'Walking Dead' showruner reflects on the darker tone of Season 4, teases Season 5
(CBR) Courtesy of Jason from The Walking Dead 'Cast, CBR presents the transcript from his recent interview with "The Walking Dead" showrunner Scott Gimple. During the conversation, Gimple revisits his time as a fan before he became a writer on the series, explains how the second half of Season 4 was deliberately constructed to hew closer to the comic's stories than perhaps the previous season had and his happiness at swerving viewers by not giving them the big, main character death in the season finale so many had come to expect. Gimple also briefly looks ahead to the next season, explains his approach to pulling from and translating the comics to television, addresses the noticeably darker tone of the second half of last season and more.
Read the interview below, and download the podcast for free.
First off, I want to tell you this was my favorite season of "The Walking Dead" so far, and a bunch of our listeners have said the same thing. So I want to thank you for doing such an amazing job on the show. Scott Gimple:
Thank you! That's high praise from you guys. I would say you guys watch with an intensity unmatched. How's that?
A lot of our listeners do too, and we get lots of email, and people come up with things that we hadn't considered. So it's really fun to be able to chew on something like that, and this season, especially, has given us a lot! It felt deeper to me, and looking back over the season, a lot of the elements felt more connected and reverberated across individual episodes more than usual. Both big themes and little elements -- pacifism versus brutality, down to the sunflowers appearing in a painting and again at Terminus. I almost picture you at home with a big cork-board with "Beautiful Mind"-style post-it notes connected by strings.
Was it especially important for you to connect things this season, and how did you manage to do that?
I think the thing that allows us to do it and gives us a chance to do that extra stuff is just planning. Knowing where we're going from the start. I came in with the season fairly well mapped out, especially the first eight [episodes], and provided that to the writers. So we had a really big basis for our conversations from the beginning. It gave us that opportunity in big ways and small ways.
So you sat alone before you ever talked to a writer and pretty much mapped out the first eight?
Well, yeah. I mean, I'm not saying every scene. You know, the virus storyline was going to go so many episodes, then we were going to go to the Governor, and then they were going to crash together. And there were certainly very fantastic adjustments to that that came out of the writer's room.
But having that basis, it got us off and running quicker. I certainly knew what I wanted, and thus the writers were able to come up with stuff that spoke to that. And I knew that the back half was split apart and focusing on these groups.
I think I might've even had the groups nailed down -- I'm not sure, because even if I had them nailed down, I know they shifted from our conversations. We figured out the best sort of combinations to bring out the individual stories of the characters.
Did you know, when you were writing Rick as a "farmer-pacifist" in episode one, that he would end up brutally killing somebody at the end?
I knew that precisely. I knew that we were leading to the "Claimers" scene. So much of what we do -- or that what I do, when I start talking to the writers, then we do together -- is figuring out, what are the moments leading to The Moment? And, how does that serve the overall character and what is that character's journey and how do they change? Or how do they maintain themselves through everything they're going through? Which, I guess, Daryl's story is more an example of.
This season, a few of the moments that you're talking about, to comic readers' delight, have been some of the most intense moments pulled right out of the comic. Has it been fun to drive towards those?
Oh, yeah, and that absolutely became the way I thought about the show. I did the episode "Pretty Much Dead Already," which in the comic book was powerful -- and that was just Hershel's family and friends coming out of the barn. That was an example of all of us coming together and figuring out a way to make something that worked in the comic book hit even harder. Do all the stuff that Robert [Kirkman] was doing, and figure out ways to even turn it up more.
I guess that's how I look at the show, is finding those moments in the book that I loved or those moments that are just critical to the story, and [asking], how do we serve them in ways that turn it up that much more?
I think that moment in particular, in "Pretty Much Dead Already," was really when the show exploded. Everybody was talking about it.
It's all there in the book. We have an opportunity, and also there's a necessity, to tie in our characters, because we have so many characters and we only have sixteen episodes. How do we tie in those character's stories as hard into those moments from the book as we can?
I just love it when we're able to. With "The Grove," the basis of that story is totally and completely from the comic book, but looking at that story, and looking at the story that I wanted to tell for Carol, I went to Kirkman and was like, "I know this is a huge Carl story, but this would really go well with the Carol story we're telling."
Because of Sophia.
Well, I mean, the reason that Carol was trying to teach these kids how to protect themselves, yeah, that absolutely comes from Sophia. And for her to be the one that has to experience the Billy and Ben story -- that just seemed like a powerful match-up.
Totally. And it seems like comics definitely are a powerful medium, but when we get to see flesh and blood people on screen, we get more attached to them, so that's one way that these powerful moments you're talking about can be even more impactful.
They're different mediums. In a lot of ways, the comic will always be more powerful, and in some ways, yes, the TV show can edge up on the comic in certain areas, because of people and music and cinematography and amazing actors.
And scares, too.
And scares, yeah. It's funny, when I started out ,one of my first jobs out of college, I desperately wanted to work in comics. One of the only comic companies in L.A. was Bongo Comics, which was the Simpsons comic book company that Matt Groening owns. I interned there and then I worked there and I was writing some Simpsons comics, and it was, in so many ways, such a hard thing to do because it's one of the greatest television shows of all time and you're trying to be as good as they are, without all of their tools. Without, you know, being on television. And now I'm on a TV show and I'm trying to be as good as the comic.
[Laughs] Can't win!
So, "Walking Dead," the comic and the show, loves to confound expectations. When you guys decided not to kill any core characters in the finale, were you thinking about confounding expectations?
You shouldn't do a death to shock people. People shouldn't live to shock people, either. It's all just part of the story and it should serve the story. The Hershel death and the Governor death completely and totally served the story we were telling this season.
And really, looking at it and playing out the stories, death didn't really serve the story we were telling. And then it was like, "Whoa, well that means nobody's gonna die in fifteen or sixteen!" And then it was very much like, "Well that's -- awesome." Because that's what people expect, and at that point, yeah, it's pretty cool that you're laying out this story and you're like, "Uh oh, we're not having a death -- " And it's like, "That's -- the greatest thing in the world."
If people are setting their watches by deaths on "The Walking Dead," that's not cool. That's a story failure. And it was wild, at the end of the season, to see all these articles, like, "Who's Gonna Die?"
We were! We were taking bets on it. [Laughs]
Yeah, and it's like, well, why are people dying, exactly? I mean, I guess people are like, "Well no one's died -- " but still it wasn't a primary objective at all to shock people that we "didn't kill." But it was pretty cool to see people so surprised about it.
That episode was so shocking and disturbing that I didn't even realize no one had died until I thought about it later.
The thing is, the number one thing in this episode isn't who Rick loses. It's about who Rick kills.
And how he does it. That was the most important thing, and we didn't want anything to get in the way of that. That was this giant moment that we were moving towards. I co-wrote that episode with Angela Kang and [director] Michelle MacLaren -- man, that sequence with the claimers and Rick was, I think, one of the best-directed sequences we've ever had. I mean, she did an astounding job.
Yeah, it was crazy. One more thing on character deaths: I really hope that the show never gets to a point where the remaining core characters all feel too important to you guys to kill off. Do you think that would happen?
Well, that isn't this show. I mean, it's a bummer, but nobody's too important to kill off. I'm not thrilled to say that, but it's just the nature of this show. Anybody can die, anybody will die, and my goal is that it not just be for shock value and that it serve the story. People might last a good long time, or they might be taken tomorrow. And the speculation of all of it -- I try not to pay too much attention to that, because it's really important that we just serve our story. People are thinking that we're killing too many people, that we're not killing enough people. I'm just trying to tell the story
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