WARNING: We're about to discuss the fatal events of The Walking Dead's mid-season finale. If you have not seen the episode, or do not wish to be spoiled with what's coming up next — make like a walker and crawl out of here immediately!
We're still in shock.
Even though we were warned that Walking Dead fans were going to need tissues before Sunday's mid-season finale, we still weren't prepared for those last gut-wrenching minutes. Nearly 15 million viewers tuned to the action-packed episode and witnessed a deadly twist when a bullet flew through Beth's (Emily Kinney) sweet little head.
Like many of you, we have a plethora of questions about that heartbreaking death, and what's coming next when The Walking Dead finally returns on February 8, 2015. To help curb your zombie cravings, ETonline had an exclusive chat with executive producer Gale Anne Hurd about the repercussions Beth's death will bring to the group, new revelations of Daryl's (Norman Reedus) sexuality and more!
ETonline: First off, why Beth? What was behind the decision to kill this character in particular?
Gale Anne Hurd: Well It was one of those things where [showrunner] Scott Gimple, the producers, and the writers really talked about the character arc. The toughest part is when it truly is time to say goodbye to a character that we all love and adore — especially someone who has experienced so much growth. If Beth had been willing to let Noah sacrifice himself for the group, she would've been fine, but her arc has been finding that strength to act, and finding that strength to not just let things happen around her.
Beth's final words, "I get it now," were really poignant. Can you explain what revelation she was having in her mind at that point?
GAH: She gets that Dawn was the kind of person who made up the rules as she went along. She would do anything to not only survive, but to maintain power. There is no negotiating with someone like that, and it's never going to be fair. You can never predict what someone like that is going to do, and you can't trust them. So I think on one level there's that, and then on another level, I think the 'I get it' is speaking to herself, to Beth, saying. 'I get it now. The world has changed, and I'm no longer going to be a bystander. I'm going to act.'
Beth's death is certainly going to have a huge impact on the group, but how is her absence specifically going to affect Daryl moving forward?
GAH: Obviously it's going to significantly affect him because she was one of the few characters who was the least uncorrupted, I'd say, by the zombie apocalypse. She has been able to maintain her innocence, and even though she has numbed herself — like when her boyfriend Zach died in the run to the department store, and then she decided not to feel anything anymore — that was her protection. But at the same time, she felt like at one point things would get better. When you lose that spark, and you see that such a genuine and trusting character, and the fact that the zombie apocalypse even got to her, it's going to be a long road back for Daryl.
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) got a glimmer of hope that her sister was alive, so to see her heartbreaking reaction was even more devastating. How is Maggie going to cope with the loss of her sister?
GAH: Given what Daryl had said about Beth being taken, and given their recent encounter with cannibals, I'm sure Maggie was certain that Beth was not taken to a good place. I think she, like Beth, had tried to close off any emotions surrounding Beth, and surrounding what could've happened to her. Then to know that she was alive, and she was out there and that literally she was moments away from a reunion, it's just the worst possible thing. It's not like she died weeks ago, this was she died just moments ago.
Is this tragedy in Maggie's life going to put a strain on her relationship with Glenn, or could this loss strengthen their bond even more?
GAH: We'll see what happens. It's this kind of experience that, as you said, either strengthens relationships, or this will be like the death of a child. The blaming, the 'Why didn't I do something? 'Why didn't you do something?' When one party wants to sort of get past it, and the other just wants to feel the grief, that's the hardest kind of shared experience to survive.
Creator Robert Kirkman cleared up the rumors behind Daryl's sexuality and defined him as straight. Are you surprised that fans originally took Robert's comment and turned it into such a newsworthy item?
GAH: Well any tidbit about Daryl's character is bound to have that kind of reaction, so no I don’t think that surprised me. The truth is that with Daryl, you can see how sensitive he really is so when he lets anyone get close — the way he let Beth get close, and he has let Carol get close — it makes him feel vulnerable. So I can see that it would be difficult for him to go that next step to have a physical relationship with someone.
Was it ever thrown around in the writers' room whether or not Daryl should be gay or was this just a comment that was blown way out of proportion?
GAH: Well if people watched [Talking Dead] Sunday night, we do have a gay character that we planned from the beginning to introduce [later this season.] It's someone inspired by the comic books, so we wanted to make sure that we didn’t compromise those characters by giving some of [those characteristics] to characters already on the show so that there are arcs for those new characters to play out.
Now that we've seen that the mission to D.C. was a he hoax, what's the new goal for our group in the second half of the season?
GAH: Well I can't say, but I can say that that when things don’t work out as they planned they're always thinking of a safe haven. They're always thinking of a place where they can start to rebuild human society and do it right, and do it better this time. That's always their fallback mission is to look for that when all else fails.
Rick now seems to have a one-strike policy with strangers, would you agree with that?
GAH: Oh yes, and it's understandable given that he's tried just about everything else. 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me' — I think is his new philosophy. You're not going to have the opportunity to fool him twice.
What can fans look forward to when The Walking Dead's fifth season returns in February?
GAH: I think what we’re going to be dealing with is the fallout of two failed missions. The fact that the mission to Washington D.C. to find the cure is no longer, and the mission to save Beth was unsuccessful. The good news is they were able to save Carol but the mission wasn't a success, so we'll see how that affects everybody. And another theme for the second half of the season is one that you continued to point out which is on a global scale, who are you going to trust?
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Feb. 8 at 9 p.m. on AMC.