‘The Walking Dead’: The slow march of death

The zombie massacre that took place on the farm in the midseason finale sets up events for the next six episodes. “The Walking Dead” returns Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.
Gene Page

Zombies are relatively slow creatures, we get it — they’re technically dead, for starters, which severely limits cognitive abilities. But for some fans of “The Walking Dead,” the first half of Season 2 moved at a criminally lethargic pace — even for a drama about a small band of humans trying to eek out an existence post-zombie apocalypse. So we sat down with Robert Kirkman, creator of the graphic novel series on which the TV show is based, and executive producer Glen Mazzara, who took on showrunner duties this season, to find out why the survivors have spent so much time hanging out on a farm, and what happens after the devastating events set in motion in the midseason finale.

There was so much chaos in the first season, just in introducing the fact that a zombie
apoca­lypse had occurred. Was it always your intention to make the conflict in Season 2 more
internal?

Glen Mazzara: It was important to push in and develop our characters. We really wanted to spend time and examine who these people are and to get to know them. The more fully realized these characters are, the more emotionally damaging it is when we lose them. Hopefully that’s the case. These fans love these characters and they get upset, they get pissed off, they get excited, they get afraid for them, and that’s something that’s very special as that does not happen on most TV shows. The show is about the characters. And if we weren’t spending time with them, I don’t know if that would be the case.

One of the characters fans love to hate right now is Shane, who has made some shocking choices — particularly when he sparked a massacre at the farm. At this point, is he redeemable?

GM: Shane is not a villain. He’s a guy who makes total sense to us. He’s a guy who feels he knows best. Now he’s a guy whose baby is being carried by his best friend’s wife — you know, he believes that. Was Shane justified in what he did in the finale? That’s an interesting question. He’s not necessarily out for his own preservation, so he’s an interesting character. Of course he’s polarizing, he’s dynamic. Jon Bernthal does a great job playing him.

How quickly is the “Was Shane justified?” question addressed as the series returns?

Robert Kirkman: We hit the ground running from minute one. It’s pretty much Rick and Shane at odds over what Shane did at the barn.

GM: Shane and Rick present two very different types of leader for the group, and that’ll tear at the group for the rest of the season.

That final scene at the barn, which clearly showed the leadership styles of both men, was very poignant.

GM: And that’s what we were building to. You know, some people said that the show’s slow, it’s quieter or more character-based. It was designed to build to that payoff. So I think because that payoff was so successful, that first part of the season was successful.

The midseason finale ended with a lot of action. Will that pace continue through the rest of the season?

   
RK: The midseason finale was the beginning of an escalation that brings us all the way to the end of our season. That event and those people being at odds over this thing that Shane has done really kind of drives us to event after event after event. We are going to end with six episodes that are absolutely packed.
   
GM: It’s a roller coaster. What’s interesting is after the events at the barn, it’s impossible to slow down. And sometimes we actually thought, “Should we slow down?” It’s impossible to go back. The show’s off the hook.


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