[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]
The hits just keep on comin' on The Walking Dead.
Following the deadly midseason finale that claimed the life of Beth (Emily Kinney), Sunday's return episode dealt our band of survivors another fatal blow. Although Rick (Andrew Lincoln) & Co. set out on a mission to return Noah (Tyler JamesWilliams) to his home — and, possibly, the group's new sanctuary — in Richmond, Va., what they found was yet another scene of walker-infested destruction.
As Rick, Michonne (Dania Gurira) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) made a quick sweep to find any supplies, a distraught Noah insisted on visiting his home one last time. However, as Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) checked the rest of the house while Noah grieved over his dead mother, Tyreese was bitten by a zombified version of one of Noah's twin younger brothers. While Noah ran for help, Tyreese's fight to stay alive was punctuated by hallucinations of old friends — Beth, Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) and Season 4 casualties Mika (Kyla Kenedy) and Lizzie (Brighton Sharpino) — offering Tyreese peace, and former foes — The Governor (David Morrisey) and Martin (Chris Coy) — mocking Tyreese's weakness.
Despite the group's attempts to amputate Tyreese's arm and get him back safely, the big man couldn't be saved, and the survivors had to bury yet another of their own. TVGuide.com chatted with executive producer Gale Anne Hurd about saying goodbye to Tyreese and how the group will deal with more heartbreak. Plus: Is the group really Washington-bound?
Some shows might take a breather after killing off a major character, but not The Walking Dead!
Gale Anne Hurd: That's the whole point. [People assume] it's some sort of tactic, which it's not. It's an organic evolution of the story that was planned from the very beginning. Rather than [saying], "OK, we just shocked people with a big death and now we're going to shock them again!" it really is completely organic to the storytelling and to where the characters are at a particular point in their arc and the arc of the show.
In terms of Tyreese's arc, do you think his death was brought about by all the pain he carried with him?
Hurd: Absolutely. With the many tragedies that the whole group endured, everyone changes a bit. He went through the period where he raged because of Karen's death... and then we saw his forgiveness of Carol when she admitted that she was responsible for that. Tyreese is one of these characters — it wore him down. For Beth's death to be followed by the revelation that Noah's home and family is no more was really a death blow emotionally. And it became a death blow in every sense of the word for him.
But it seems like perhaps in death he finally found peace.
Hurd: Absolutely. His hallucinations are an affirmation for him that it's OK to let go — especially the characters that he loved so much, the girls and Beth. But part of it was his own questioning of the decisions he'd made: Could he, essentially forgive himself? That was represented by the characters of Martin and the Governor taunting him.
Do you think if Tyreese had killed Martin things would have ultimately be different?
Hurd: That's the kind of moral dilemma the characters on the show are constantly dealing with — their own guilt. The ones who survive are able to get past it with new resolve, and sometimes others either give up or give in to it.
How does Tyreese's death impact the group?
Hurd: There is no group response. They're all individuals who collectively make up the group. The leadership role that Rick has reassumed we'll see come into play. We'll also see how the additional blow affects the characters of Michonne and, especially, Sasha. This isn't following that long on the heels of Bob's death. Does this galvanize her or is this the straw that broke the camel's back?
Speaking of Michonne, elsewhere in this episode she convinced Rick the group should head to Washington in search of a new sanctuary. Does Rick recognize that his people need something to hope for?
Hurd: More than ever they need a goal. They realize that the day-to-day existence that they experienced before they found the prison is not one that they can continue. They've been there, they've done that. They need some sort of goal. That's why they immediately went to see if Noah's community had survived. They're going to look for another safe haven. Clearly Terminus wasn't the sanctuary that was promised, but there's bound to be someplace that is.
You mentioned guilt before. I imagine Noah must be feeling some now.
Hurd: As much as anyone, I think the sacrifice that Beth made has galvanized him. We'll have to see how [he handles] this guilt. It was this side trip that ended up with the loss of Tyreese. He was not someone he knew that well, but regardless it's two characters' blood on his hands. He's got a heavy burden to carry.
This episode was a bit of a departure visually. Will we see more of that?
Hurd: It's all driven by what's right for a particular episode, as opposed to thinking in advance, "Oh, let's do something visually cool and try to figure out how that fits into a particular story." It's always the characters' story that comes first. The opportunity that's provided with Tyreese, it made sense. He's a character who has been haunted by so much. But we don't take that kind of thing lightly.
What can you say about the rest of the season? For now, there doesn't seem to be a clear threat like the Terminans or Dawn's group at Grady.
Hurd: We always have both. The show traditionally has the conflicts that develop among and between our characters as well as the external threat. We've always got the walkers around the corner that they could encounter at any moment, but also the threat of other human survivors who are often far more dangerous than the zombie threat. But [the second half of the season] really is about what the recent circumstances and the stress of having survived so much does to the group, both individually and collectively. They'll be facing very different kind of threats that we haven't seen before.
And at least the group is all together again. Will that continue?
Hurd: We've seen the stress and the fracturing that came from Eugene's lie and how various characters have reacted to that. Now with the deaths and realizing that Noah's community is not the answer, it's going to stress them even further. I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't more fracturing.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c.