[WARNING: This story contains major spoilers from Sunday's The Walking Dead season finale. Read at your own risk!]
The survivors of The Walking Dead have found themselves in yet another perilous position.
During Sunday's season finale, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his small group made their way to Terminus, a community that promised safety for all those who arrived. Once the group learned just how much of a lie that was, they quickly tried to make a run for it. But they ended up being forced by Terminus leader Gareth (Andrew J. West) into a train car, where they were reunited with Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.). Suffice it to say, Gareth and the people of Terminus are not allies.
However, executive producer Robert Kirkman tells TVGuide.com that Gareth will not be the big bad of Season 5. In fact, Terminus will be but one stop in a season that features a variety of different locations. But who are these people really? We caught up with Kirkman and showrunner Scott Gimple to get the scoop.
The people of Terminus are totally the cannibals from the comics, right?
Robert Kirkman: Assume nothing. I will say for the record that we're not revealing that these are the cannibals or outright denying that. You should plan for a surprise when we come back for Season 5.
Scott Gimple: I don't think there's anything in Episode 16 that showed them as definitely cannibals. One could suspect, but there are no eaten parts there.
You say there's no proof, and yet there's this weird candle room that could be a tribute to those they've eaten. There's another shipping container full of people who were yelling for help. They only shot at their feet in order to keep them alive, and when you arrive, there is a BBQ waiting for you that could be Beth (Emily Kinney).
Gimple: Here's an interesting exercise that we both could do and we will both fail. Having read the comic books and knowing the rhythm of the story of the comic, could we pull what we know of the comic away from our brain and would it still lead to cannibalism in this moment? There is cannibalism in a lot of zombie movies. But, especially with that room, if you're going to eat somebody, are you really going to put up a candle for them? I don't think that's what that room is about.
Kirkman: The Beth BBQ question is a big one. I've seen that a lot on Twitter. When a theory is as prevalent as that one is, it's more than likely not true. If there ever was a story line where we were going a different way and the audience seemed to be ahead of us to that point, it would be extremely unfortunate and I would certainly not feel too good about how well we're doing our jobs. Thankfully this doesn't seem to be the case.
What are you able to say about who these people really are?
Gimple: We're well into working on Season 5. The truth of what those people are about will come super quick. When people tune in in October, they're not going to have to wait a super long time to find out what they're about.
Kirkman: The big question over the hiatus is what are the various reasons that they'd want these people to be alive? What could their plans possibly be? There are some answers out there, but they may not be exactly what you think.
Gareth was a little Governor-like in his execution when it comes to being overtly nice. How similar are those two villains?
Kirkman: Not very. There are certainly some similarities, especially in this episode. But those similarities go away pretty quickly. His façade has a much more clear purpose that will be revealed in Season 5 and definitely sets him apart from The Governor in a big way. I would state emphatically that he is definitely not the villain of Season 5. I don't want anyone to get the impression that this is a Rick vs. Governor face-off. Gareth and the people of Terminus are going to be a very big threat. They're definitely going to kick Season 5 off in a big way, but the Rick Grimes that we've left this season with is not going to be allowing a Governor-like figure to be such a thorn in their side moving forward.
Gimple: This might be my own impression, but The Governor came across as a very benevolent leader and presidential. The way that I saw Gareth and the way we tried to portray Gareth, I was hoping to see him more a peer, like a regular guy, somebody who is more on Rick's level, maybe even more on Glenn's level.
We know that these people have already lied to the group, so there's no chance they could be good people, correct?
Gimple: Granted, Rick has every reason to suspect them because there were these clues, but Rick was the one that did initiate the conflict. So for the Terminans to be frightened of them and use very well-hidden security measures against them... we don't entirely know that they are bad people. We only know that they had our people's stuff and our people in a train car, which does not look good for them. We also have these hardened survivors that were out in the world and they are not out in the world. They have some place of community where they're living together and surviving. It's possible that our guys could be the bad guys.
Will Season 5 take place solely in Terminus, or will we see a variety of new places?
Kirkman: Season 5 will probably have more distinctive individual locations than we've had on the show thus far. There will be a lot of different places we explore in Season 5.
Rick seemed to cross over to the dark side in this episode. Will we ever see normal Rick again?
