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Postmortem: Walking Dead Boss on That "Devastating" Death and What's Next

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's midseason finale of The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]The Walking Dead body count kept climbing on Sunday's midseason finale.The Walking Dead: Who didn't make it out alive?Although Rick (Andrew Lincoln) successfully negotiated with Dawn (Christine Woods) the peaceful exchange of her cops for Carol (Melissa McBride) and Beth (Emily Kinney), things got a bit tricky when Dawn...

Adam Bryant

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's midseason finale of The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]
The Walking Dead body count kept climbing on Sunday's midseason finale.
The Walking Dead: Who didn't make it out alive?
Although Rick (Andrew Lincoln) successfully negotiated with Dawn (Christine Woods) the peaceful exchange of her cops for Carol (Melissa McBride) and Beth (Emily Kinney), things got a bit tricky when Dawn demanded that Rick also leave Noah (Tyler James Williams) behind at the hospital. Furious, Beth stabbed Dawn with a pair of hidden scissors before Dawn (accidentally?) shot Beth in the head. Although Daryl (Norman Reedus) took Dawn out in retaliation, it was clear that everyone walked away from the exchange feeling a great loss.
So, how will that loss manifest itself in the second half of the season? TVGuide.com chatted with executive producer Scott Gimple about why Beth had to die and whether or not her death robs the show of what little optimism it had left. Plus: When will Morgan (Lennie James) catch up to the group?
We just got Beth back and you killed her! Why did you feel the story had to go this way?
Scott Gimple:
 The intention was to tell a story about a character that didn't think she was strong who found out she was strong all along. And in the end, she is taken out by someone who actually thought they were strong but weren't —  [there's]  tragedy in that. By the end of Episode 4, Dawn was telling Beth she was weak and was cracking her across the face. But Beth was the strong one. Dawn was the weak one, and the weak wound up taking out the strong here.
Why the Walking Dead midseason finale made Norman Reedus cry for an hour
Did Beth go after Dawn knowing she would probably be killed, or did she think there was a way she and Noah could both walk away from this?
 I think she knew the other cops were not Dawn fans, but it was also an act of passion. She could not stomach Noah going back to Dawn after all this. She knew, knowing who Dawn was, that this was all just for appearances. This was all because there were other cops there and Dawn didn't want to be seen losing, and Beth couldn't take it. She was too strong to allow that to happen.
Dawn looked surprised that her gun had gone off. Was that genuine?
 I believe that was legitimate. The audience is ultimately right in whatever they decide, but our intention, or what I believe, is that Dawn didn't mean to kill her in that moment.
You guys had done a lot of work to turn Beth from a background character to a really vital part of this world. Was that all part of making the whole thing more tragic?
 Absolutely. It's a huge loss. It's painful to lose the character and working with Emily. It's awful. It was awful to lose Hershel. It was awful to lose Bob. I don't like the audience being in pain, but I also don't like the audience not having great characters. I want them to love the characters, and unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on how you look at it — when these characters die, it affects [the audience] and it's hard. But that's what the characters go through. That's the truth.
It's a very, very difficult thing. I appreciate how much people love her as a character and seeing the reaction to her loss is painful. But I'm happy that people really dug her as a character and bummed because I really thought, like with Bob and like with Hershel, there were more stories to tell. But that's part of the tragedy of The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead: Can anyone be trusted in this world?
Beth was one of the more optimistic characters on the show. Does killing her make the show all the more darker moving forward?
 There will be light on this show again, but right now things are very, very dark. And things are going to get darker. Characters are going to through more painful times and they are really going to be pushed to the very edge, asking themselves, "Why are we fighting when these things go on? How can we go on?" But as they reach the edge, things will wind up getting turned on their ear. For the people that they will have become by going through all these dark times, it's going to be a challenge for them to recognize better circumstances.
I think we already see that in Rick, who killed Officer Lamson even though he didn't have to. His words even echoed those of Gareth's. Is Rick just ahead of the curve in becoming completely hardened or does he believe he's still doing what he absolutely has to do?
: A little from column A and a little from column B. He is receiving messages from the world as to what he needs to do to survive and to keep the people that he loves safe. He still loves people and he loves this group. That's not a small thing. He's human, but he's willing to do inhuman things to maintain that — to keep these people alive. And Beth's death will only underline it that much more. Because the more you move in that area, how much are you becoming the monster and how dangerous is that becoming to the people around you who you're just trying to keep safe in the first place? It's a fight, and there are others in the group who will catch up to him.
Might that include Daryl? He obviously spent a lot of time with Beth and reacted almost instinctively to her death by shooting Dawn. Will he have guilt that drives him to darker places?
 Well, his time with Beth also had an incredibly positive impact on him — the way that he looks at the world and the way that he looks at people. But the pain of losing her is overwhelming and does affect him deeply because the very thing that Beth instilled in him was the glimmers of hope and glimmers of some optimism. So there's a bit of a conflict there.
The Walking Dead Postmortem: Andrew Lincoln breaks down Rick's brutal "watershed moment"
How about Maggie? Some viewers complained that she didn't seem to care about Beth's whereabouts all season. How will she move forward now?
 We will get into that a little bit. One of the first lines of Season 5A was Maggie asking about Beth. And Daryl says rather definitively, "She's alive," which I think is a very difficult thing to say definitively in this world. That was hard for Maggie to just accept, so she's in this weird place. What does she do with that information? Daryl had been tracking her and lost her, so there wasn't really any looking for her to do. So, Maggie just had to sit with it. And to find out that she was alive and then find out otherwise so quickly, is incredibly devastating for Maggie.
The first part of this season moved very quickly through the Terminus story. Do you intend to keep moving at that pace or slow things down a bit in the back half?
 [We say] every episode is a brand new show, and the next eight episodes will definitely the more intense version of that statement. It goes in one very dark direction at the beginning of the half season and then things get very different, very strange — not quite as dark, even. The darkness that our people have faced that's molded and hardened them will [make them into] very, very different people in a situation they don't quite know what to make of it.
Clearly they're leaving Grady behind and the church seems to be lost. So, are they on the road again?
 They very much are on the road again. They will not be chilling at Grady. They are devastated by the loss of Beth and shaken by the fact that they don't know where to go next. A number of them just learned about Eugene's duplicity. They're in a very difficult place and they have to find a way to dig their way out. Part of that, though, is that they are all together, and that's probably their best hope.
Of course, Eugene suggested that, cure or no cure, D.C. could be a safe place. Might they still head there?
  I could neither confirm nor deny that, but I certainly could say that's possible.
We saw more of Morgan last night. Will we continue to only see him in the post-credits episodes?
 [Laughs] Those post-credits sequences are just going to get longer and longer until they are the majority of the show. I would say that Morgan has to break out of those post-credits sequences at some point or else the show is going to start having a really weird format.
The Walking Dead returns in February. What did you think of the episode?