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[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from last Sunday’s “Judge, Jury, Executioner” episode.]
AMC’s The Walking Dead hit viewers squarely in the gut last week when the group lost its moral compass.
After fighting to spare the life of prisoner Randall (Michael Zegen), a walker that Carl (Chandler Riggs) baited out of the swamp attacked and literally gutted Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), prompting Daryl (Norman Reedus) to step up and mercifully end his life.
The outcome will continue to reverberate throughout the group, showrunner Glen Mazzara tells The Hollywood Reporter, warning that Shane (Jon Bernthal), most surprisingly, will be the most affected by Dale’s death. “Dale’s death really hits our group hard; they’re at the end of their rope, frustrated and angry,” he says. “They really see it as a defining moment of, if they’re going to embrace the humanity that Dale fought for or if they’re going to reject it because that humanity somehow failed Dale.”
THR caught up with Mazzara to discuss how much more bloodshed viewers can expect as well as if Carl — and Rick’s — secrets will be revealed.
THR: Is there anyone at this point who isn’t going to blame themselves for Dale’s death? Carl had his hand in it, and Rick to a certain extent by bringing Randall back to the farm.
Glen Mazzara: All of them see themselves as guilty. If there’s one person who can hold their head up, it’s Andrea (Laurie Holden) because she stood by Dale’s side when he was fighting for Randall’s life. She had his back, and she’s the one person who feels that she stood by him at the end.
THR: Who’s going to be the most affected by the loss of Dale’s moral compass?
Mazzara: Shane. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) ends up trying to hold on to that last vestige of the pre-apocalyptic world, and he tries to hold on to that humanity and Shane sees that as utter failure. That’s the final straw for Shane.
THR: Is it safe to say that Rick will now second-guess Randall’s death sentence?
Mazzara: I think he already has, yes.
THR: Rick and Shane have been fighting over Randall’s fate for two episodes and finally agreed to end his life. How much more can they continue to debate his fate before one of them snaps?
Mazzara: That’s why the show feels real to a certain extent: This is a real life; this is a real death and these people don’t take that lightly. Rick’s humanity is always his flaw, and Rick sees that as if he’s to take Randall’s life that, that is a real serious choice. These people live with life and death every day. We’ll see just how much so because they’re all really grieving and deeply affected by Dale’s death. So ours is not a show in which people are killed off lightly. We really, really show the steps of grief, anger and guilt that are involved when you lose someone who’s close to you.
THR: Especially to kill off a character who’s survived for so long in the comics vs. a character like Shane, who despite repeated speculation about his death, continues to survive.
Mazzara: That’s been fun to see that. We had been working toward Dale’s death in the season arc for a long time so I think we sort of forgot it was going to land such a punch.
THR: Carl’s involvement in it certainly added to that punch. How will Carl handle his role in Dale’s death?
Mazzara: At the beginning of the next episode, Carl has a secret and obviously keeping secrets in this world is not a good thing. He has to deal with the guilt of what he’s done. What he did really was something that was innocent; that’s a dark version of a Huckleberry Finn scene. He’s just walking in the woods and he finds the walker, who he considers to be a dumb animal, and look at the tragic consequences. Whereas Dale’s death is a very serious tragedy coming out of what was an innocent boyhood mistake. That’s really going to affect Carl. He’s still a boy. He’s trying to hold on to his innocence, and it’s just being torn away from him every step of the way.
THR: Yet he’s fighting to be included in these group decisions — including the discussion about Randall’s fate.
Mazzara: That’s how boys his age would be; they’re torn between a world of being a child and a world of being an adult. Unfortunately, this world is no place for children. We’ve seen that with Sophia and now we’ve seen that with Carl.
THR: You mentioned the danger of keeping secrets — yet with two episodes to go, Rick’s still holding what Jenner told him at the CDC close to the vest. Will that be resolved by season’s end?
Mazzara: Let me say this: We’re more interested in giving answers than posing new questions.
THR: In terms of what to expect in the remaining two episodes, the group’s losses are starting to mount up this season with Dale and Sophia and all the reports about Shane’s impending demise. How much more bloodshed will there be this season?
Mazzara: There can be a lot of bloodshed in the next two episodes. We still have a lot of people standing and this is a very violent, surprising world. They have made a major mistake this season in that they felt they were safe on this farm. No one is safe; Dale’s death proves that.
How do you think Shane will respond to Randall’s reprieve? Do you think Carl has any innocence left? The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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