It is Season Finale time and you know what that means: time for another chat with the boss, Robert Kirkman! Keep reading for all kinds of stuff, not just on this episode but Season 4 as a whole. What was the thought behind visiting the time period before Season 4, in the series of flashbacks with Hershel? Will we be lucky enough to see more Scott Wilson in upcoming episodes or do you think that kind of wraps up that period of this story?

Robert Kirkman: That was more of a story device to tie Season 4 together as one story. I think that was something Scott Gimple has brought to the show that is a really great element. There are things in episode 2 that pay off in Epiosde 14 in a big way, and the structure is meticulously worked out to the point where when you go back and watch the first episode of Season 4 you’ll be like, “Oh wow, they’re alluding to this! They’re setting this up, and that’s going to lead to this, and I can’t believe there were already hints of this happening and that happening.” It’s a really great thing to see come alive on the show, so for our finale I thought it was great that we get to see Hershel again and to see the pieces fall into place for Rick’s journey. That’s what this season is, it’s all about Rick going from this farmer—this peaceful human being who has turned away from violence and found this sanctuary—to losing that and by the end of the season becoming harsher and more violent and more deadly than he’s ever been before. It’s a tragic story, to see him lose that peace and have to turn his back on that and accept it, and I think it came together quite nicely.


TWD: In previous post-mortems, we talked about Hershel’s influence throughout the season, even after his death. Do you think this wraps up his chapter in the show? Will we see Scott Wilson again?

RK: I always love having the potential to bring these characters back. I don’t think Hershel’s influence is done at the end of this season. I think his influence will be felt throughout the entire run of the show because he was that important of a character and I think that this season proves that. Maybe we’ll see him again in another flashback or dream sequence. Although, I think that Scott Wilson might have cut that hair.


TWD: When did those flashback scenes get filmed?

RK: They were filmed when we were filming this finale, we didn’t shoot that out of order or anything. We brought Scott Wilson back and we had to tell him not to alter his appearance in any way after his death scene, which is actually a good thing because then he was able to do public appearances and be seen out in public while the beginning of Season 4 was airing and not look like he wasn’t on the show anymore. It didn’t spoil anything by people seeing him at the grocery store and taking pictures or anything.


TWD: What about the prison set? Did you have to rebuild that?

RK: If you go back and look at those scenes, we had to shoot around the parts of the prison that were destroyed, so there were key pieces of the set that were left intact after we filmed the mid-season finale to we could shoot this at the end of the season. So we knew this stuff was coming up and we were able to plan for it.


TWD: This episode we saw the controversial attempted-rape story line from the comic books. Was that hard to get approval on?

RK: There was definitely a lot of discussion. That’s a scene that was really hard for me to do in the comics, and in the actual script for that scene in the comics it says, “Don’t worry Charlie, they’re not actually going to do it, it’s going to be stopped.” Scott [Gimple] and myself and all of the producers really had to sell it to AMC just to get them on board with what it was that we were trying to do, and thankfully they were. It’s a harsh world, and I think AMC has really invested themselves in a realistic portrayal of these characters and what they would be doing in this world, and that was a part of it. So while it is definitely a difficult thing to portray, I think it’s worth it for the integrity of the show and the realism of the show to sink to these levels and do these things and do them justice.


TWD: And one of the results of that is Rick ripping someone’s throat out with his teeth… how did that discussion go?

RK: [Laughs] Rick goes a little zombie. That’s a pinnacle moment in the comic book series, seeing Rick get to that level where he’s so savage and so brutal that he is essentially behaving like a zombie. When we started off this season, Scott Gimple always knew that we were building toward that moment and that that was going to be the climax of this season. So that was another one where we definitely had to go over how we were shooting that, what we were going to see and what was implied. Having Michelle MacLaren to direct that episode really helped us because she’s such a visionary director and has done so many amazing episodes on Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones and really is an all-star director, so having her on board for this episode really helped us pull that scene off and do it right.


TWD: Were there any standards and practices concerns in terms of having that done to a human instead of a zombie?

RK: Sure, there are more restrictions for human-on-human violence rather than human-on-zombie, but how it works is we usually run through things meticulously before we shoot them, and it’s literally things like, “You can show a tooth going into human flesh for certain amount of centimeters for a certain number of seconds and that’s okay.” So we go into it knowing exactly where the edges of the envelope are and how close we can push them. We know what the parameters are and we do skirt the edges of that as much as possible.


