The March 18 season finale of The Walking Dead, featuring an epic zombie attack on the Greene family farm and the revelation that everyone on the show is infected with the zombie virus, was so scary and shock-a-minute outrageous that it nearly made our heads explode. (Now we know how those walkers feel when they meet the wrong end of a pickax!) What's in store for the survivors? Is there any hope left for mankind? And who was that weird hooded figure at the end of the episode sporting the ultimate Walking Dead fashion accessory — two armless zombies on a chain? We took our burning questions to executive producer (and comic-book creator) Robert Kirkman and several of the show's top stars.
Let's get this straight: Now all it takes to be a zombie is death itself? You can become one by dying in a car crash, keeling over from a heart attack or choking on a hot dog?
"Exactly!" says Kirkman, who isn't taking this nearly as badly as we are. "Some sort of event took place — we may never know what it was — that led to the virus being transferred, and it is now lying in wait within everybody. Even though all our characters are doomed, the point of The Walking Dead is that they still have each other. They have their everyday lives to live, and that's what they'll be concerned with as we move forward."
Suddenly we have New Rules! Does this explain why the majority of the zombies do not appear to have been killed by other zombies?
"That's the very reason we don't see many walkers with bite marks or wounds," Kirkman says. "In fact, most of them are not victims of zombie attacks. If you're almost completely devoured, you won't turn. If you're half devoured, like the bicycle girl we saw in the first episode, there will be enough of you remaining that you can still become a zombie. It all comes down to whether or not there's been significant damage to the brain. As long as the brain is intact, even a severed head will come back to life."
So how come there are no zombie infants?
Says Kirkman: "You want the truth? I don't want to be sitting in that casting call when we tell parents we hope they won't mind that their baby will be in the makeup chair for two hours!"
Rick has known this secret since the Season 1 finale. Why did he keep it to himself?
"Until Shane and Randall suddenly popped up as zombies, Rick had no confirmation it was true," explains Kirkman. But Andrew Lincoln, who plays the steely cop, sees it differently. "Rick was pushed to reveal what he knew out of shame," says the actor. "After manslaughtering Shane, he can't even look at his wife, Lori [Sarah Wayne Callies]. He can't look at anyone. He's cornered and his only way out is to throw in the information he's withheld." Where does this leave Rick and Lori? She's furious with him for killing Shane! "They've overcome a lot, including Lori's infidelity, but this is a profound rift, a huge wedge," Lincoln says. "I don't know how they will ever get past this."
They may not have the chance to try. In Kirkman's Walking Dead comic books — the source material for the TV series — Lori gives birth to a baby girl and eventually they both die. Should we be worried?
Not necessarily. "Certain deaths that take place in the comic books do happen on the series and others don't, so the audience will never be certain," notes the exec producer. Still, there's this ominous fact: Kirkman is nearing the 100th issue of his comics, and the only survivors left from the characters we currently know are Sophia (who's already dead in the series), Glenn, Carl, Maggie, Andrea and Rick!
Does this mean Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn, is feeling pretty secure these days?
Uh, not so much. "Knowing my character is still around in the comics is scary because the writers are always making brave, smart and awesome moves, and they might just want to throw a giant curve ball at the audience," says the actor. "I'm happy if they keep me, but if they don't, I know they'll send me out with a bang."
Andrea was pretty much abandoned by her peeps during the zombie attack. Can she get over that? Or is she Miss Pissed?
Laurie Holden, who plays Andrea, sees it two ways. "When I watched the finale, I was like, 'That was so not cool to do to my character!' But I think Andrea knows it was a matter of survival and believes they'll organize a search party and find her," she says. "Little does she know they had a whole conversation about it and Rick vetoed it, so they won't be going after her." Andrea is now the only one in the group who doesn't know about the virus. But here's what'll really tick her off. "She's also the only one who doesn't know Rick has killed [her lover] Shane," Holden says. "When she finds out, it will not go down well for Rick." Or will it? In one of the most recent comic books, Rick and Andrea are kissing!
So who's the mystery person in the hood?
That's Michonne, a character from the comics who will figure prominently in Season 3. "She's a lone swordsman surviving out in the wilderness by herself," Kirkman says. "We're moving into a story where she and Andrea will persevere together against all odds."
And those two armless walkers?
"People are starting to learn how to coexist with zombies and actually utilize them," says Kirkman. "This is the first hint of that evolution. We're going to learn who Michonne's zombies are, why she has them and what purpose they serve. It's wild."
Daryl saved Carol during the zombie attack on the farm in true superhero style, sweeping her away on his chopper. Will love finally bloom?
Not if Norman Reedus can help it! The fan fave who plays Daryl hopes things stay platonic, though he adores working with Melissa McBride. "I've fought against having Carol and Daryl hook up because there's already too many of us doing it on this show," says Reedus. "It's more interesting to see these two damaged people gravitating to each other, needing each other's friendship. But I gotta admit it would be hysterical watching Daryl put on a bunch of deodorant before he goes in for his first kiss."
The finale also saw the flesh-ripping departures of Otis' wife, Patricia, and Beth's boyfriend, Jimmy. How is the cast handling all these exits?
Not well. "The deaths of Dale and Shane were so horrible because Jeff DeMunn and Jon Bernthal are two of my favorite people in the world, and it's going to be weird going back without them," says Yeun. "Saying goodbye to Dale was especially bad as he was lying there with all his guts on the ground. I had to walk away because I just couldn't see that. There was no acting necessary. The tears were real." Lincoln says it took 30 takes to shoot Shane's death. "You wouldn't believe the heartbreak," he says. "It was Jon's very last scene, and everybody showed up. Jeff flew in from New York to be on the set, even though he'd already shot Dale's death and was off the show. Working with Jon was one of the greatest thrills of my life."
How long will The Walking Dead keep going?
"I consider the comic book to be the zombie story that never ends — our 16th and 17th volumes come out this year, and we will put out two more volumes a year until I die," says Kirkman with a laugh. "As far as the TV show goes, I may be alone in this — and I don't know that Andrew Lincoln wants to do the show for the rest of his life — but I would like to see it go on for 20 years. It would be so much fun to deal with that kind of long-term evolution of this zombie problem. But it's all up to the fans. Our show may not go on forever, but it could. I have that much story left to tell."
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