‘Walking Dead’: Glen Mazzara promises shocking cliffhanger

Nov. 30, 2012 | 11:44 a.m.

Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Blake Tyers / AMC)

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) and Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Blake Tyers / AMC)

Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Milton (Dallas Roberts) in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page/ AMC)

Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Glenn (Steven Yeun), a walker and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Glenn (Steven Yeun) and a walker in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Oscar (Vincent Ward) in a scene from "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

The title of Sunday’s mid-season finale of the “The Walking Dead,” “Made to Suffer,” certainly implies nothing good for Rick Grimes and the survivors. The group is divided now into two forces — the ones who remained behind at the prison with the newly named infant Judith and the strike team that headed to Woodbury to rescue Glenn and Maggie from the Governor. Written by Robert Kirkman, the episode will be the last new chapter audiences will see of the hit AMC zombie series until it returns from a weeks-long hiatus in mid-February. Before heading back to Georgia where production wraps on Season 3 today, show runner Glen Mazzara took time to assess the storyline so far and to offer some hints about what lies ahead. Caution, spoilers ahead.

HC: I’m curious, what are your thoughts on the first half of the season? Are you happy with the way the episodes have unfolded and the fan reaction to the storyline?

GM: Oh yeah! It’s a dream come true. It’s fun to think that it’s something that people are carrying around in their lives and talking about with their friends and their family every week.

HC: Can you describe the decision-making that went into losing Lori and T-Dog in Episode 4?

GM: We really wanted to show that this prison was dangerous. I have always said that this prison is unsafe, and the prison will continue to be unsafe. In the mid-season finale you’ll see that part of the prison is in ruins and people can access the prison. We’ve alluded to this, but you can see that there was a fire and that’s how all the zombies get in. Unless they reconstruct that part of the prison it will always be unsafe. We always want to have a sense of danger, a sense of threat. The second thing about killing off those characters is that it puts Rick’s sanity into question. He obviously faces that trauma and starts hallucinating and everything at a time when he’s going up against a very formidable foe, the Governor.

HC: Was there any thought that it might be too much too soon to lose two characters back to back?

GM: The idea of T-Dog having this heroic death — because it is a TV show and people think, Oh they’re never going to kill major characters — once you kill a major character like T-Dog in the episode, it lets you off the hook because people think, That’s it, that’s the big moment in the show. The idea that there’s an even bigger moment right behind it isn’t really done on other shows. Just when you think you’re safe as a viewer, don’t get comfortable because there’s another thrill coming right around the corner. That was by design. The T-Dog death was there in a sense to hide the Lori death and to make it even more surprising.

HC: It was a shame to see Sarah Wayne Callies leave the show. She’s such a talented actress, and Lori was an interesting, complicated character.

GM: I thought this season was her best work. That character, people did not respond well to that character in the past. It was an unlikable character, so for people to be sobbing at her death is really a testament to the actor’s ability. To bring that character from being a character that people didn’t like to someone who’s completely redeemed and selfless in sacrificing herself for the good of her children, is pretty amazing. I really give Sarah a lot of credit.

HC: Which brings us to Judith. What will happen to the baby and are you concerned that, if she doesn’t survive, killing an infant might alienate at least some members of the audience? How bleak can the show become?

GM: Every single one of my writers has asked us to kill off that baby. I’m dragging my feet. It’s difficult to have the baby because you have to worry about where the baby is, why is the baby crying, if the baby’s crying is that annoying, that sort of stuff. That baby is a victory for this group. Rick set up the mission, saying, We’re going to take this prison so that Lori has a place to give birth. And Daryl when he steps up as the leader in Rick’s absence, says, We’re going to keep this baby alive, we’re not losing any more [people]. One of the things that I’ve been very mindful of is that our group has to have victories. If they are just staying beaten up every week and there’s absolutely no win, it’s going to feel very, very bleak for the audience. That baby’s survival right now is a necessary win because otherwise it is too bleak and that’s not something I’m interested in doing. I don’t think people will tune in. They’ll tune in for an exciting horror show, but they’re not going to tune in for a very, very bleak thing that you can’t imagine these people are able to survive. I just don’t believe that the show can get that bleak.

Lauren Cohan and Steven Yeun in “The Walking Dead.” (Gene Page / AMC)

HC: It has gone quite dark, however. The scene between Maggie and the Governor created some controversy last week. I’m wondering if that scene means that you’ve chosen not to include the Michonne rape storyline from the comic books.

GM: That Michonne rape story is a huge part of this comic book, and I know that the audience has a lot of expectation about that. I feel that if the Governor is just the type of villain that is mutilating and raping people when we first meet him that he’ll be branded as an arch-villain, he may not feel as human. He’ll just feel like an evil presence without any humanity in him, that’s something that David Morrissey and I are not interested in doing. We really want to show that this is a fully realized person who makes evil choices. That’s interesting. The other thing is that if he comes out and he brutally rapes people right at the beginning, and our characters don’t punish or eliminate him, they will look ineffective. We have to take our time and tell this story. What you see is a man making a choice to sexually threaten a woman to get information. He’s rendering her powerless, he’s humiliating her, simply to get information. When he finds out that that won’t work, when she surprises him and says, “Do what you’re going to do and go to hell,” he says I need a different tack. He’s not just into torture for torture’s sake. He wants the information. Now at the end of the mid-season finale, we know what he’s capable of just to get information — imagine what he’ll do if he wants to exact revenge. That scene in Episode 7 plants a seed of who this character is, what he’s capable of. I don’t think that’s our version of the rape story. I think that’s the seed of a larger story to be told with this character.

HC: So you’re saying the Michonne rape could still happen.

GM: Without a doubt, it could still happen or it could happen with somebody else. Nothing is off the table. These are long-running characters and there’s a long-running story to be told but it needs to be told sensitively, realistically, intelligently and respectfully.

The Governor (David Morrissey), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Andrea (Laurie Holden) in “The Walking Dead.” (Gene Page / AMC)

HC: But you’re not necessarily saying it would happen this season.

GM: Not necessarily in this season and who knows if we would ever do that story or not. I don’t want to say that. I’m saying that I feel that that story is such a significant story, it cannot just be burned off. It will feel gratuitous, it will feel shocking, I think it would alienate the audience. It needs to be handled very, very carefully. I would say that that Michonne rape story is one of the most sensitive issues I’ve ever handled in my career as a writer, and it needs to be done right. It can’t just be thrown at the audience for shock value, I think that would be irresponsible as an artist to do that on TV. It may work in a film, it may work in a novel, it may work in a comic book. I didn’t feel it would work in that situation on a TV show.

HC: In Sunday’s mid-season finale, will Rick and the Governor finally meet?

GM: The first interaction between Rick and the Governor on-screen will be played down the road. What’s interesting in the mid-season finale a lot is revealed but interestingly we still have more story to play before those two characters come face to face.

HC: The episode ends with a cliffhanger, yes? Just how shocking is it?

GM: It surprised the hell out of me.

HC: Does anyone die?

GM: There is a death in the mid-season finale. It wouldn’t be a mid-season finale if we didn’t have a death, right?

– Gina McIntyre

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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