I managed to snag the boss-man, Robert Kirkman (who wrote tonight’s episode as well), for a few quick questions about tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead. If you’ve seen the episode continue on to see our burning questions answered!

TheWalkingDead.com: Hey Robert! So I just finished watching episode 409. I felt like it followed the comic really closely, maybe more so than any episode since the very first episode. Do you think that trend will continue, and you’ll stick closer to the comic this season?

Robert Kirkman: Things are gonna kinda continue as they always have where sometimes we’ll follow the comic very closely and sometimes we’ll veer a little bit. I think this episode is an example of those times where we stay extremely close to the comics.

There are certain events in the comics that absolutely have to happen on the show, or else the show is not The Walking Dead, and I think the events in this episode between Rick and Carl set up things that are absolutely essential for these characters going forward. From the very beginning of this season, Scott Gimple, the showrunner, knew that he wanted to build to this story and do it exactly as it had happened in the comic. He always wanted me to write this episode because he said, “I want this episode to be so close to the comic that it would basically be plagiarism for anyone else to write it!” So it was kind of a fun process for me since I usually push to write the episodes that are the most different. That’s one of the reasons I wrote episode 403. This one was a bug change of pace for me. I had to keep the comics close to me the entire time and really reference them and use them to bring it to life. It was a fun change of pace.


TWD: I think that some of the best stuff for comics fans to see the panels brought to life.

Kirkman: Yeah, and Greg Nicotero directed the episode, and he’s been with the show since the beginning and was a fan of the comics before the show actually started. When he got this script, he said it was basically impossible for him to not picture the comic every time he would get to one of those moments. He also definitely used the comic book to frame a lot of those shots exactly as they appear in the comics which I think is really cool. And I will say that there’s actually a scene coming up in the next episode that is modeled exactly after the comics.


TWD: This episode contained almost an entire volume of The Walking Dead [Volume 09 for those keeping track]. Will we be seeing an accelerated pace this season, or will it slow back down again?

Kirkman: There’s still some material from Volume 9 that hasn’t appeared yet and will probably soon, although I won’t say what. We truncate some things and expand some things. If you look at the events of The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye, a lot of that stuff took two complete seasons to get through. It’ll always be malleable as to how much time and space each issue takes, but there’s certainly not going to be an acceleration where suddenly Volume 12 is over by the end of Season 4. We’re going at a very deliberate pace.


TWD: There’s a dream sequence with Michonne that touches on some of her backstory that we saw in her one-off comic special. Are the backstories of different characters something you want to explore more on the show or is Michonne special?

Kirkman: We’re gonna be exploring the backstories of all of the characters a lot more in these last eight episodes of Season 4, although not necessarily as flashback sequences. We’ll be doing it in various different ways. But I think that Michonne’s story is actually a big part of what’s going on in the entirety of season 4 and I think that people can recognize that this scene in episode 409 ties very closely to the scene in episode 402 where Michonne has to watch Judith. That’s part of a longer story that will be revealed as we go on.


TWD: Carl did a lot of growing this episode, kind of having to learn to live on his own and then in the end realizing he may not want to when he thinks Rick has died. Will there be a big change in their relationship?

Kirkman: I like to say that Carl went through his rebellious teen years in this episode. The thing that’s always interested me about kids growing up in this universe is that the world is going to accelerate how fast they mature and grow into adulthood. So while Carl is still very young, he’s living through so much horrible stuff that’s changing him and affecting him, and he has to grow up to be able to survive. I think the two of them—Rick and Carl—are definitely going to be coming out of this episode with a vastly different relationship that I actually think is going to bring them much closer then they ever have been, which again kind of speaks to the accelerated nature of this episode. I think there’s going to be a lot of cool stuff coming up with this relationship before the season finale.


TWD: Speaking of growth, at this point Chandler Riggs is a lot older than the Carl of the comics. Do you enjoy that aspect of getting to write Carl at a few years older?

Kirkman: That’s another one of the cool changes that differentiates the television show from the comics. Time moves very slowly in the comic, here we’re adapting issues 49 and 50 from the comic when Carl is much younger. Not as much time has passed in the comic as in the show. That’s just another element that changes the kinds of stories that we’re telling and also leads to those small differences that makes the show that much more interesting for me to work on.


TWD: Last but not least, Hershel’s head was amazing, was there ever any thought of keeping that alive for the spin-off? “The Adventures of Hershel’s Head in Zombie World?”

Kirkman: (Laughs) I can’t reveal anything about the spin-off, although I will say now that you’ve brought that up I am considering a Hershel’s head spin-off. We’ll just change the zombie rules and say that swords don’t damage enough of the brain to actually kill them. I think you might be onto something there.

All joking aside, it’s such amazing work by Greg Nicotero and all of KNB. And it’s just really hard to look at. He sent us some test videos of that thing as it was being constructed and, I mean, I’ve hung out with Scott Wilson, and I know Scott Wilson… and I live a life where I see a fake version of a guy I know’s severed head… on my phone… in the middle of the day? It’s completely bizarre for me. And I think for viewers it’s going to be a very heartbreaking and emotional moment, and it’s an amazing piece of technical craftsmanship on the part of Greg Nicotero’s team.


TWD: Thanks so much, Robert!