Tread these waters carefully. There be SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Walking Dead wrapped up its intense Season 2 run this past Sunday with the critically acclaimed finale Beside the Dying Fire. Beloved characters Dale and Shane are both dead, Hershel's farm has been overrun with zombies, fan favorite character Michonne has been introduced, and the words whispered in Rick's ear at the end of last year's Season 1 finale have been revealed: "Everyone is infected with the virus."
Season 2 also ended with a parting shot of Georgia's West Central Prison, which is a major location for the comic books upon which the series is based, and will serve as the backdrop for all of Season 3 and possibly some of Season 4. So where does that leave our small band of survivors?
Showrunner Glen Mazzara took a conference call this morning to address some issues and shed some light on this fall's impending return of The Walking Dead. He promises that the pacing of the final three Season 2 episodes will stay in play throughout Season 3, teasing, "We will be throwing you curveball after curveball."
So far, the plot outlines for Episodes 1 through 6 are completed, with the next 8 episodes already pitched to AMC. Glen Mazzara also broke the news that acclaimed writer Frank Renzulli (The Sopranos) will be penning one of the most important, and scariest episodes of this upcoming run.
He then addressed a lot of concerns about the show from fans. First up is the character of Michonne, played by the recently announced Danai Gurira. Some are worried that she may be a little too comic bookish, and unrealistic in the landscape that has been set up thus far in the series.
"Michonne is one of the lead characters in the graphic novel. We are excited to finally introduce her. She is a loner. She is a very kickass character. She is very dynamic. We really see her as an important addition to the cast. She is a significant character, and she will be carrying a lot of the story. We are excited about her, and we are excited about Danai Gurira, who is going to play this role. We are lucky to have her, and we look forward to seeing what she does with it.
The reason the character was cloaked at the end of the episode was because we'd not cast the actress. That was a cheat there. It's interesting. We have been thinking about this character during the casting process. We wondered, "How theatrical is Michonne?" That is quite a theatrical entrance, and it wasn't something we realized at the time. Then yesterday, we were in the writers' room, talking about her backstory, and a lot of the writers had very heightened pitches, so to say. My sensibility is to keep the show grounded. To keep it gritty. That is where I am comfortable as a writer and a storyteller.
So, I do think that is an interesting character. She comes from the comic books. She feels like she stepped off of those pages and into our show. That is exciting. It is a challenge for us. But...Knowing me as a writer? I am going to keep it real. I am going to keep it grounded. Because if it doesn't feel real, the audience won't be able to put themselves in the immediate circumstances of the story. I think people keep watching because they can say, "Oh, I'd be dead now." Or, "I would kill that guy!" Or, "I would shoot him in the leg and get away." That's what's fun about the show. We are very conscious of not keeping the show too serialized. Not having an over developed mythology, so that it is accessible to people in the way a good horror movie is. I find the best horror movies to be simple. That is something that is very important. I think, overall, my intention is to keep the show grounded, real, and Michonne is going to be a great challenge."
Season 2 ends with an establishing shot of Georgia's West Central Prison. It will serve as the backdrop for most of Season 3, and maybe even Season 4, which Glen Mazzara touched on a bit.
"Right now, I do see the prison storyline lasting through both Season 3 and 4. I do think that is a major storyline. I know we were on the farm, perhaps, longer than people wanted. There were reasons for that. What we want is for that prison to not feel claustrophobic. I think the farm played a little claustrophobic for some people. Now that the entire landscape has fallen victim to the zombie apocalypse, zombies are literally at the gates of this prison. That prison is a very small safe corner. There is a lot of danger around. It won't feel like we are bottled up, the way we were on the farm. I do think that prison is a significant storyline, but we are also interested in opening up this world. The Governor has the world of Woodbury. There are other factors out there, other groups. I do think that Rick's group is stumbling into a much larger world."
Next, Glen Mazzara touched on IronE Singleton's role as T-Dog, and the fact that he didn't do much in Season 2. Will that change in Season 3?
"I've been surprised at this. I have worked on shows before that have characters in the background, and they have been on a slow burn. With T-Dog? I will admit, he has been off to the side and all but forgotten. Part of my job as showrunner has been to really address and develop Rick's character. And some other stuff. Poor T-Dog was left by the fire. Now that he has survived the finale, we're going to correct this. I think IronE Singleton has done a fantastic job of establishing a character, and making people interested in him, with very little to say. That is a strength of the show moving forward. That is a character we are looking to develop in a significant way. We haven't done our work with T-Dog yet, but we are going to roll up our sleeves and get through it."
Glen Mazzara also talked about the character of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), explaining that they don't plan to make her any less irritating in the future, which may not sit well with fans.
"I think Lori is a compelling, interesting character. I think she is realistic in a lot of ways. She is a character that people are talking about. I don't find her irritating. I find it interesting that people are so focused on her. I think the work ahead of that, in Season 3...We really have to look at the Rick/Lori relationship. What it means that she put Rick and Shane in motion to try and kill each other. That is an interesting place to start. We will really examine this character. I don't know if we really need to start creating false leads to make her more likable. That is not part of the show."
Now that The Walking Dead is finally getting to Michonne and The Prison, are there any other aspects of the comic book that Glen Mazzara wants to bring to life?
Well, certainly. There is a lot of great material from the comic book. This show would have to go on for twenty years to get to all of it. I think the Tyrese character is someone we are interested in introducing at some point. We still have Morgan and Dwayne, who are out there from the pilot. We are interested in them. There are new characters that will be original too the series. Not coming straight from the comic book. I think the first two seasons have served as a prologue. Now we are hitting the ground running. I see Season 3 resetting the show in terms of what I really hope to convey."
Those worried that the zombies might take a backseat to the human threat that is always looming need not fret.
"Zombies will never take a backseat. We will always have the human drama, and we would like to introduce a significant human threat, but we love writing the zombie material. And now, those zombies are fully interrogated into this world. We're not waiting for the zombies to reach us. They are there. They are in our eyesight all of the time. They are part of the landscape. We expect to still have a balance of zombie and human threat. The zombies won't take a backseat on this show. I don't want to rule out [an episode with no zombies], but there is no safe place from the zombies. We try hard to tell our drama, but right now, we don't have an episode like that in mind."
Finally, Glen Mazzara ended his conversation talking about the virus and what it means going forward in the series.
"The virus is something we will continue to play. Andrea doesn't have the information (that everyone has the virus), which is interesting. This is a new element to play with. We're not really interested in going back and explaining how the infection started. Or having a lot of science fiction elements. We won't be talking about finding a cure. That's not part of the graphic novel. That is material we will stay away from. We will look at how our characters deal with this knowledge. What does it mean? I am sure Lori is wrestling with some questions. What if she dies in childbirth? That is a horrible situation. This is something that is really important to our characters. It is something that will play out in surprising ways. We are just writing out the material now. So it all remains to be seen."
The Walking Dead Season 3 is set to debut this October.