SPOILER ALERT: This post contains details of tonight’s The Walking Dead Season 10 midseason finale.
“There’s more story to tell with Michonne within the season coming up, but that’s been one of the things that’s been really fun to work on,” The Walking Dead’s Angela Kang asserts of the much-anticipated departure of Danai Gurira’s sword-wielding character. “We spent some time mapping this out, because she only had limited episodes with us this year,” the showrunner added as Michonne took to the seas in tonight’s Season 10 midseason finale search of a promised arsenal of weapons that could ensure a last peace for the cadre of survivors on the AMC zombie apocalypse drama.
Coming off the killing of the traumatized Siddiq (Avi Nash) in last week’s second to last TWD of 2019, tonight’s Julia Ruchman-penned “The World Before” not only opened the door to Michonne’s exit and the possibilities of new allies but perhaps the biggest threat from the Whisperers yet to the Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride)-led group. Lulled yet again into a trap by Alpha (Samantha Morton) and her beheading cruel army, the rage driven unit find themselves deep in the caves that appear to contain the herd of walkers that gives the Whisperers so much of their power. No pun intended, but it is literally a death trap.
Now having run the just wrapped TWD for two full years and heading into Season 11, EP Kang sat down with me to discuss the “cave”-hanger midseason finale and what is really the plan with Gurira’s iconic Michonne.
Certainly, in a series that saw lead Andrew Lincoln leave last year to take his Rick Grimes to the big screen and Lauren Cohan’s Maggie Rhee take off in her own direction as the actor left to pursue a short-lived shot on the terribly title and now cancelled ABC spy show Whiskey Cavalier, Kang has overseen great shifts and rebirth to once blockbuster based on Robert Kirkman’s now concluded comics. Also, with a new YA spinoff being readied for launch next spring and more on the long-term horizon, TWD is heading into its second decade as the bedrock of the Dolan family-controlled cable channel.
In that vein, Kang chatted with me about Cohan’s return, more Rick Grimes, her stewardship so far and a crossover with The Walking Dead: World Beyond once it debuts.
DEADLINE: So, the very end, this looks like the belly of the beast with Daryl, Carol and gang in a real literal walking dead trap with Whisperers’ much fear herd, is this were a culling comes next?
KANG: They’ve stumbled into at least like a major part of Alpha’s herd. You know, they’re in this cave system, so they don’t know how far these zombies might go, but yeah, they are in a Walking Dead trap, as you say.
DEADLINE: One of the things that’s been so predominant about the last two seasons, since you took over, is you really brought back a lot of the intimacy and character of the show. With this episode, there was the unveiling of the consequences of the end of Siddiq’s life, and, there’s a very powerful and intimate moment between Daryl and Carol, as various others. But The World Before really seems to have resonance for the exit of Danai, the one that we knew was coming – is Michonne really headed off on the sea to find an arsenal and to never return?
KANG: Well, I’ll say that there’s a piece of her story left to tell this season, but we’ve been planning for her to make an exit. We thought it would be interesting to tell a story with her, at this point in the season, about deciding to help somebody who’s a little complicated.
DEADLINE: How do you mean?
KANG: There’s more story to tell with Michonne within the season coming up, but that’s been one of the things that’s been really fun to work on. We spent some time mapping this out, because she only had limited episodes with us this year. We examined what are some of the journeys that she’ll take that have both plot resonance but also just personal resonance for her. Also, Michonne’s struggling with the death of her friend, Siddiq. He was so tight with Carl (Rick Grimes’s now dead son, played by Chandler Riggs on TWD) and after Carl’s death, I think Siddiq took on a lot of significance, and that definitely plays into her story going forward, as well.
— The Walking Dead on AMC (@WalkingDead_AMC) November 25, 2019
DEADLINE: In terms of TWD going forward, clearly AMC are expanding the franchise with a second spinoff coming, but going into Season 11, you’re not going to have a comic anymore now that (Robert) Kirkman suddenly dropping the axe this summer. I know there’s a lot more story to mine from, but what is it like for you now that the already divergent series is truly out there in the blue?
KANG: I think there’s something freeing knowing that the end of the comic is coming. You know, luckily for this Whisperer story, we still have the comics. For Season 11, we still do have the basis in the Commonwealth story, so we haven’t run it out completely.
However, I think what’s actually been fun for us is since our array of characters now, especially like in the lead characters department, is so different from what it is in the comic book that it allows us to kind of improvise more in certain ways.
DEADLINE: You mean how there is no Daryl Dixon in the comics, Carl lives, Rick is still around almost to the end…
KANG: Yes, among others, and we still using some of the pieces of the comics that we think are really compelling and fun and interesting. At the same time, it’s kind of forcing us to put our creative hats on and figure out like what more we can say about these characters that we have.
DEADLINE: Speaking of characters you have, we know that Lauren Cohan is coming back from Maggie’s long walkabout, so to speak, for Season 11, but are we going to see her in the backend of Season 10?
KANG: She will come back as a series regular in Season 11, but you know, we may see her before that.
DEADLINE: You’re going to throw that out there, but not going to give us any more information than that?
