Season 4 of The Walking Dead may have ended with a cliffhanger and many questions about the folks of Terminus that trapped our group of survivors, but creator Robert Kirkman says when the show returns in October that we will “very quickly deal with the situation that we left them in.” And that’s not all he told us. As Kirkman and Co. prepare to return to Comic-Con in San Diego (their panel is on Friday, July 25), the man who gave birth to the comic book and is an executive producer on the TV adaptation talked more about what — and whom — we can expect to see in season 5. (WARNING: Spoilers below. So now you’ve been warned.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You guys have done these eight month time jumps in the past between seasons to skip over winter and, I guess, help explain why the hell Carl got so big. I assume with the cliffhanger we’re pretty much picking up right back there in Train Car A or somewhere close to it.
ROBERT KIRKMAN: Yes, Carl found giant pills in the train car.
EW: Fantastic! What else can you tell me?
KIRKMAN: In our first episode, it’s very much going to focus on the story of Terminus. There’s a lot of big revelations that haven’t really come out that I think people are gonna be pretty startled by. There’s a couple other revelations that I think people might’ve gotten a little bit of a lead on. We’ll definitely be defining those in some cool ways and confirming some theories and shooting down others, which is very exciting. But I think the coolest thing about coming back to season 5 is that we really hit the ground running. What I mean by that is that we very quickly deal with the situation that we left them in — this trapped, victim situation where they’re kind of at the mercy of the people of Terminus. We really kind of expand the story from there very rapidly, so I think this is going to be a pretty fast-paced season with quite a bit going on. News is already out that Seth Gilliam has been added, and we’re bringing in new characters like we always do, and I think season 5 is going to be our best season yet. I think when people finally see the premiere, they’ll see what I’m talking about.
EW: Can you talk about Seth Gilliam and whom he’s playing? Obviously, we’ve seen some fan pictures of him in the priest collar, and so the assumption is that he’s playing Father Gabriel from the comic book. Can you speak to that at all?
KIRKMAN: I haven’t seen those photos.
EW: Well played, sir.
KIRKMAN: He’s playing a character that’s very integral to the future of The Walking Dead. Who he is is possibly a very large hint to where the story is gonna go, if you’ve read the comic book series. So, we are playing that as close to the vest as the spy photos will allow, but all will be revealed very soon.
EW: I remember you telling me a few years back — I think it was when Chad Coleman joined, but before Lawrence Gilliard — you said, “I’m just trying to get as many Wire alums on this show as possible.” You weren’t kidding!
KIRKMAN: Hopefully there’s more to come. I’m looking at you, Idris Elba!
EW: You mentioned other new characters. Does that mean new characters from the comic? Not from the comic? Both? Neither? What do you mean by that?
KIRKMAN: Both. There’s a lot of new stuff coming. Look, the thing that makes me the most proud of The Walking Dead is the fact that it is such a continually evolving show. We never rest on our laurels, we never go “that status quo works, let’s figure out a way to stay in that mode.” We’re always pushing boundaries and doing new things and changing the ways we tell stories. We tried some new things in season 4 and they worked pretty well and they helped tell some really great stories, and we’ve done that and now we’re moving on. We’re gonna do some new stuff, and a lot of that involves bringing in a lot of new characters. There’s going to be some big changes ahead, and it’s gonna all be cool stuff.
EW: I remember you guys saying before season 3 that the Rick-Governor battle was not going to be quick. It was basically going to last all season long, and it turned out to be that and then some. What about the conflict with the folks at Terminus? Will this be another sort of long campaign or can you give us any sort of sense of how long this might play out?
KIRKMAN: All I’ll say about that is that the Rick that’s faced the Governor is very different from the Rick that is now gonna be facing the people of Terminus. As we saw in the final moments of season 4. I think that he’s definitely a more capable Rick and a more prepared Rick, and while the situation might actually be far more dire and deadly and dangerous, he’s possibly going to handle it much better. I think we’ll see a very different way of handling conflict this season .
EW: Basically, he’s back to being a badass.
KIRKMAN: That’s a place he gets to in the comic book series, and I know everyone’s been asking “When’s that guy coming? When are we gonna see that guy?” I can say with confidence that he’s here, and Andrew Lincoln is having, I think, a great time with it.
For more ‘Walking Dead’ intel, check out Entertainment Weekly’s Comic-Con preview package, on stands now. Also, follow Dalton on Twitter: Follow @DaltonRoss