Warning: This article contains spoilers. If you haven’t watched Sunday’s mid-season premiere, you may not want to read below this line.
Has Rick Grimes ever looked worse? Seriously, homeboy is MESSED UP! His face looks like it was on the receiving end of a relentless barrage from a one-eyed maniac…which, technically, it was. The guy can barely walk. The guys can barely breathe. What CAN the guy do?!? In tonight’s Walking Dead midseason premiere, the answer was pretty much nothing. And Rick’s failure to protect both his family and the prison finally wore on young Carl, creating a tension between the pair as they sought safety and shelter. Combine that with Carl’s feelings of teenage invincibility and you have an episode that tested the father-son dynamic like never before. We spoke to star Andrew Lincoln to get his take on the episode, which also included a freaky Michonne flashback dream and an even sadder end for Hershel than we could have ever imagined. (Also check out our midseason premiere Q&As with Danai Gurira and episode writer Robert Kirkman.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There’s really an interesting shift in the father-son relationship here in terms of Rick not being able to take care of Carl. It starts at the very beginning with Rick not being able to keep up with Carl and then continues when Rick can’t kill the walker and his son has to save him.
ANDREW LINCOLN: It’s almost shot-for-shot from the comic, and it was always the most emotional part of the comic when I read it. I think everybody relates to that. Every man relates to that story because someone said to me years ago, “You never get bigger to your father.” That’s the secret to a happy life, but everybody has to. So much of being a teenager is about finding your own voice, finding your own way, including your parents. So I loved it, I felt charmed by it, it was very moving to be involved in it. I spent most of my time on the couch — it was beautiful! I kicked back and let the kid work. I’m hoping this is my future! [Laughs] But it was an amazing moment, this child turning into this young adult. And you see the crew all watch him and have these satisfied smiles and see this young man lead the show. It was a very cool experience.
EW: I liked the way Robert Kirkman wrote it and Chandler played it – he’s doing it the way teenagers do, feeling reckless, thinking he’s bulletproof.
LINCOLN: I loved it. That’s the thing that Robert’s got in him, it’s a real, bulletproof cynical humor. He’s actually a sweetie. He’s got a very soft heart and he really taps into that in the graphic novel. And I thought it was a wonderful script, so balanced. And also the story of Michonne in there as well and the extraordinary dream sequence which we’ve never done before and I’m curious to hear what you thought about.
EW: I talked to Danai, and it’s so interesting the way it was done, because not only is it a dream sequence, but it’s jumping around in time. It takes you a moment to figure out what’s going on and to see her in that environment — or several environments intersecting at once, actually — was fascinating.
LINCOLN: That’s what I’m excited about with this back eight — there’s a boldness to some of this storytelling that I haven’t seen before and it’s really thrilling. For us, the actors that have been on it for four years, to have that and be able to play these things on a tangent is really exciting stuff.
EW: What about this scene at the end when Rick tells him “You’re a man, Carl.” Has there been that fundamental change in their relationship?
LINCOLN: Yeah, I think so. It’s a massive thing, to feel that you’re a failure in your son’s eyes. And behind all the fear and leaving him behind is the fact that he knows, he calls him out. He knows exactly what the boy thinks: He thinks I’m a failure and that I made the wrong call again and I cost everyone’s lives. Of course, he carries it. That’s Rick, that’s what he does. He takes responsibility for everything on the planet. It’s part of his curse but also his strength. That’s why people follow him. But yeah, in that beat, I think that’s what I loved about the episode — it’s come the full circle. Throughout all of this, he has this fear, and he realizes he can’t kill him. But I do think there’s an unspoken space between them and both of them are willing to concede. That’s what I love about this back eight, there’s so much space in it, but it’s all filled.
EW: I loved the line at the very end to Carl after you see Michonne at the door: “It’s for you.”
LINCOLN: It’s one of my favorite lines. Someone asked me what my favorite line was in Atlanta, at a comic convention, and I said, “It’s for you.” And they said “What?” And I said, “Wait, you’ll see.” It’s the perfect line. It’s the f—ing perfect line! The only problem with perfect lines is that you can only f— them up.
EW: It was so rough watching the whole Hershel death scene in the last episode, but what was even worse was seeing the decapitated zombie Hershel head here, just to know that he indeed had to suffer that terrible fate.
LINCOLN: That was always the intention, that we return and that’s what left. And it’s beautiful, when I read the script…its so moving, you have to kill somebody twice. It’s a degrading kind of hell that you’re left in. But I agree, I’m just fascinated to see how people view these back eight, because there’s something so incredibly beautiful and soulful. I mean, it’s still badass as anything, and there’s crazy s— up ahead, believe me. There’s a couple of things where I went to [showrunner] Scott Gimple and asked “Are we gonna do this? We’re really going to do this?” And Scott said, “Yep, we’re gonna do this!” But I do think there’s more poetry in this back eight than we’ve had in awhile.