[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Sunday's Season 3 finale of The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk!]
The Walking Dead shook things up again on Sunday's Season 3 finale by killing off another main character — and proving once and for all that the AMC series is unafraid to ax anyone, no matter what happened in the comics.
In this instance, it was Andrea (Laurie Holden), who became a polarizing character in the third season when she began literally sleeping with the enemy in the form of The Governor (David Morrisey) the charismatic leader of the supposedly idyllic town of Woodbury. (Of course, Andrea learned the hard way that The Governor is actually a sadist who rules the town with an iron fist.) Still, killing off one of the few original characters who is still alive in the comics is sure to get Dead fans talking until the series returns in October. To find out why the writers decided to kill off Andrea, TVGuide.com turned to executive producer Robert Kirkman, who also dishes on what's in store for Season 4.
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What was the catalyst behind killing Andrea, even though she is still around in the comics?
Robert Kirkman: The unfortunate thing about the way these things work is that we're not really going to see the effects or the results of that death until we come back for Season 4. It's going to have very interesting effects on all of the characters, especially on Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and how he operates moving forward. [That's] going to be one of the big changes for next season. These decisions are never made lightly and that's actually something that caused quite a bit of debate in the room. It was a very difficult decision to come to, not only because she's a huge character in the comic book... but also Laurie Holden is a huge part of our show and is a very valued member of the cast. It was something that was very difficult to work out. In the end, we all came together and we decided that it benefited the show in very interesting story ways, so we decided to go with it.
Are you worried about alienating fans of the comics with such a big departure?
Kirkman: No. I think fans of the comics recognize that this show is a different animal. There are big departures that have happened on the show before and it's the show's M.O. at this point. I think people are seeing that it doesn't really preclude other big storylines from the comic book when we put a death in the show. We are still very much following the path of the comic book and you'll see a lot of that in Season 4. There are going to be differences from time to time and some big differences. People know the comic still exists, and I want people to experience both and get a somewhat different experience. I think it's cool that there are differences that are going to make the show as dramatic, startling and unpredictable as the comic book was the first time you read it. That's really what we're going after.
Does Andrea's death essentially snap Rick out of his spiraling insanity?
Kirkman: The visions are gone. This is a process that started with his interactions with Morgan (Lennie James) and really came to a head with the sacrifice that Andrea made and his decision to bring this group back and to open the door to these people of Woodbury. Rick's not necessarily getting over the death of his wife, but the fractured aspect of his indecision on how to move forward and what's best for these people, that part of his psyche has been repaired to a certain extent. While we'll never go back and see a Rick that's completely together, he's had some drastic changes made that will never be reversed. I think he's going to be a little bit more put together in Season 4.
How does the dynamic change now that the group has gotten even larger?
Kirkman: I think it's going to change in some very cool ways. A large group brings with it a need for more resources, but also more assets within the group. They could also, theoretically, accomplish more. There's a lot to be done with these people in Season 4.
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The Governor is returning next season. What role will he play and what was behind the decision to keep him alive?
Kirkman: The decision to keep him alive was made before we cast him. The Governor was always going to be someone who was going to be around for more than one season. We knew going into it that he was going to survive Season 3. As far as what his role is exactly in Season 4, that will have to remain shrouded in mystery for the time being. But I will say it's going to be very different. We have The Governor, we have Rick, we have the prison. These are elements from Season 3, but everything is going to be radically changed and radically different in some very cool ways. I wouldn't expect the same conflict or the same stories coming into Season 4. Things are going to be evolving quite a bit between seasons.
What kind of threat will the group be facing next season?
Kirkman: Walkers are definitely still going to be in the mix. This is a zombie show, so that's always going to be present. The honest truth is that this question is more than likely going to have to wait for a few months until we're more ready to talk about Season 4. But we advanced things in the third season to where humans were a more present threat than the zombies, and that may continue into Season 4.
Will the group still be residing at the prison next season?
Kirkman: The world is definitely going to open up. We'll see a lot of new elements and a lot of new places. But the prison is still going to be present, but maybe not in the way people expect.
At the end of Season 2, we had every indication of what Season 3 was going to be about — Michonne (Danai Gurira) was being introduced and the prison would be a part of the series. But this year, we really didn't get many hints. Is there anything you can tease?
Kirkman: There's some really, really cool and big stuff that people have been expecting, or that people have been anticipating from the comics, that will work into Season 4. To give a hint, I will say that we do have Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and Rick, who are now united, which is a big moment for the comic book fans. There's a lot of story that comes from those two guys being on the same side. We'll possibly see a bit of that in Season 4.
You've killed off two of your main female characters this season. Will you be adding new females next season to fill that void?
Kirkman: We've seen Maggie (Lauren Cohan) take a more central role this season, and that will continue. Michonne is a huge character that's going to be a lot more active in Season 4. We've also got the new character of Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Tyreese's sister, that's already been introduced, so I don't think we're at a loss for female characters and there will definitely be more on top of that. This is a show where the cast is always going to be changing and evolving from season to season. I think next season will be no different than this one.
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Can Michonne and Rick every truly trust each other?
Kirkman: I think so. These are two characters that have a tremendously close relationship in the comic book series. After this finale, we're on the road towards building that in the show. I think we can expect these two characters to be working together a lot more in the future.
Now that Daryl (Norman Reedus) isn't technically the little brother anymore since Merle (Michael Rooker) died, how will he change next season?
Kirkman: He's not going to be held back anymore by this notion of being a little brother. It's entirely possible that we may see Daryl emerge in [more of] a leadership role than he had this season. This is a character that is very capable and is an integral part of this group.
Carl (Chandler Riggs) killed an innocent child! He's definitely turning into a mini-Governor. What will we see for him next season?
Kirkman: Rick's got his work cut out for him. He's aware of this and he sees what allowing his son to become a child solider has brought, which is a very big part of Season 4. Moving forward in the show, this is a guy who's working as hard as he can to maintain a life for this child. [In] the process of surviving... he's allowed his son to lose a pretty substantial piece of his humanity. It's now a question of: Is there going back? Is this now status quo? These are the things that a father will have to deal with.
How do you think the show will be different with Scott Gimple as showrunner?
Kirkman: One of the things that we've been striving to do for Season 4, that Scott has really been pushing and that he's going to take charge of, is really just making sure that.... every character has big moments — to really amp up the character development. I think we have the action and fast-paced story line stuff locked and we did that really well in Season 3. But getting to know the characters more and teasing a little bit more emotion into the stories is what we're striving to do in Season 4.
With that said, is there a chance for lighter moments, like seeing Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie's wedding?
Kirkman: There's always a chance, but it's too early for me to be hinting at future story lines too much. We all recognize that it's important to have lighter moments in the show, and I think that Season 4 will definitely have a few of those. Not too many, but a few of those from time to time.
What did you think of The Walking Dead finale? Check out an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how the prison battle scene came together:
The Walking Dead will return for Season 4 in October.