywood Reporter: When did you find out Milton wouldn’t survive the season?
Dallas Roberts: I got the death call from Mazzara. We had gone on hiatus and episode 14 was changing. I was in New York at the time and Glen explained how it was going to go down. It was bittersweet but exciting. The original pitch was that Milton got shot in the stomach and left to bleed out. We shot that version and then two months later came back and shot the version you saw. So we shot two different versions at the end, both of which did exactly the same thing.
THR: What was your reaction when you learned that Milton would be responsible for Andrea’s death?
Roberts: I thought Walking Dead fans are going to hate me for the rest of the time for taking out one of the core group. But if you’re going to go out, you might as well go out swinging. Hopefully there is some spark left in Milton even when he’s undead so all his research wouldn’t be for nothing (laughs).
THR: Being left to reanimate is more cruel than if the Governor had just shot him in the head. Was it always the plan to have Milton stabbed in the stomach, turn and bite Andrea?
Roberts: That’s right in the Governor’s wheelhouse of being such a cruel psychopath. By the time we reshot the scene, there were some different ideas about what their time in the room together was going to be like. The original plan had Milton shot in the stomach and there were much more active attempts to break out of the door to find some tool by which to free Andrea. The time that Milton and Andrea had together was a lot more active in terms of attempting to try and free her, and that ultimately failed. This time, Milton is so incapacitated by the stabbing that he’s left a wrench for her to break out with, but she’s doing all the work to free herself while he bleeds out in the corner.
THR: Do you think Milton deserved such a cruel fate after working so diligently for the Governor?
Roberts: When Milton sets the pit of walkers on fire and removes some soldiers from the Governor’s army and then comes back to the Governor and says, “I really hope you find out who did this,” that was a suicide mission on some level, that Milton knew he was going to pay for that. He thought he’d rather die that way than have to live under the new regime in the impending war. He doesn’t know that Andrea is locked up in the torture chamber/interrogation room. That he certainly doesn’t deserve. Milton didn’t deserve half the stuff that happened that happened to him! (Laughs.)
THR: You mentioned you’re worried Walking Dead fans may be upset over Milton’s role in the death of a major character. What message do you have to those fans?
Roberts: (Laughing) No. 1, it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t my idea! No. 2, they’ll take out anybody! It’s a smart thing that Kirkman has done in that it allows him the latitude to have these two different worlds in the comics and on the show and have some difference there so you can keep super-fans on their toes. No one is going to see it coming and that’s a fun thing to do for people who are really invested.
THR: Do you know whose idea it was to kill Andrea off? Was that something Mazzara spoke to you about?
Roberts: No, but I have to think it was Mazzara’s idea to kill Andrea just because of our conversations leading up to it. Early on, there were conversations about Andrea and Milton attempting a hit on the Governor and that failing. That didn’t come to pass and I have to think that that’s where he was leaning. The only end there is if we try and kill him and miss but then he’s coming for us for revenge. The only options there are Andrea and Milton escape back into the woods and or that he gets us and in this version, he gets us.
THR: What was it like working with Laurie Holden filming that scene?
Roberts: It was tough, I was losing a gig. When they call and tell you you’re going to die, it means this job is over and you’re not going to make it to the fourth season. For Laurie, she was there from the ground up and it was her family. She was so raw about that, that it was a powerful scene to shoot with her. Then two months later they called us to shoot the scene again (laughs). It was really brutal and heartfelt, and it was easy to get to because we were both saying goodbye to The Walking Dead and we were saying goodbye to each other through the guise of Milton and Andrea. They were special days.
THR: Did you and Laurie get a death dinner?
Roberts: I’m sure she did, I’m sure they had one for her! Milton didn’t get a death dinner because I basically just existed in Woodbury (laughs). I didn’t meet half the people in the prison the entire time I was there so in that sense it was like we were shooting two different shows and some people would transfer in between them. It would have felt odd for everyone to rally around Milton when only Andrea and Merle (Michael Rooker) were the only two people we knew from The Walking Dead seasons one and two that had anything to do with him.
THR: Milton makes an attempt to kill the Governor after he’s been beaten and does what he can to help Andrea. Do you think Milton died a hero?
Roberts: He died attempting to do what ever he could to do the right thing. He didn’t sacrifice himself for anything, in fact his plan — like every other plan or idea that Milton ever had the entire season — fails or the Governor says no to. Even following Andrea to the prison changed and he brings Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and his group back to Woodbury. In that sense, that last idea he had failed miserably. When he falls into that room and realizes that not only is Andrea not gone, but she’s here and he’s going to end up taking her life — I don’t think you’d classify that as heroic.
THR: Technically Tyreese being in Woodbury ultimately saves all the people in Woodbury when they go back to the prison. So if you stretch it …
Roberts: Sure, I’ll take it! (Laughs.) That’s where Milton’s heart was the whole time: there are people in Woodbury who can use our help and that’s the place where they can get it. That was his motivating force throughout the season, that Woodbury was going to be the safe haven. Once it became clear that it wasn’t the case, he had to go.
THR: The Governor winds up escaping after the mass-murder of most of his Woodbury army. What do you hope his fate is?
Roberts: He’s such a rich character. In the comics, he shows up as this complete force of evil and stuff with him and Michonne — which they chose not to depict in the television show — you hate the guy immediately. He’s the first human villain The Walking Dead has had. They did a great job of building the Governor up from a force for half-good into a force for evil. Watching David play that part and slowly twist over the course of 16 episodes, he’s primed now to be a thorn in their side for a while. I know I’ll enjoy watching season four. Michonne (Danai Gurira) did break into his house, take his eye and then kill his daughter in front of him. One of them is probably going to get him at some point! If The Walking Dead has taught us anything, it’s that it’ll be in a way we don’t expect.
What did you think of The Walking Dead season finale? Do you think Milton deserved to die? Are you upset he took a bite out of Andrea? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead returns in October on AMC.