TWD: And AMC is different than the networks, right?

RK: I think that anyone who watches the show sees that we get a tremendous amount of leeway as far as graphic violence is concerned, and the show is better for it.


TWD: There’s a strange memorial room at Terminus. What’s that all about?

RK: There’s a big story to Terminus. There’s a very long and involved way that Terminus came about, and that memorial is a big part of it. It’s what these people have lived through and what’s happened to them and what’s built them into what they are, which will be revealed in Season 5. There are a lot of hints when you watch this episode closely of what’s to come in Season 5, so I would definitely urge everyone to watch this episode multiple times and try to pick out the things we’re teasing because there’s a lot to find.


TWD: Will comic book fans have a hand up on that?

RK: You’ll definitely have a better sense of where we’re going if you’re a diehard comic book fan because there are always certain hints that pop out to you more if you’ve read the comics, but as the comic fans know there’s never any kind of clear indication of how we’re going to adapt a story. So even if we are moving into a storyline that’s very recognizable from the comics, we could be doing it in a completely different way.


TWD: Are you allowed to talk more about Gareth, the super friendly leader of the Terminus group.

RK: Gareth is definitely not another Governor, he’s a far different character with a far different path that we’re going to be going down. I will say that he is a version of a comic book character, as Scott Gimple says he’s a remix of something we did in the comics, so there are elements of the comics that will be brought into the show through Gareth in a different way. I would expect a lot more out of that character when we come back.


TWD: And where’s Beth!?

RK: I don’t know! She got taken, she’s not back yet… I can say that Terminus has a lot of signs out there and it’s certainly possible that all kinds of different people out there could make their way to Terminus in some way, so maybe Beth shows up to Terminus in Season 5… maybe not. I think I can say that Beth’s story is not over. We’ll see her again, maybe in Season 5, maybe not.


TWD: And Tyreese and Carol are still out there somewhere?

RK: They’re definitely still out there. I’m hoping that that’s something people notice. People have reunited in that train car at the end, but Tyreese, Carol and Judith are still out there. I think we’re gonna go in a pretty unexpected direction with that one.


TWD: It was also interesting that this was the first time Rick met Abraham, but it was just super quick at the very end of the episode.

RK: There’s definitely a lot of stuff teased and a lot to do when we come back for Season 5.


TWD: This is a wrap on Season 4. It had two very distinct halves, more so than Seasons 2 or 3. What are your overall feelings on 4b and Season 4 in general?

RK: I think that 4b was a great way to shake up the characters and that as promised we certainly know more about all of the individual characters than we did when we started. I think it’s great that we now have much more insight into who Daryl is as a character, and Carol, and the different things going on with Rick and Carl, and we know so much more about Michonne’s backstory, and I think 4b was key in getting all of the characters to where we want them to be moving into Season 5 and beyond. We’ve definitely laid the groundwork for doing some really interesting things with these characters and will.

Another thing I think is awesome about Season 4b is that we didn’t lose any of our major characters. Our cast, to a certain extent, going into Season 5 is largely the same as going into the back half of Season 4, and I think that’s very important. This is not a show that is about shocking deaths and who’s gonna die next—


TWD: Uh…

RK: [Laughs] I mean, it is to a certain extent, but that’s not all this show is. Having a block of eight episodes where it wasn’t hinged upon crazy character deaths. I mean, we certainly turned a lot of heads with Lizzie and Mika, but there wasn’t any monumental status quo-shaking death, like a Hershel death or a Governor death, in these episodes. It’s important to demonstrate that the show can stand on its own. It also probably means there are going to be a lot of deaths in Season 5, so look out, but I think it was an important stance to take for now.

For Season 4 as a whole, I really feel like it’s the strongest season we’ve done to date. I think that now that it’s over, people can see that it was a larger story with a lot of planning that went into it, and that the stories wove together better than they have in seasons past, and I think Season 4 is a good indication of the kind of show we’ll be doing from hereon out. It’s got a really strong cliffhanger and I think the wait between Season 4 and Season 5 is going to be the most painful wait between seasons that we’ve had, and I think it’s gonna pay off in a big way because we’re working on Season 5 now, and I can say that it is turning out to be pretty awesome. I’m really excited about everything coming up and can’t wait to share it with everyone else in October.

And with that, we close out the season! Thanks to Robert for yammerin’ with us every week! Can’t wait for Season 5!