The Walking Dead

[Warning: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]

AMC's The Walking Dead has never been for the squeamish, so it should come as no surprise that the Season 2 premiere would attempt what executive producer Robert Kirkman calls "one of the grossest things we have ever come up with."

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Led by Deputy Sherriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the show's band of zombie-apocalypse survivors left Atlanta behind in hopeful search of a safe haven at an abandoned military fort. However, the gang was stalled as they reached a section of interstate that was blocked with abandoned vehicles. When Rick and Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) spotted a "herd" of walkers approaching, everyone quickly hid under cars until the mob had passed. But shortly thereafter, a couple of straggling zombies chased little Sophia (Madison Lintz) into the woods.

Despite Rick's best efforts to save her — including bashing two zombies' brains in with a rock — Sophia never returned to the group, which instantly formed into a search party. When Rick and Darryl (Norman Reedus) came across a zombie who had just fed, they feared Sophia had become breakfast, but there was only one way to know for sure: They gutted the zombie and checked the contents of its stomach.

"I think I had the idea of doing like a CSI examination of fingernails and examining the zombie's mouth," Kirkman, who wrote the graphic novels upon which the series is based, tells TVGuide.com. "From that point on, it really just became a fun spit-balling session in the writer's room. [Writer Scott Gimple] made the suggestion of actually cutting the thing open and diving in there. ... [It's] one of the grossest things we have ever come up with."

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Newly installed showrunner Glen Mazzara says the scene was originally even more disgusting. But once it was edited, the scene also became darkly funny. "I decided to cut it down and really play a lot of sound effects," Mazzara says. "Then you get into the gore and Andy Lincoln does such a great job of playing the fact that he's nauseous. We just really love it. We think it's fun and memorable."

While Mazzara and Kirkman agree that chuckling through the grossness is fine, they hope the audience realizes the stakes facing the characters in this world. "It's such an absurd situation ... but of course they would make that decision," Mazzara says. "Hopefully the audience will say, 'Well, yes, if I was there, of course I would gut that zombie.' These are people dealing with life and death situations every day. ...They live in terror that they might not make it through the day."

To that end, the episode ends with a doozy of a cliff-hanger. While admiring a deer in the woods with Rick and Shane (Jon Bernthal), Carl (Chandler Riggs) was shot by an unknown assailant. Mazzara says the accident will have major impact on the rest of the season, particularly for his mother, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies).

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"She becomes a very major character, not just Rick's wife," he says. "When I was put into my new position, that was something that I immediately started to develop in a way that we had not previously planned. The more pressure we could put on our central character, the better. Rick is not only facing questions of leadership, but he is also facing marital problems, and a personal crisis."

Adds Kirkman: "It's really a centerpiece of the season. Carl getting shot really kind of turns everyone's attention toward the fact that there are so many dangers in this world you can hardly keep track of them. He definitely wasn't shot by a zombie. [Rick and Lori] have to take note that no matter how hard you try, you just can't protect a child from everything. ...You figure out how to survive in this world, but if you really start to examine it, it starts to look like it's kind of impossible."

What did you think of The Walking Dead's season premiere?