[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.]
While Shane's death in The Walking Dead's penultimate Season 2 episode was the worst-kept TV secret of the year, the AMC drama made up for it with an awesome surprise in the finale: Fan-favorite comic book character Michonne finally made her debut.
Walking Dead boss on how the show's latest death changes everything
Rick finally took control of the group, but he now seems to be no better than Shane. Will that be the journey we'll now see him on?
Robert Kirkman: Exactly. This whole season has been about Rick emerging as a leader and taking that role. He was very reluctant at first, and he had to prove himself worthy of that role over the course of the season. But now that we have Rick taking charge and saying, "These are going to be my rules [and] by the way, I've killed Shane, this is who I am. If you do not like this you are welcome to go." The fact that the characters don't leave and they stay there huddled by that fire with him is very important. I don't think that all of them are there because of loyalty. A good number of them are there because of fear. I don't think that's necessarily where Rick wanted things to end up, but that's certainly where we are leaving things.
Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) backed away from Rick when he told her he killed Shane, yet she essentially dared Rick to take out Shane a few weeks back. Why the big turnaround?
Kirkman: She was terrified of the situation that was coming up with Shane. She wanted it to be dealt with, [but] I don't think she knew where things were going. I don't think she knew that Shane was going to sink to the depths that he sunk to... [or] that she could have ever conceived of Rick handling the situation in the way that he did. So, this is a modern American woman learning that her husband is a murderer. That's very terrifying to her. And also [she] sees that her son has been thrown into the mix — that he witnessed this, and actually shot a zombie version of Shane. That's something that's going to be weighing on her for the foreseeable future.
But Carl (Chandler Riggs) cried about killing Shane in that final scene. Perhaps he hasn't lost all his innocence?
Kirkman: This is a kid that is going to be growing up in a world that none of us could ever imagine. So, he is definitely going to grow up fast and be capable of things that we wouldn't expect a child to be capable of. That is something that we are going to be exploring a lot in Season 3. We are going to continue to toe that line. Yes, he is capable of murdering someone who is a friend of his and a father figure if they are a walker. But he is also still capable of being upset by that. And learning that his father turned that guy into a walker is going to be upsetting to him.
The Walking Dead Boss: Lori has become Lady Macbeth
Michonne's appearance in the finale was the best-kept secret ever. Will she be similar or different from what we've seen in the comics?
Kirkman: I can say that personality-wise, she's the Michonne you know and love from the comic. You can definitely see, just in that one scene, pretty much everything that makes her cool is intact. She is definitely on her own. She is definitely a capable fighter. We will be dealing with her personality and her back story and all that kind of stuff in Season 3, but ... this is going to be the character that people have been clamoring to see in the show.
The finale hinted that the third season would take place at the prison.
Kirkman: When we ended the first season, there were a lot of questions. In the off-season before we launched the second season, there was a lot of speculation as to what story we were going to follow. It was just a complete unknown as to what was coming next, and Season 2 doesn't end that way. We've seen the show, we know the Governor (David Morrissey) is on the horizon, we know the prison is there. We get a sense as to what is coming next and that's really exciting, especially if you've read the comic book series.
What can you say about The Governor?
Kirkman: The Governor in the show is definitely going to be The Governor in the comic. While I think that people are going to like the character, I don't think it will be because he is doing likable things. I don't think it will be because he appears heroic. I think that he's definitely going to be a character that people love to hate and are absolutely entertained by, but also somewhat terrified of. He's definitely going to be a very important character and a very nuanced character. We are not going to be watering him down.
Now that the group knows that everyone is infected with whatever turns people into zombies, how will that change the dynamic of the show and their outlook on life?
Kirkman: It makes things somewhat more bleak, somewhat more hopeless. I think that that's why Rick, even when he started to fear that Jenner's warning was actually true, he kept that information to himself until he had to reveal it. So, it's going to put everybody in somewhat of a dark place and that is definitely something that we will be exploring in the third season.
Shane turned into a zombie very quickly. Can you comment on the speed with which people become walkers after death?
Kirkman: It's not exactly scientific, but it varies. It varies on the age and health of the person when they're dead and it also varies on the suddenness [with which] they die. I think that Shane was stabbed in the heart, so I imagine he would bleed out very quickly. That's a fairly sudden death, which would bring about the change somewhat more quickly than if someone were just to die a less-violent death. It is variable. Amy (Emma Bell) is also a very good example of that. Her whole neck was ripped out. We are not exactly pinning down how long Rick was sitting in that field.
Did you spend the whole season building toward Andrea having to survive on her own?
Kirkman: That was her arc. It was taking Andrea from this person who wanted to die in the CDC to this person who refuses to die and is capable of surviving pretty much against all odds. It was really about making her an awesome character and somebody that people could really root for. Having her and Michonne together is going to be a really cool thing, and we're going to be exploring that quite a bit in Season 3.
Was burning down the barn cathartic for you?
Kirkman: It really upset me because Greg Melton, who is our production designer, oversaw the construction and the design of that barn. That barn looked absolutely amazing. It was built for the show. It wasn't there before, and it looked like it was about 100 years old. It kind of broke my heart that we ended up burning it down. There is a wide shot of the barn collapsing, and the way [director] Ernest Dickerson got that shot with the zombies lumbering at you is they were just shooting over and over and over. Every time the zombies would get closer, he'd go, "Back to your mark!" and the zombies would just run back to their marks. They just kept the film rolling. [He] kept filming the zombies coming to you and then running back... because we had no way of knowing when the barn was actually going to collapse. It was a fun process.
What did you think of the season finale of The Walking Dead? Are you excited for Michonne and the prison?