Gimple: Yes, we will see normal Rick again, but I think this will be the new normal. I don't know if Rick really lost it. If we're talking about the Claimers, he did what he had to do. Things were about to get much, much worse. The steps that he took saved Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carl (Chandler Riggs) and himself. The next day, when he's sitting with Daryl, you see a Rick who is very much coming to terms with those two sides of his personality. He can still have humanity and be a father and friend, and yet he can also be the guy who tears out somebody's throat with his teeth to save them. He's not going to be tortured about it. He's not going to wring his hands or walk around consumed by guilt. He's going to accept that this is the world he lives in, and it doesn't mean the end of him. It just means that he has different dimensions now.
And he has Michonne as his support system.
Kirkman: These are two characters that, at the beginning of the season, felt somewhat alone. That caused a bond between them to form. They both have a very unique relationship with Carl that has also brought them closer. This relationship could obviously go in some interesting directions moving forward.
Carl worries that he's become a monster. Will it only get worse from here?
Gimple: The thing with that moment is you see a kid with a conscience, a kid who is worried about his humanity, which is not who he was at the end of Season 3. We're seeing a great deal of development with this kid as far as Rick's success in making sure that he had a conscience. So, however tragic that might feel and however pained Carl is, there's something beautiful in the fact that he is worried about it. If he wasn't worried, that would be scary.
Carol and Tyreese were not in that train car, but we did hear other people screaming from a different shipping container. Is there a possibility that they could already be in Terminus, or are they the group's only hope for escape?
Gimple: Is there a possibility that they are at Terminus? Absolutely. From a story standpoint, their story for this season did end in Episode 14. Of course, they're a big part of next season. It's not the last we've seen of Carol and Tyreese by a long shot. The last we left them, they were headed towards Terminus. Whether they're there or not, it was important to me to really end their story on the emotional side rather than the geographical ending.
Kirkman: Rick seems confident at the end of the episode that they don't need a best hope. The location of Tyreese, Carol and Judith, and Beth for that matter, is purposefully left up in the air. It's something that we'll be revealing when we come back for Season 5. We left that open-ended for a reason.
The camera did linger on powdered milk outside the train car, which could be for baby Judith.
Gimple: It very well could be.
With so many leaders within the train car, will the group be able to work together to survive?
Gimple: Although it was a cliff-hanger, there was an emotional resolution for Rick. For him to be the guy that says they're screwing with the wrong people, that means he achieved an evolution from when he was a farmer. They are captured in a place that is very secure by a seemingly well-organized group of well-armed people. And yet, Rick has the utmost confidence that they can get out of this very impossible situation. Rick has a great deal of power at his disposal now, and that will be recognized by the rest of the group.
How will Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) feel about that, though?
Kirkman: Rick's leadership role is dependent on keeping his son and those around him safe. It's not a role he necessarily desires in the way The Governor did. That could [create] some kind of working relationship with Abraham and Rick. The thing to note is that Abraham is an alpha male and clearly has a mission that he's trying to accomplish and will stop at nothing to do so. So, as long as their goals align, I could see them working together. But I could also see them being at odds in a big way.
Will you guys follow a trajectory similar to the comics with Eugene (Josh McDermitt)?
Gimple: We take our opportunities to change it up. We certainly might be doing it in this case. We're going to keep mixing things up for a variety of reasons. Occasionally, it's to get the same emotional feelings out of the comic without doing the comic verbatim. But we gave him a mullet, not a Mohawk, so there's some heavy duty comic stuff going on there, too.
Kirkman: The way that we've adapted the series thus far shows there is the potential for us to change the story in a big way.
Robert, you promised hope at the end of the season, but this seems pretty bleak. Where's the hope?
Kirkman: I think that ending is very hopeful. We're ending things with a very capable Rick that has a confidence we haven't seen before. Things are looking very bleak, but it appears that Rick already has a plan. In the world of The Walking Dead, that's as close to an uplifting moment as we can get to.
Gimple: If he had wound up there any sooner than he had, he would not have been prepared and it would've been an utterly hopeless situation. Rick does believe that they're screwing with the wrong people. He's never been more prepared to show that. And on top of that, I'd say they are all together after being scattered to the four winds. That's a remarkable thing.
What did you think of The Walking Dead finale? Do you think Gareth and the people of Terminus are cannibals? Which comic book locations do you hope to see next season? Hit the comments!
The Walking Dead will return for its fifth season this fall.