By Clark Collis
March 11, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
Gene Page/AMC

After the shocking end to last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, the writing staff of AMC’s zombie show might have been forgiven for taking a week off,, mayhem-wise. They could, for example, have filled out the histories of Hershel and his family, or gotten Rick to put together a PowerPoint presentation explaining where exactly the search for Sophia went awry.

But no! The Walking Dead behind-the-scenes crew kept the pedal to the metal, and maybe even pressed down a smidgen harder, by killing off Jon Bernthal’s character Shane. And then, when he returned as a zombie, killing him off again!

Below, Walking Dead show executive producer — and Walking Dead comic writer — Robert Kirkman talks about the episode,, and explains why Shane was lucky to live as long as he did.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Another show, another major death. At this rate you’ve got enough cast members left for around 8 more episodes and then I assume it’ll just be footage of zombies walking about grunting at each other.

ROBERT KIRKMAN: Don’t spoil my show! [Laughs]

Shane, of course, also dies early on in the comic book version of the Walking Dead. When you were initially working up the show did you always have it in your mind that he was doomed?

To a certain extent. We knew from [the time we cast] Jon Bernthal that Shane was eventually going to die, that we were going to eventually follow the story line from the comic. Frank had actually planned to do it at the end of the first season before he knew that the first season was going to be six episodes. Once the show was given a six-episode order it was decided that we would hold Shane’s death for the second season. But from the very first day of planning the second season it was mapped out that Shane would be kicking the bucket at the end of this season.

Following Dale’s death last week, no one would have blamed you for making this episode a let’s-pause-for-breath show. Why did you decide to have one major fatality followed almost immediately by another?

There was actually another death in this episode that at the very last minute, after the script was written, we decided not to do. So we were going to have three major deaths in these two episodes but then that was decided it was just too much. I think Glen Mazzara is adamant about packing as much story into these episodes as possible and doing cool stuff and moving from idea to idea very quickly. And I am a madman who wants to make these shows as bloody as possible. So between the two of us we could have three or four major deaths in every episode and we would be happy. Thankfully, cooler heads prevail. Other writers are always going, “Guys! Guys! What are we doing?” So we tone things down a little bit.

Gene Page/AMC

Over the last few shows Rick repeatedly insisted that Shane was fine despite considerable evidence that he was actually quite nuts. Do you think in his heart of hearts he knew that some kind of showdown like this was inevitable?

It’s important to note that Shane was his best friend. So no matter how much he knew, he didn’t want to admit to himself that he knew. It wasn’t until that walk out into the woods, when Shane was leading him to his death, that he really kind of accepted the fact that, Wow, this guy is not the guy I knew any more.

Wouldn’t the survivors have discovered before this point that everyone becomes a zombie when they’re dead, whether they’ve been bitten or not?

Well, this is their process. This is us showing how they found this out. They clearly haven’t been in a situation where they’d discovered that. This is them learning that. So: No!

Both Shane and Rick told Carl that Dale’s death was not his fault, which is what any reasonable adult would do. But Dale’s death was totally Carl’s fault, right?

[Laughs] Yes, it kind of was. And that’s something we’ll definitely be dealing with. I don’t want to repeat myself from last week but this is a world where Carl is going to be growing up quick and his responsibility for Dale’s death is going to be a big part of that. Him having the nerve to shoot Shane when he saw Shane — someone he loved — as a zombie coming after Rick, that’s something that he may not have been able to do if he hadn’t caused Dale’s death the episode before. So there’s things like that that are going to be happening and this is definitely going to be a big thing for Carl to deal with over the next season. Assuming he doesn’t die.

So what were all those walkers doing in the woods at the end of the show? Were they attending some sort of-getting-back-to-the-country zombie-Phish show? What’s going on?

Look, there’s a very large grouping of zombies in the woods milling about, Much like the zombies that we saw on the highway in our premiere episode, just a large herd of zombies. What they were doing in those woods and how they got there and where they’re going now is all something we will be dealing with.

There were some beautiful shots of the house this episode. Are they trying to sell that thing? Is it like, “Sure, you can shoot here as long as you can help us get this farm off the market?”

If they sell it after the money we paid them to use it, that would be ridiculous. They’d be well too rich.

The show has occasionally featured flashback sequences. Is it possible we might see Dale and/or Shane again?

Possibly. There’s nothing like that planned. But we love Jeffrey DeMunn and we love Jon Bernthal and it’s an unfortunate thing the story dictated that they had to be taken out of the show. But we miss those guys and we’ll be dying to figure out a way to work them back into the show in some kind of flashback-y kind of nature. Same with Emma Bell and all the other actors we’ve lost in the show. It’s always cool to bring people back for fun stuff like that.

One of my favorite parts of the show was when Norman Reedus went, “I gotta take a p—.” I think it’s the first time anyone’s ever said that in a TV show or movie without the said urination becoming some important plot point, where Jason Voorhees kills someone while they’re taking a leak, or whatever.

You know, Daryl Dixon is popular when he’s doing anything.

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