Warning: This post contains storyline and character spoilers for the "Them" episode of The Walking Dead.
Rock bottom? Not quite yet, but as The Walking Dead executive producer/director Greg Nicotero tells Yahoo TV, Rick and his group are at the lowest point we've ever seen them in "Them."
"We had these horribly unexpected deaths in the last two episodes. ['Them'] really shows the weight and the impact these losses have on our group," Nicotero says. "And with their sheer exhaustion, and lack of food, lack of water... we really haven't explored that on the show quite as significantly [before]."
The group has never been lower than we see them in "Them." Is this their rock bottom?
In the next couple of episodes, things get really bleak. Obviously, they meet Aaron at the end of the episode. Those people who read the comic book know [what's] just around the corner, but... Rick finds it really hard to trust anybody, given the fact that the last time that they were in a situation like this was Terminus. No matter what, they have to make a choice about whether they want to accept this person as a friend, or believe that they're just being led into another trap. You have to look at it this way: They really haven't met anybody good out there in a long time.
About Aaron: We didn't learn much about him during his brief introduction, but his appearance was a standout. He's very clean, wearing fresh clothing, and he looks like he's not suffering without food or water. That's something that, if you're already a suspicious group, you might doubt him even more?
Yes. I think that's critical because of what they just witnessed in Noah's neighborhood, which was that the place had been completely overrun, and the people who lived there were mutilated. Who knows? There's a possibility that he comes from the group of people who killed all of Noah's family. They have no way of knowing exactly what's about to happen. In this world, I certainly wouldn't trust anybody that had clean clothes and looked like he hadn't hurt for food in a while.
And his appearance comes on the heels of that water that was left in the road for them.
You're talking about a group of people who have nothing. They're literally reduced to eating animals and relying on when it's going to rain to get any nourishment. Then somebody puts [water] in the middle of the street, which seems rather unlikely in this world. Their spider senses are tingling.
Speaking of nourishment: Daryl and the worm. Did Norman Reedus eat a real worm?
He did. He ate a real worm, and I think he was gung-ho for doing it when we stepped out of the gate. Like anything that sounds great and like no big deal, I would be surprised if he, by the time we were done, didn't regret it slightly. But Norman loves all that stuff. Any opportunity to do something that's going to get the audience to lean in, he's all for it. He'd do it in a split-second.
Did he have to eat more than one worm?
I don't recall how many he ate. I know it was more than one.
He once told me he likes any opportunity to get dirty.
[Laughs.] Yes, I've never met anyone more dedicated to keeping his character fresh and original. Anytime something comes up that feels a little bold and a little daring or just a little risky, Norman is always the first one to jump into it, which is what we love about him.
There's another big Daryl happening in this episode: the very sweet moment in the woods with Carol. Some people are going to see it as a friendship gesture, when she kisses his forehead; others are going to see it as something more...
Because of what the group has been put through, some of that lighthearted banter between the two of them has certainly subsided. And even though Carol is back with the group, I think she has been so dramatically changed by everything that's happened to her that she still is having a hard time understanding where she belongs. And Daryl, in this episode, really is trying to find a little opportunity to just wander off by himself, to gather his thoughts. I like when Carol says, "Do you want me to go with you?" She's clearly interested in safeguarding him. There's always a connectedness between the two of them, because they're definitely kindred spirits.
I love the walkers-over-the-ravine scene. It was a clever way of having the exhausted group deal with them. But then the very angry Sasha took it to a different place. During the fight, she accidentally cut Abraham, with the knife that was covered in walker blood. Should we be worried about Abraham's arm?
No. I'm glad that you caught that, though, because that was a subject of discussion. That was really more of an opportunity to convey that Sasha’s reckless behavior is endangering the group as a whole, and putting Abraham in jeopardy, by hurting him. That's an interesting theme. In early drafts of that sequence, we had to be very cautious it didn't come off as cartoon-y, the walkers going over the edge of the ravine and sort of tumbling. It's really more about luring the walkers towards our group and then using the edge of the ravine to dispatch them, so they are expending a minimal amount of energy and still clearing themselves for survival. They wouldn't have made it if it would have been more of a fight.
Sasha's outburst aside, for the most part, even in this desperate scenario, the group members hurting the most are trying to find ways to deal with the grief that don't freak out the others, make them lose their hope.
Yes, without a doubt. And the whole point of the end sequence in the barn, when they’re holding off the walkers and they don't say a word to each other... they’re stronger together than they are individually, even though each one of them is very different. When the doors start moving and each of them goes to the doors, that is an indication that they're not going to stop fighting. Even at their lowest point — the group has been weakened by the loss of two of their people, and the loss of food, and the loss of water — they will band together and fight together.
Is that what finally gives Maggie that push to get up the next morning and wake up Sasha and go look at the sunrise?
It’s an intriguing character arc Maggie has been on for the whole season: She really struggles with her faith for the whole first half of the season. I do think there is a bit of a turning point with Maggie — the idea of going out in this world and the tornado had just gone right past them, and they survived. By divine intervention, they were all spared and survived the night. So she wants to wake up and watch the sun come up and be grateful for the moment they now have.
Another huge moment is the TV show version of Rick's iconic "We are the walking dead" speech from the comics. In the comics, Tyreese is actually a part of that conversation; on the show, it comes right after Tyreese's death, and it made perfect sense. Had you been saving it for this moment, when the group was at its lowest?
Without a doubt. It was definitely constructed to have maximum impact, and it's not like we've had a lot of opportunities to really reach deep and dark into Rick's soul this season. Since [Terminus], and then meeting Gabriel, they haven't really stopped, except for that dinner in the church. This is really one of the first times that Rick is acknowledging they are shells of their former selves.
It's not about the threat that's out there; it's about what that threat and what the world has done to each of them individually, and to them as a group. That's why the appearance of Aaron is so critical. It's timed that way because we want to get our group to hit rock bottom, when Rick is questioning their humanity, and their primal nature to survive... they can survive, but at what cost?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.