Interview by Joseph McCabe
In light of the events of its most recent episodes, now more than ever before The Walking Dead is the show on which almost anyone can die at any time. So if you haven’t seen the last several episodes yet, for the love of God, stop reading now. Seriously, go read a book. Or build a dam! Dams are especially useful. The world needs more dams. As for the rest of you – showrunner Glen Mazzara sat down to chat with me and a group of other journos yesterday about the show’s hotly anticipated second season finale and what the future holds for our merry band of zombie apocalypse survivors. Here’s what he had to say.
Wondering whether this season will end on a cliffhanger? Mazzara won’t say; but he points out that it will definitely raise more questions than season one’s finale: “I will guarantee that people will watch this finale and want to know what comes next. And I guarantee a lot of the diehard fans will say, ‘I can’t wait for October.’ There are things that are clearly setting up stories, moving ahead. There’s also a nice payoff to some of the emotional stories that then open up new storylines for season three. This finale, people are going to have a lot of questions, in a good way, when it cuts to black.”
Okay, fair enough. And how about season three? I asked Mazzara if it will maintain the breakneck pace of season two’s second half, or if things will things slow down again.
“I am very interested in keeping the pace up,” he says. “I’m very proud of the work we did in the first half of season two, and I’m very proud of those episodes, and I’ll admit I was surprised that people thought they played slow. I did not think they played as slow as some of the feedback seems to have indicated. I’ll admit that surprised us here internally. That being said, it was always the intention to sort of amp up the pace. We knew we were rushing to a great finalé, and I think that our episodes have been better crafted as having a beginning, a middle, and hopefully a great punch at the end. So that’s something that I think is important to The Walking Dead. I think we’ve cracked it. I’m very happy with the storytelling and the density of these episodes. Now that we know what a very successful episode feels like, that’s something that we’re really, really working on. We still will have slower episodes, we still will have character-felt episodes. Again, this is not something where we would ever go to just gratuitous shock value. This is a story about characters we care about. But I do think that the pacing for season three really feels like a freight train.”
With Dale and Shane gone, will the survivors be calmer now? Our heroes have been at each other’s throats in recent weeks. “That plays out in an interesting way in the finalé. We do address that. You’ll have an answer, but it won’t be the answer you expect.”
Ah, that Mazzara. He plays a mean game of poker. So will the season’s remaining mysteries be explained?
“Yes, questions are answered. Things are wrapped up and propelled forward in a big way. We’re really not interested in going in and filling in backstory. Our characters, at the end of episode 212, that herd, those walkers, are coming up over that hill. And our guys are on the run. I’d love to see our characters always on the run after that.”
But with Shane gone, who will be the show’s principal voice of dissent?
“I’ve always said that Shane has been right in a lot of his calls. But I do think he’s a very, very flawed character. He lacks Rick’s humanity and compassion. That’s the question – what is the role of humanity in this world? I think Lori would love to have a man who has traits of both men, of both Rick and Shane. So it’s tricky. But you see that Rick at the end there has a shade of Shane in him. That’s important moving forward.”
As for just how much death is yet to come, Mazzara remarks, “By the end of the finalé, we’ll have more deaths than the number of episodes. I won’t tell you what those numbers are [laugh], but if you count up all the deaths, we’re certainly on a good killing spree here.”
Could Lori ever wind up as walker chow? Many fans are already gunning for her this season.
“I will say this,” says Mazzara, “if it’s earned and it’s character based and it propels the story forward, nothing is over the line for us. Dale’s death propelled the story forward in a big way. Shane’s death propels the story forward. So we have certain criteria for any death. I will honestly say that no character is safe, that we have examined at different times killing every character.”
The producer also commented that he has season four planned out, and a scenario for the show’s eventual ending already in mind.
“At the end of the second season I sat down and wrote a big paper on what I wanted season three to be and what characters we were introducing and what storylines, what it should feel like, and inspirations, and all that. That document I wrote really does bring us into season four, and I’ve spoken with Robert [Kirkman] on what I feel is the series finalé. Robert hopes the show never ends, that it will be like the comic book and go on for 30 years. I don’t know if that’s plausible, but I do have a feeling of where the show ends, where the series ends. We’re just starting to write season three now, but we know pretty much the entire arc of season three, almost beat by beat.”
In the meantime, Mazzara says we can look forward to more webisodes from Walking Dead ’s producer/director/makeup wizard Greg Nicotero.
“Greg Nicotero and his co-writer are just beginning to write that material. I’ve just seen a treatment for it, and I believe Greg is going to direct that as well. So there will be more webisodes coming before season three.”