[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from The Walking Dead's midseason finale. Read at your own risk.]
The Walking Dead's Sophia was... a walker!
After the survivors spent the much of the second season's first half searching for Carol's daughter, it turns out she was right under their nose. Did Hershel (Scott Wilson) and his family know the object of their search was in their zombie-infested barn? Or did Sophia (Madison Lintz) fall victim to her own mistake? TVGuide.com turned to executive producer and comic creator Robert Kirkman to get the answers. Find out how Shane's decision to destroy the zombies in the barn will affect the group's future:
How will having to kill Sophia affect the group, particularly Rick (Andrew Lincoln)?
Robert Kirkman: This season is very much about Rick's emergence as leader or making the decision that he's not that great at it. He's torn in that everyone is looking to him for answers constantly and he is the de facto leader of this group, but it's not like he asked for this. Over the course of this season, we're seeing him making a lot of decisions and being forced into making decisions that don't end up being good ones. This situation with Sophia is a very good example of that. Leading to that girl turning into a zombie and ending up in that barn is very much a decision that he made, so it's going to wear on him. Moving into the last half of the season, he's definitely going to be dealing with his thoughts on how they got to that point, and it's going to be a tough thing for him to deal with.
Hershel and his family knew the survivors had been searching for this little girl. Did they know Sophia was in the barn? Did she wander in to take cover and fell prey to the zombies?
Kirkman: That's all going to be revealed when we come back in February. That's definitely a big question. Shane (Jon Bernthal) was pretty pissed-off and I don't think he's going to calm down after the initial shock of seeing Sophia. When we pick things up, things will be at a pretty high level of intensity and that's going to be the first question that's asked. Did they know she was in there? And if they did, why were they hiding that information from them? These groups are already very much at odds over the fact that Hershel doesn't want them to stay there, and they feel like being sent back on the road will be a death sentence, so they've already got enough to fight about and this is just one more problem being thrown into the mix.
The catalyst for Shane completely losing it was learning the news that Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is pregnant. What will we see for this continued loss of control?
Kirkman: He still sees himself as responsible for the safety of Lori and Carl (Chandler Riggs) and now this new baby, so that is going to drive him a little crazy. He can't allow the zombies to stay in that barn because of the threat that they pose. No matter what anyone says, he had to take care of the situation. We're going to see more of that coming into the rest of the season. It's also going to be extremely disrespectful to Rick for him to be saying, "You weren't taking care of this barn situation, so I had to step up and do that." It's going to put them at odds moving into these later episodes. He's very much going to be a catalyst of change and conflict that's going to move us into the third season.
Will Shane be ousted from the group for the severity of what he just did?
Kirkman: That's all a matter of perspective. There are characters like Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) who are going to see him as a loose cannon because he is complicating things for everybody. But at the same time, Andrea (Laurie Holden), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and T-Dog (Irone Singleton) were all very quick to jump in with Shane and participate in cleaning out the barn. From their perspective, those characters may be seeing Shane as a person who is showing leadership quality and is making good decisions for the betterment of the group. We could start to see more people come over to Shane's side of things.
Will Shane and Rick confront each other about the Lori situation? Rick knew they slept together in the midseason finale, but only told Shane that she was pregnant. Will that come up quickly?
Kirkman: It's important to note that's an example of Rick's character. Why would he ever say that to Shane? It's enough that he knows and he is accepting it. Telling Shane that he knows could only complicate matters. While he may get some satisfaction in telling his friend that he doesn't have one-up on him, that he knows everything that happened, he knows that will just bring conflict. That's a sign of a good leader. That's what makes Rick, Rick, that he's willing to make that sacrifice in order to keep the peace.
Now that Rick knows about Shane and Lori, how will that change the dynamic between Rick and Lori?
Kirkman: To a certain extent, this world has improved their relationship, which is a little bizarre. We made it very clear that their marriage was pretty much on the rocks before he got shot and slipped into a coma. Moving into the last half of the season, as the secrets are washed away between the two of them and their relationship is going to become more open, we're going to see them grow closer and closer. This world is going to end up being a good thing for them relationship wise.
Moving forward from the barn situation, what does the future hold for the group? Will they attempt to stay on the farm?
Kirkman: Hershel was already asking them to leave once Carl was healed. I don't think after everything that happened at the end of this episode, he won't suddenly be like, "Never mind, you guys can stay." Whether or not they're on the farm or off the farm, the conflict of that is really going to drive the story.
You've said before that making changes from the comics keeps it fresh for viewers who already know what happens. But is there a point where making such big changes may alienate the comic book readers?
Kirkman: I hope not because there are more coming. To me, maintaining the surprise and the shock factor of the comic book series is much more important than adapting directly. Adapting it directly, to a certain extent, would end up being boring. That said, there are very huge moments in the comic book series that make the story what it is and we will be adapting those from time to time. Even when we do that, I'm going to be mindful of the fact that there's a portion of the audience that is aware of these events. Like Carl getting shot at the beginning of this season, we're always going to try and come up to those moments in a different way so that even the people that are familiar with the comics won't see it coming. It's going to be a give-and-take. Hopefully, people will just accept that it's all to serve the spontaneity and the unexpectedness of the show. It's all done with an effort towards entertaining people.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Feb. 12 at 9/8c on AMC.
Check out an exclusive look at the making of the barn scene: