Returning for its hotly anticipated third-season premiere, AMC's The Walking Dead exceeded expectations and knocked it out of the park. While the pilot episode and the Season 2 premiere were both high-water marks for the post-apocalyptic drama, this one was an intense ride from start to finish and topped both of them in terms of sheer zombie-killing mayhem. Along with the gore and violence were some personal moments that showed the progression of the characters in the period since last season's finale.
In a post-show interview, executive producer and comic creator Robert Kirkman talked about the shift in tone for Season 3, the relationship between Rick and Lori, and the possibility of other budding romances hinted at in the season premiere. Here are a few spoiler-heavy excerpts, so proceed at your own risk!
TVLINE: I think the premiere set a new record for number of zombie deaths in a single episode. Did you use up your entire Season 3 budget?
KIRKMAN: We have a raised budget this season, but I’m pretty sure all episodes this season have a pretty similar budget. This is a premiere, so it was definitely a little bit higher than some of the other episodes. But I don’t think it’s so much higher that you’ll notice any kind of real difference. This is a very big season. There are a lot of really cool, big moments coming up. The premiere episode is a good example of the kind of high-octane thrill ride you’re going to get out of this season. We hit the ground running and we don’t really stop for a good long time. It’s going to be a pretty intense season of television.
TVLINE: Last season ended with Lori pissed at Rick for killing Shane. But when we pick up in the premiere, he’s pissed at her. What happened during the intervening months to cause the shift?
KIRKMAN: Honestly, not a lot happened during the break. These are two people that definitely have some serious issues. The apocalypse makes relationships quite difficult. Lori and Rick haven’t really had time to themselves to really work through their issues — they’re being pursued by zombies and there’s danger around every corner. They don’t really have the time to deal with that kind of a personal issue right now. Things are not going very well for them in their marriage and that’s going to be a big part of Season 3.
TVLINE: The premiere was 95 percent prison and 5 percent Andrea and Michonne. Talk to me about the decision to focus almost entirely on the prison? And what will the balance be like moving forward?
KIRKMAN: Rick and Carol and Lori and Carl and Glenn and Maggie — they’ve become our core cast. Coming into this season we felt it was more important to catch the viewer up on those characters and their situations, and just kind of hint at the different things that are going on with Michonne and Andrea. We have a lot planned for them. It ends up being almost two entirely separate casts and two entirely separate shows — we’ve got the Governor and Woodbury, and we have Rick and everyone at the prison. So we sort of start balancing the episodes out. Sometimes it’s 50/50, sometimes it’s 80/20, sometimes it’s a very Woodbury-heavy episode, sometimes it’s a very prison-heavy episode. It’s been a fun juggling act. And I think it moves the story along at a very quick pace.
TVLINE: Why’d you have to go and chop off Hershel’s leg?
KIRKMAN: Scott Wilson is an absolutely fantastic actor that we’re thrilled to have on the show. We love that character. Hershel is a good example of why it’s not a great thing to have the writers on The Walking Dead like your character, because we love doing things with them. And those things end up being pretty horrible. We really wanted to end the premiere with a big punch. Dealing with these ailments and these kind of things that would happen in this world, like handicapping characters and characters getting sick, is something we’re having a lot of fun dealing with this season.
For the full interview, check out TVLine.
This season has so much promise and has started off so well, I hope they can deliver on it. Are you impressed so far?