[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead, as well as from the comics on which the AMC series is based. Read at your own risk (of dying a horrible death by walker bite). You were warned!]
That should be the general consensus after Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead comes to a close. That's because not only did T-Dog (IronE Singleton) sacrifice his own life for the good of the group, but Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) chose the life of her then unborn child over her own, instructing Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to cut her open for an impromptu C-section that cost the group's matriarch her life in a grimy boiler room. That's right, both T-Dog and Lori are dead.
And before you think Carl (Chandler Riggs) shooting his mother in the head off-screen means there's a chance she could still be alive, don't. Executive producers Robert Kirkman and Glen Mazzara confirm Lori is, in fact, a goner — something Callies previously said was necessary for the show to explore. But is that the last time we'll see Callies on Dead? TVGuide.com turned to the mad men behind the AMC series to find out the reasoning behind Sunday's game-changing bloodbath, as well as what's in store for the rest of the season. Plus: Whose baby is that really?
What came with the decision to kill Lori off in such a different fashion than in the comics?
Robert Kirkman: We definitely wanted to get Rick [Andrew Lincoln] and Carl into a different kind of headspace moving forward this season. We always planned that the loss of Rick's wife would be a central part of this show and we were always building toward it, but as we were crafting this season, we realized that there was a lot to do with Rick and Carl after that event, so the moment kept moving closer to the beginning of the season until it was in Episode 4. This is the kind of episode that most people would save for the finale, but to have it so early in the season, it's like, "What comes next?!" It really gives this season a pretty intense drive. It was really jarring, which I think is pretty cool.
How long ago did you know this was when Lori was going to die?
Glen Mazzara: Very early on. We had always thought that if we were going to play out the events of the comic book, that may have put Lori's death toward the end of the season. But we felt that by moving it up, it freshened it all up for us, in a way. It made it new territory. It made it scarier for us as writers. It was not an easy decision. Sarah did a phenomenal job in these three episodes. It was also a big surprise. It was a big twist. Nobody could predict that it's coming in Episode 4. Nobody. Not only did it work for the story line, but we also felt that it would really just be the biggest curve ball we could throw at the audience at this time.
Unlike in the comics, you guys only killed off Lori, rather than her and the baby at the same time. Was AMC against killing mother and child? Or was that a creative decision?
Kirkman: That was definitely a creative decision. I don't think AMC is, in any way, adverse to any kind of baby killing being done on this show, so I don't want to paint them in that light. It never really came up. As the season progresses, you'll start to see why we made decisions like that. It puts Rick in an interesting place where he was having to work with his wife to keep his son safe, and now he's completely on his own trying to keep his son safe and also has this baby to deal with. As he was moving to a place where he was pushing people away and becoming this hardened leader, moving forward, he might have to open up a little bit and accept help from a lot of people around him.
I found it interesting that Maggie didn't even try to save her.
Mazzara: There was no saving her. We examined that. We tried to make it as plausible as possible. Our research said that she would pass out during the operation. There was a version in which she's talking through it. We felt that would feel too TV. We did talk about whether she could survive it. Should she come back as a walker? There were a lot of different versions. This was something that the writers worked on for months to get right. This was something we all took very, very seriously and tried to make as meaningful and as plausible as possible. I'm really proud of the entire team. I think it's a beautiful episode. We got it right on that one. That episode is the epitome of what The Walking Dead can do and what kind of stories we can tell.
What came with the decision not to show Carl actually shoot Lori? Part of me hoped that could mean she's still alive.
Kirkman: You don't want to show too much of that stuff. I think we showed quite a bit in this episode. A lesser show would have a zombie Lori lurking in the prison and doing all kinds of nefarious things. That would be an absolutely hokey, ridiculous thing to do. That's certainly not something we're trying to set up. We were just trying to step back and do this in a little bit more tasteful way.
And poor T-Dog! He was eaten in the episode. Why did you guys kill off both characters so quickly this season?
Kirkman: We really wanted to put Rick and the group back on their heels. T-Dog had become a central part of Rick's strike team, so to speak. So, to have him go out in such a heroic way also shows the audience just how important and essential he was. Now they've lost this other key piece of their group. We really wanted to be coming out of this episode completely spent and unsure as to how to move forward. Losing T-Dog definitely helps that along. Plus: We definitely wanted to lose two people in this episode. We felt that having T-Dog die would make the audience think, "Oh my gosh, this is a crazy episode. We totally lost T-Dog!" It makes the death of Lori that much more unexpected.
