Even if you think you know which characters will always survive on The Walking Dead, showrunner Scott Gimple says you're wrong.
After two seasons working as a writer and producer under showrunner Glen Mazzarra, Gimple took the reins of The Walking Dead for the fourth season and delivered some of the show's most memorable moments yet. Now, as he prepares for season five, Gimple's both reflecting on his first season as showrunner and looking ahead to what he wants for the series' overall story. In an interview on a recent episode of The Walking Dead Cast, Gimple discussed the somewhat surprising decision not to kill any of the show's major characters in the final two episodes of season four.
"You shouldn't do a death to shock people. People shouldn't live to shock people, either. It's all just part of the story and it should serve the story," Gimple said. "The Hershel death and the Governor death completely and totally served the story we were telling this season.
"And really, looking at it and playing out the stories, death didn't really serve the story we were telling. And then it was like, 'Whoa, well that means nobody's gonna die in fifteen or sixteen!' And then it was very much like, 'Well that's -- awesome.' Because that's what people expect, and at that point, yeah, it's pretty cool that you're laying out this story and you're like, 'Uh oh, we're not having a death -- ' And it's like, 'That's -- the greatest thing in the world.'
"If people are setting their watches by deaths on The Walking Dead, that's not cool. That's a story failure. And it was wild, at the end of the season, to see all these articles, like, 'Who's Gonna Die?'"
Predicting which characters will live to see another season is a common hobby for Walking Dead viewers, so it was noteworthy that Gimple and company undercut the expectation of another gruesome death when the group reunited at Terminus. Rick, Daryl, Maggie and the rest of the group are in a dire situation at the end of season four, though, trapped in Terminus with a horde of armed, apparently cannibalistic survivors holding them prisoner. It's entirely possible that some of them won't make it out of Terminus alive, which means the season five premiere will likely bring with out another round of character death predictions. People will certainly keep dying on The Walking Dead, but when asked about the idea that some of the show's core characters are "too important" to kill, Gimple stressed that he views the show as a place where everyone is in danger, because no one is more important than the story.
"Well, that isn't this show. I mean, it's a bummer, but nobody's too important to kill off. I'm not thrilled to say that, but it's just the nature of this show. Anybody can die, anybody will die, and my goal is that it not just be for shock value and that it serve the story," he said. "People might last a good long time, or they might be taken tomorrow. And the speculation of all of it -- I try not to pay too much attention to that, because it's really important that we just serve our story. People are thinking that we're killing too many people, that we're not killing enough people. I'm just trying to tell the story."
So you might think Daryl and Rick are immortal, and you might also think that Beth (or Bob, or Rosita, and so on) is expendable, but Gimple seems determined to keep the sense that every single character is vulnerable as a key element of the show. The question is: Will he succeed?
The Walking Dead returns with its fifth season this fall on AMC.