Last night’s special, 90-minute episode of the Walking Dead got the second season of AMC’s zombie show off with a bang. Specifically, the show ended with one as Carl (Chandler Riggs) was gunned down. The moment was shocking — if not a huge surprise for fans of the Walking Dead comic, in which Rick’s son has demonstrated a magnetic attraction for bullets over the years.
The shooting concluded a show that had already found Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his fellow survivors up to their elbows in trouble — and, in one memorable scene, zombie innards — as they hid from a herd of undead and then searched for the missing Sophia (Madison Lintz).
The man ultimately responsible for the group’s travails is Robert Kirkman, who, in addition to co-creating the Walking Dead comic, is also one of the show’s executive producers and writers. As he did last year, the zombie overlord has agreed to explain, defend, and generally ruminate upon the TV version of his post-apocalyptic saga, episode-by-episode.
Below, Kirkman discusses the shooting of Carl, that zombie autopsy, and the highly controversial (at least in these parts) cutting of EW editor Dalton Ross’ zombie cameo.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hey there.
ROBERT KIRKMAN: So we’re doing this again?
Yes, we are.
I think what everyone is going to be talking about is the fact that you cut the scene in which our very own Dalton Ross made a cameo as a zombie.
Yeah. That guy can kiss my a–! [Laughs] He’s already complained to me about it.
He’s a shell of a man, a shadow of his former self! And his former self only weighed about 80 pounds, dripping wet.
He got a whole page in Entertainment Weekly about it. What more does he want?
No, sir, you got a whole page in Entertainment Weekly about it.
Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t look at it like that. [Laughs]
But the absent scene, which documented the survivors escape from the CDC, did sound like a big action sequence. Why did you cut it?
We decided it would be better to have a 90-minute first episode and make it an event. So we took the first two episodes and cut them together. And in cutting those two episodes together there were certain things that just got left on the cutting room floor.
In the first ever episode of the Walking Dead, you killed a zombie girl, and in this episode, you shot Carl. Do you just enjoy keeping the younger cast members on their toes?
[Laughs] I like to say that, here at the Walking Dead TV show, we hate children. Yeah, it is one of those strange coincidences. We noticed it in the writers room and we were just like “Eh, what can you do?” It’s still cool.
To be honest, I had completely forgotten that, in the Walking Dead comic, Carl gets shot very near the start of the saga, as well as more recently.
I shoot that kid way too often [in the comic], I’ve got to say. It’s funny, half the time in the writers room, they’re reminding me [of what happens in the comic]. “Oh yeah, remember when that guy did this?” I’ll be like, “That never happened!”
There was a lot of stuff in this episode about Andrea wanting a gun. As a reader of the comic, I kept on thinking, “Just give her one! You never know, she might be a good shot.”
We may possibly be getting to that kind of stuff this season. I can’t really say. But her being such a good sharpshooter [in the comic] and finding that natural talent is a really cool thing from the comics, and I’ve been wanting to work that into the show from the very beginning, so… Maybe we’ll see a little bit of that.
Congratulations on the zombie autopsy. That really was quite disgusting.
Thanks. [Laughs] We had a lot of fun with that. That autopsy scene especially is a real testament to working in a writers’ room environment. When we were plotting out that episode, I was like, “Since they’re searching for Sophia, it might be cool if they encounter a zombie and they start checking its fingernails and its teeth and examining it to see if they have any evidence.” Because Rick is a police officer and that might be a cool thing to do. And then it was [writer] Scott Gimple that was like, “Oh, and he could cut him open!” It just built as everyone in the room tried to one up each other and improve the scene. And I have to say, [special effects artist] Greg Nicotero making that body — never in a million years did I think it would turn out that great. And then the performances of Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln really sell that. The whole scene just came together top to bottom.
I freeze-framed on the badge the dead guy is wearing in the tent…
Oh, I’ve never done that. What does it say?
It says “No excuse for domestic violence.”
I wasn’t sure whether it was supposed to be taken seriously or whether it was a joke about the fact that this guy was in a tent.
I have no idea. You’d have to talk to the wardrobe department. I have no idea what was going on there. Sorry!
At the start of the episode, Rick references the message Jenner (Noah Emmerich) whispered to him at the CDC. Is that something which is going to be resolved this season?
Absolutely. I’ll be straight and give that away. It’s one of those things where it’s a cool mystery and the viewers are really excited to find out what that it is, and milking that for all it’s worth is the absolute wrong thing to do. It’s something that we’re definitely going to wrap up in a satisfactory kind of way. We really want to not drag it out to the point where you’re bored with it, which I think some shows kind of do.
This was one of several episodes overseen by Frank Darabont before his departure from the show. Do you keep in touch with him?
We email from time to time. But I mean, everybody’s so busy. It’s not like we’re talking on the phone or anything.
How much has your life changed over the past year? You’ve moved to Los Angeles, so obviously you’ve become a douche…
Well, I was a douche before I moved. It’s just gotten more official. No, it’s a lot of fun. It’s fun being in a room and actually writing as a group. It’s something that’s a completely alien experience to me. I’m used to being in my office alone, typing crap and making stuff up. To be in a room, discussing ideas, it’s really kind of cool.
Do you have time management issues? You have so many things on your plate. You write a number of different comics, you run your own imprint Skybound, you co-wrote a Walking Dead spin-off novel, Rise of the Governor, you go to conventions, you have to talk to people like me…
My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I get very excited about projects, and then at night, when I’m at working at one in the morning and I have to get up at six to go to work the next day, I’m like, “Why did I do this? This sucks!” But every other minute of the day, I’m having a good time. I enjoy working, is what I’m saying. But talking to people like you is the worst part. It’s really just awful.
Next week, Kirkman will return to discuss to this season’s second episode, “Bloodletting.”