KANG: No, no, I can’t
DEADLINE: Well, let me ask you this then, what is it like for that when you have a major character, a major part of the show, like Lauren leave to do ABC’s ludicrous Whiskey Cavalier, that gets cancelled, and now she’s back. How is that for you guys in terms of the transition/ I mean, it is kind of like a family member breaking up with you and then saying, well maybe, it turns out I was in love with you more after all, can I come home?
KANG: That’s so funny. I love that analogy. You know, like we, even when she was leaving for the other show, it was always like the conversation was Lauren wanted to spread her wings but the door was always open for her to return. We were having conversations for a long time — I wasn’t being coy or making that up.
DEADLINE: Ha! It is a pretty standard line that we hear so often, you know?
KANG: There were so many conversations behind the scenes, it just was a matter of with our schedule and hers how to fold it all together, and it finally worked out. So, we’re just like everybody’s really happy that she’s coming back because we love Lauren, and she brings a lot to the show. Even when she left, she’s been in contact with everybody, and it’s been great. I’m just excited to kind of write her next chapter because she’s just a lovely human being and a really compelling character, too, I think.
DEADLINE: In that reunion love-in spirit, any chance we’re going to see Mr. Lincoln return to the small screen TWD?
KANG: Not this season, but man, I would love it if he did. You know we were talking about having him direct something for a while, but then he wanted to focus on some acting stuff, and he didn’t want to drop out on us at the last minute if something came along, and you know he’s been doing a movie lately.
DEADLINE: Yeah, I’ve heard about that. I’ve heard about that movie.
KANG: Yeah. I mean, you probably know more than I do, but you know, he’s…yeah, the door is always open. Andy, you can come back any time.
DEADLINE: We saw Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas) kill Siddiq in the penultimate episode of the year after than tongue clicking gives away the former’s Whisperer affiliation and his messing with Alexandra’s water, but looks like Avi Nash’s character still had some life in him in the midseason finale…
KANG: (LAUGHS) Yes, we’ve been playing that Dante and Siddiq have this friendship of sorts. Siddiq seems to be really irritated by him, and we were trying to play with the reality that with his PTSD, it’s just that there’s these gaps in his memory that don’t resolve in time to kind of figure out what it is about Dante that’s been bugging him.
Yet, from Dante’s side, when he tells our people that Siddiq wasn’t really part of the plan, he likes Siddiq, that’s absolutely, in my mind, an honest fact that he’s stating. I think there was a true friendship for Siddiq for Dante, but he works for Alpha, and ultimately, somebody has found him out, he has to do what his training says, which is like he has to neutralize the threat somehow. But I think that moment where he hesitated, like the little time he took to close Siddiq’s eyes and to like think for a moment before he’s about to kill him, you know it’s like he never finished the job before Rosita came in. Also, since our Whisperers use zombies as weapons, you know, I think he thought it probably doesn’t hurt him to like leave Siddiq alive for just a moment longer because maybe that will come in handy, but of course, it kind of turns against him.
DEADLINE: I know I’ve asked you a variation of this before, but with the tenth season now wrapped production, and two full seasons of TWD as showrunner notched on your belt, how are you feeling about the seeds of change you planted when you took over and the loss of several major characters like Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes and now Danai’s Michonne?
KANG: There’s a lot of challenges because we’re trying not to repeat ourselves and try to figure out ways to deepen the characters.
So, in that regard, I think the idea of seeds is really relevant, like the seeds that we planted since Season 9. I was just talking about that with my Season 11 writers’ room last week, to grow the characters, you have to just plant seeds all along. And even if might seem right in the moment there’s a scene that doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s the most important thing in the world, sometimes that’s a seed that blossoms into something else. So even though we often take a bit of a long view with the show, there is sometimes like we scatter some of those seeds and go like, oh wow, like this direction looks so much more interesting than we thought.
DEADLINE: Obviously a big TWD seed that we will see burst out of the soil next year is The Walking Dead: World Beyond titled second spinoff, the YA zombie apocalypse so to speak. Your predecessor Scott M. Gimple is the TWD Universe Sherpa, but how does the further expansion of the brand strike you?
KANG: Oh, that’s interesting. You know, the spinoff is being run by my dear friend, Matt Negrete, who came up on Walking Dead for many years alongside me, and he was my number two in the room last year. So, I just want the show to be great. The stuff that I’ve seen, little bits of scripts and footage, are really exciting to me, and I am not just saying that because I work for AMC on The Walking Dead. I think that there’s some really beautiful stuff that they’re trying to do. But, other than that, I’m on the sidelines of that process, so I’ll just be watching along with whoever else chooses to watch,
DEADLINE: It took a while, but we did get a TWD and Fear The Walking Dead crossover. With Lauren’s Maggie coming back, Danai’s Michonne leaving and the world of Walking Dead going through such significant change, is that in the cards for the mothership and the new show?
KANG: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, anything is possible in the universe. I’ll say that there’s not been, on my side, any talk of an immediate possible crossover. It doesn’t mean that it won’t ever happen because now there’s a few worlds that are within in the universe all kind of running simultaneously, so we’ll see.