The Walking Dead has stopped walking (and shambling, and lying about going “Uuurgh!”), at least for now. Last night’s first season finale of AMC’s zombie show ended with a bang, literally, as the CDC blew itself up, incinerating both Jeryl Prescott’s Jacqui and Noah Emmerich’s Dr. Jenner. But what did Jenner whisper to Rick? Could Rick and his fellow survivors be heading to France (home of fine wine, foul cigarettes and, it seems, top notch zombie experts)? Will Michael Rooker’s Merle return in season two? And is my heterosexual man-crush on Norman Reedus’ Daryl getting way out of hand?
We put all these questions, and so many more, to Robert Kirkman, writer of the Walking Dead comic book and an executive producer of the show.
Entertainment Weekly: Obviously you guys plotted the finale, and the whole season, not knowing whether the show was coming back. What was that like?
Robert Kirkman: It’s something that Frank [Darabont, Walking Dead executive producer and finale co-writer] was very mindful of. He did a really good job of putting a button on the sixth episode, just in case things went horribly awry. At the same time, there’s a lot of questions and he leaves you with a sense of, “Where are they going down this road and what is going to happen next?” So there’s a lot of room for continuation. But if it had been a disaster we wouldn’t have looked like a–holes.
The season did leave a lot of questions unanswered. Like what happened to Merle? Michael Rooker has to return at some point, right?
We will definitely see Michael Rooker again.
Or what’s left him.
Yeah, we probably won’t see every little piece of him. There’s all kinds of cool stuff we can do. I definitely want to see Morgan and Duane come back at some point and find out what happened to them. There’s lots of little threads in there to keep people interested for next season.
Not least the tantalizing whispered message that Dr Jenner gave to Rick towards the end of the episode. Would you mind telling us what he said?
Come on, it’s just the two of us. It’s not like I’m going to go and blog about this—he said, with fingers crossed behind his back.
I don’t want to give anything away! Look, it could have been just like, “Hey, watch out for those zombies out there, dude!” But it wasn’t. It’ll probably be revealed in season two, what he said. And it’s pretty monumental.
I think it’s the same thing that Bill Murray says to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost In Translation.
We’re not going to keep in that ambiguous, I promise.
The episode featured undoubtedly my favorite exchange of the whole season, when Dr Jenner said, “Those doors are designed to withstand a rocket launcher,” to which Daryl replied, “Well, your head ain’t!”
[Laughs] That was a good one.
I am happy to admit that I have something of a crush on Norman Reedus in this show. Will you join me in that?
I will totally do that. Which is going to make it awkward when I see him on the set for season two. I mean, I don’t want to make out with the dude, or anything. But he’s awesome. I’m totally jealous of how bad–s that guy is. He literally is my favorite character in the show. He’s not my favorite actor on the show. [Laughs] But he is my favorite character.
I appreciate that going to the CDC was Frank’s idea. But as a zombie fan, the finale couldn’t help but bring to mind the below ground-set Day of the Dead, which I know is your favorite zombie movie.
Absolutely. When Frank was pitching the idea to me, saying he wanted to bring them to the CDC and telling me all the different things that he felt would come out of that story, the science of it all and the being trapped in the small location, I was very much picturing a lot of Day of the Dead stuff. That’s one of the reasons I was so on board with the idea.
Is that whole business about the CDC eventually blowing itself up in the event of some total catastrophe accurate?
I’m going to say, “Yes.” Because that sounds awesome to me.
Is that what the inside of the CDC looks like?
That was actually shot inside the CDC.
No, it wasn’t.
Yeah, that’s a lie. [Laughs] I don’t think it looked anything like the real CDC. The CDC is very secure and locked down and I don’t think we were even allowed to get reference photos of what the inside of the CDC looks like. For all I know, they have actual real zombies in the CDC, so they’ve already prevented that whole thing. Who knows?
Would it be fair to assume Dr Jenner was named after my fellow Brit, Edward Jenner, who developed the smallpox vaccine.
I would imagine so. I guess you’d have to get confirmation from Frank on that. He originally…
I’m sorry, but are you not familiar with the history of the smallpox vaccine?
RK: Uh, no, I am sadly not. Although thanks for making me admit that. [Laughs]. But a fun little bit of information: Dr Jenner originally had a different name, but because Rubicon had already used that name we had to change it.
And I think we all know what happened to Rubicon.
I wasn’t trying to go there. I was really upset about that. I think Rubicon was an awesome show and I wish they would make more. AMC? What a bunch of a—holes! [Laughs]
At one point in the finale, Dr Jenner said the French had gotten the farthest in working out what the hell is going on. I find it hard to believe they would have gotten farther than the British. We developed the smallpox vaccine! You’ve kind of embarrassed yourself and your family there.
Listen, if you want to talk about hating the French, I think [we] could give you guys a run for your money. But you’ve got to throw them a bone every now and then right?
Seriously, though, Rick and the gang can’t go to France can they? I mean, I know they wander around a lot in the comic book. But they never go as far as France.
A couple of seasons ago you probably didn’t think the bikers from Sons of Anarchy were going to go to Ireland. But that happened. Who knows, man?
It’s been a couple of weeks now since the show got renewed. How do things stand at the moment in terms of writing season two?
There’s been a little bit of behind the scenes stuff going on between the producers on the show and AMC, just figuring out when we’re going to get started and how we are going to do things and what our overall plan for season two is. That kind of stuff has been going on. But I don’t think any actual heavy work will be happening until after Christmas.
Were you tempted not to kill anyone in the finale, given that it could have been the last show and how much the characters had already suffered?
No, I think everybody’s pretty committed to killing people on this show. It’ll be a while before we start thinking, “Well, we might as well let some people live, we’ve put these guys through some horrible things.” If anything, if I were to criticize the first season at all—which I think went great—I would say, “I wish we had killed more people.”
And that’s that! Well, not quite. At a couple of points in our conversation, Mr Kirkman referred to crucial, nay seismic, events which have happened in the Walking Dead comic but not yet on the show. Indeed, they may never occur on the show. But as they do fall under the general heading of “spoiler,” I thought it would be best to post them in a different item which I’m going to put up tomorrow. Enjoy! Or not. The choice is yours.
More about The Walking Dead:
‘Walking Dead’ exclusive: Exec producer Gale Anne Hurd denies Frank Darabont fired writers
‘The Walking Dead’ finale recap: Zombie life sucks. Deal with it
‘The Walking Dead’: Let’s meet our zombie cover stars!
‘The Walking Dead’: This week’s EW cover story goes behind the scenes on TV’s best new show
‘Night of the Living Dead’: How a 42-year-old zombie movie refuses to die
And you can also listen to this week’s zombie-tastic EW’s TV Insiders Podcast.