The Walking Dead

[WARNING: The following story contains major spoilers from Sunday's The Walking Dead and the graphic novels which inspired it. Read at your own risk.]

The cast of The Walking Dead is dropping like flies.

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Just one week after Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) was disemboweled by a zombie, the season-long battle between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal) came to a bloody (though not altogether unexpected) end as Rick stabbed and killed Shane before he could shoot Rick. The events were set in motion by Shane, who killed Randall (guest star Michael Zegen) in the woods in order to lure Rick away from the camp to "search" for the escaped prisoner.

But that's just the beginning. During Season 2's penultimate hour, both Randall and Shane turned into walkers despite any evidence that they were attacked by another zombie. (Watch Shane's resurrection below!) What does that mean for the future of the show? And how will Rick lead the group now that he's taken this dark step? We chatted with executive producer Glen Mazzara about all that and more. Plus: Find out why "all hell breaks loose" in the finale.

Did AMC's website spoil a major event on The Walking Dead this season?

Shane's death might have been the worst-kept secret of the season. How did you feel about the spoilers leaking out?
Mazzara: Any spoilers are a shame, but the truth is, this is an event that took place in the comic book. This was something that we were driving toward, but because we felt that fans would know it was coming, we decided not to make it the focal point of the season finale. I think we set it up with Dale's death in the previous episode. I think the death of two major characters back to back is pretty exciting, and we still have a lot of surprises and twists in the finale, so we did not put all our eggs in this basket. [The spoilers] didn't take as much wind out of our sails as one might expect.

So, you weren't worried that Dale's death would weaken the impact of Shane's? Is there no such thing as too much death?
Mazzara: I think it makes the show more terrifying. No one is safe, and we really want our characters to feel like they are on a razor's edge at any given moment. And I think that we're showing that we're the kind of show that does take chances. So, I'm happy with these stories.

How important was it for Rick to kill Shane? All season, we've seen Rick go back and forth about taking the big stand when he needed to.
Glen Mazzara: I think people will see that Rick killing Shane was him asserting his leadership, but to me it's a actually a very, very personal killing. He kills him with a knife, and if you watch the scene again, Shane is actually lowering the gun. It is conceivable that they could work this out, but Rick has already given Shane a chance. And I think he's just sick of Shane. I think he's done with this guy.

It's a very, very personal scene. They're talking about, "You slept with my wife" [and] "You think you're a better father." None of the questions are about leadership. It's questions of individual manhood, and I think when Rick kills Shane, it's a crime of passion. It's not so much that he's asserting his leadership. He kills Shane because he wants him f------ dead.

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In the comics, Carl [Chandler Riggs] kills Shane, which serves as a loss of innocence for him. Did you ever consider doing it the same way on the show?
Mazzara: I think Carl's role in Dale's death shows that loss of innocence for us, and it gives us room to grow. We will develop Carl. [Pauses] If he survives the finale [Laughs], we will develop Carl, and show him moving into that dark territory. We know that he is growing up in this world and really is the one who has the weakest tie to the pre-apocalyptic world. So he'll continue to be an issue for Rick. How does Rick raise his child in this world and try to teach him some humanity?

Well, Carl also killed "zombie Shane"...
Mazzara: And that is the first zombie that Carl kills. We saved that. That's why he doesn't kill the walker in the swamp. That's why he wasn't involved in the shooting at the barn. We saved that, to make this a huge shooting for him.

For a moment, Rick obviously thinks that Carl is pointing the gun at him.
Mazzara:
That's Rick's perception, but I think that Carl is clearly shooting to protect his father. Rick doesn't know that zombie Shane is over his shoulder, so I do think that Rick has questions of guilt. And Carl is really just a confused little boy at that point.

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So, both Randall and Shane came back to life as walkers without being bitten or scratched. What's going on there? Can anyone turn into a zombie?
Mazzara:
Questions will be answered in the finale, and new questions will be posed.

Robert Kirkman promised we'd learn this season what Dr. Jenner whispered to Rick in the Season 1 finale. Is it fair to assume that these two things are related?
Mazzara: Yes.

Before Shane's death, he had that great scene with Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). Tell me what you wanted that conversation to accomplish.
Mazzara: We don't throw death around lightly, and with Dale's death, it's so devastating to Lori that she just wants to be honest. She's trying to figure out her role. She thinks perhaps she should assume Dale's voice of reason. She didn't step up and argue to stay Randall's execution. Dale called her into action, and she failed to heed that call. So now, I think she realizes that was a mistake, and she wants to take steps to answer that call. [And] the first order of business is to clean up her own house, and so she goes to speak to Shane.

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We also saw Glen (Steven Yeun) mourning. Will that continue in the finale?
Glen Mazzara: I think in the finale, all hell breaks loose. The time for eulogizing is over, and it's just time for survival.

Right. We know a horde of zombies is very close by...
Mazzara:
Our characters have fooled themselves into thinking that farm is safe. There was a river there, there's a swamp. [But] that swamp is no longer effective. We've seen that with Dale's death. That farm is no longer safe. ... No one is safe, and, yes, there are more deaths.

At a time like this, it'd be nice to still have Shane around!
Mazzara:
It is a great loss, but I think that the way Rick kills Shane proves that ... Shane's spirit still lives. Shane was right in most of the decisions he made... and I think that Rick's humanity is always his flaw. But I think that he understands now that Shane was right. It will be interesting to see the effect on Rick.

You told me at the beginning of the season that the finale features a moment that answers the question about Rick's leadership once and for all.
Mazzara: And I deliver on that promise. You will see a very interesting Rick at season's end. We'll see exactly what kind of leader he is by the end of the finale.

And if the farm's not safe, will we see the group on the road again in the finale?
Mazzara:
I think we've told our Shane-Rick-Lori story, and I think we've told our farm story. We're very interested in opening up into new worlds, new characters, new dynamics, and I think Season 3 is going to really, really deliver on all of that. ... Season 1 and Season 2 have just been warm-ups. I honestly believe our best episodes are ahead of us. We're working on Season 3, and I can tell you that each episode is just as dense as the last few episodes. They're just as good, they're just as morally challenging, they're just as exciting, [and] they're just as surprising. I think we've hit our stride.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. Watch the shocking closing moments of Sunday's episode below: