Robert Kirkman talks THE WALKING DEAD season 5 – Badass Rick, new characters and resolving that season 4 cliffhanger

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When it comes to The Walking Dead TV series, I seem to be stuck in one of those abusive relationships you’re always hearing about. As a big fan of Robert Kirkman’s comics, I came into that Frank Darabont run first season with high hopes, and the show definitely delivered. But then from the show’s second season on, a cycle of abuse started to seep in. The show would go through several episodes where I felt like it was beating me around the head with its grating character decisions (I’m looking at you, Andrea!) and overly drawn out plot threads (they a plot point from the comic that was resolved in one issue into an entire season!), and I would tell everybody who would listen that I’m done now. That’s it for me and The Walking Dead. Finish and klaar!

Then one killer episode later and I’ll be all like “Oh, Walking Dead, you’re the zombie-stomping bestest thing ever!”. And the last half of Season 4 was definitely one of these upswings, as all the various, recently split-up characters found themselves experiencing a convergence at one not-so-peaceful-as-it-first-looked creepsville called Terminus. And then there was that cliffhanger ending, with the main cast all being trussed and locked away in a dark train car, just so they can wait their turn to become the next meal of Terminus’ cannibal inhabitants.

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Traditionally, the show has experienced an 8-month time jump during seasons that helps to explain the actors aging in real life, but as creator Robert Kirkman explained to EW, that’s a long time to be sitting in a dark box waiting to become an hors d’ouvre, so fans will just have to roll with it.

“Yes, [we’re pretty much picking up right back there in Train Car A or somewhere close to it]. Carl found giant pills in the train car.”

Terminus was not found in the original comics, however there are lots of parallels between it and a few comic book story arcs, which has led fans to create lots of theories as to just who these people are and what they’re up to. And it won’t take long for the show to either shoot down or validate those fan theories.

“In our first episode, it’s very much going to focus on the story of Terminus. There’s a lot of big revelations that haven’t really come out that I think people are gonna be pretty startled by. There’s a couple other revelations that I think people might’ve gotten a little bit of a lead on. We’ll definitely be defining those in some cool ways and confirming some theories and shooting down others, which is very exciting. But I think the coolest thing about coming back to season 5 is that we really hit the ground running. What I mean by that is that we very quickly deal with the situation that we left them in — this trapped, victim situation where they’re kind of at the mercy of the people of Terminus. We really kind of expand the story from there very rapidly, so I think this is going to be a pretty fast-paced season with quite a bit going on. News is already out that Seth Gilliam has been added, and we’re bringing in new characters like we always do, and I think season 5 is going to be our best season yet. I think when people finally see the premiere, they’ll see what I’m talking about.”

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Some on-set spy pics have already leaked online, showing cast newcomer Seth Gilliam in a priest collar, leading some fans to speculate that he will be playing Father Gabriel Stokes (whose character leads to a very brutal story arc I won’t spoil here). Kirkman wouldn’t admit or deny this casting, sidestepping it with a slick “I haven’t seen those photos”. However he did allude to Gilliam’s character having big repercussions down the road.

“He’s playing a character that’s very integral to the future of The Walking Dead. Who he is is possibly a very large hint to where the story is gonna go, if you’ve read the comic book series. So, we are playing that as close to the vest as the spy photos will allow, but all will be revealed very soon.”

Kirkman indicated that Gilliam’s won’t be the only new character we’ll be seeing soon. But does that mean comic book characters finally showing up on-screen, or entirely new creations just for the TV series?

“Both. There’s a lot of new stuff coming. Look, the thing that makes me the most proud of The Walking Dead is the fact that it is such a continually evolving show. We never rest on our laurels, we never go “that status quo works, let’s figure out a way to stay in that mode.” We’re always pushing boundaries and doing new things and changing the ways we tell stories. We tried some new things in season 4 and they worked pretty well and they helped tell some really great stories, and we’ve done that and now we’re moving on. We’re gonna do some new stuff, and a lot of that involves bringing in a lot of new characters. There’s going to be some big changes ahead, and it’s gonna all be cool stuff.”

Speaking of changes, one of the biggest differences between the comic and TV series is lead Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). Besides for missing a hand (which he cut off after it became infected), the comic book Rick is far more of a brutal badass, as he was forced to do much more morally questionable and soul destroying deeds to survive than TV Rick ever was, mostly because the TV series had the character of Shane do all the dirty work instead.

TV Rick also went through a peace-loving farmer phase that he only recently got out of, and which may have inadvertently led to some serious calamities befalling his group as a result of how he dealt with the Governor.

But with Terminus’ story (and what’s being alluded to with Seth Gilliam’s character) seemingly heading into some very dark territory, it looks TV Rick is about to step up in a big way.

“All I’ll say about that is that the Rick that’s faced the Governor is very different from the Rick that is now gonna be facing the people of Terminus. As we saw in the final moments of season 4. I think that he’s definitely a more capable Rick and a more prepared Rick, and while the situation might actually be far more dire and deadly and dangerous, he’s possibly going to handle it much better. I think we’ll see a very different way of handling conflict this season.

“…[Being a badass is] a place he gets to in the comic book series, and I know everyone’s been asking “When’s that guy coming? When are we gonna see that guy?” I can say with confidence that he’s here, and Andrew Lincoln is having, I think, a great time with it.”

Badass Rick like in the comics? Sign me the hell up. Again.

The Walking Dead Season 5 is set to kick off sometime in October.

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Last Updated: July 18, 2014

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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