Mazzara: The reason for those deaths, also, is that they're not gratuitous. They're incredibly heartbreaking, they're emotionally satisfying, they're just devastating. I think that defines the type of show that we want to make. We don't want to do something just about shocking deaths. We want to do deaths in which people are blown away, in which the audience is heartbroken. We did that with these characters in [Sunday's episode], particularly with a controversial character like Lori. The audience has second guessed Lori from Day 1 and a lot of people have very strong opinions about that character, but I think it'll be very, very interesting how those people will react to this death because I imagine that they will be extremely touched and heartbroken and feel a real sense of lost.
You say you wanted to have two characters die. Was there ever a thought having someone else other than T-Dog as the other person?
Kirkman: There were a lot of things thrown around in the writers' room. I think the actors would probably be terrified to sit in on one of our sessions. It was very clear from the get-go that T-Dog was the character that needed to go for various reasons. For various reasons moving forward, that's a death that would affect the group in a big way. That's one of the things that caused us to land on that one.
Both Lori and T-Dog's deaths mirrored each other's in that they were both heroic.
Mazzara: That's correct and that's by design. They're very simple deaths. T-Dog used to play football, and there was a football reference in the season premiere that was cut for time, and his training takes over and he just heroically acts as a linebacker and just clotheslines these walkers, even at his own expense. Lori's death is heroic because, at the end of the day, this is just a woman dying in childbirth. I've said I really want to examine how we portray women on this show and what's more heroic than the act of childbirth? It's very surprising to imagine that less than a year after civilization collapses, we're back to a primitive state in which people are dying in childbirth. Modern medicine has collapsed and the first birth we see costs the mother her life. We're right back to where humanity has been for most of its existence. That heroism of a woman giving birth and paying a price and just being focused on the survival of her children is a beautiful story, and a story that's actually taken place millions of times throughout history.
Rick is now down one fighter and is in a bad headspace after losing his wife. How will Rick & Co. deal with facing the Governor (David Morrissey) when their group is so small and emaciated?
Kirkman: That's really interesting to us. Had the Governor attacked in Episode 1 or 2, it would've been a very different outcome. Rick was in a very different headspace. He was much more together and not dealing with the loss of T-Dog and Lori, and what this has done to his son, whether or not he's responsible for all of this. He's not going to be the capable leader, per se, that we've known him to be and that's going to make the coming conflicts that much more interesting.
Mazzara: We've developed our crew into a well-oiled fighting machine; a band of soldiers. Now that they've been shattered by the events of [Sunday's episode], it'll be very interesting to see what happens when they come up against the Governor and his group. The band of soldiers that we meet in the season premiere could possibly match the Governor, but if they've been decimated emotionally by the events of [Sunday's episode], it's a very, very different game. We really wanted to make sure that the coming strife between the two groups is as unpredictable and as exciting as possible.
Will Axel (Lew Temple) and Oscar (Vincent Ward) be let into the group now?
Mazzara: This was something I conversations with Andrew Lincoln about. [Sunday's episode], for his story line, was that he's not sure about letting these guys in. They prove themselves, which is why Oscar takes action and kills Andrew (Markice Moore), so that he can gain access to the group. Throughout the entire season, it's a major theme: Who can Rick let in? Not just into the prison, but let in emotionally. He was just getting ready to open his heart and start a healing process with his wife. Now he's been robbed of that opportunity. It's really going to affect him in a major way. Rick is facing a dark road and yet, look at the state he's gotten our group in, that even when they think they're safe, they're still being picked off. I think our group has that feeling that it's just a matter of time until there's only one person left.
I suppose you could count back, but will you guys ever address a definitive answer as to whose baby that is: Rick's or Shane's (Jon Bernthal)?
Kirkman: Realistically, I think that kind of thing would be impossible unless they ever came to a place where they could do DNA testing, or something like that. I'd prefer to keep that kind of thing somewhat ambiguous, but I will say if you've watched this show, it's definitely much more likely that it is Shane's baby, but you never really know.
One of my favorite, albeit crazy, parts of the comics was Rick imagining himself talking to Lori on the phone after her death. Is that something you are considering? And could that be a way we might be able to see Sarah Wayne Callies again?
Kirkman: I can't really say one way or the other. I will say that's a story line that is somewhat popular in the writers' room. Whether or not we go there, so to speak, remains to be seen. I would just say you'll have to stay tuned.
Should we expect more death this season considering all that we've gone through already?
Mazzara: Yes. You should always expect death on The Walking Dead. That's what we do. It's a story of survival and the stakes are that high. It's part of the fabric of this world. We take these deaths very seriously. As we've said, no one is safe.
What did you think of Lori and T-Dog's death? Were you surprised? Who do you think is next on the chopping block? Hit the comments below and make sure to check back for scoop on Carol's fate in this week's Mega Buzz.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.