Warning: Character and storyline spoilers ahead for the current season of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead doesn't take killing off its major characters lightly, and the death of Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) in Sunday night's midseason finale hit everyone — from viewers to cast members to series producers — especially hard. But TWD showrunner Scott Gimple tells Yahoo TV that there are legitimate storytelling reasons for the loss of Beth, which will continue to reverberate when the show returns for the second half of Season 5 in February.
Gimple also warns that Rick Grimes's group will delve into even darker places following the loss of Beth, tells us not to count out the still-comatose Eugene, discusses Rick's regrets, and teases that hope for the gang may be coming in the form of Rick's old pal Morgan.
Why was this the time for Beth to die?
It's an incredibly tough thing that is unique to this show, with the situation that these characters are in, how many of them die. We try to tell stories about those deaths that mean something. Beth was a character who didn't know she was strong. She thought she was weak, and she found out that she had it in her all along, that strength. She came into contact with someone who portrayed themselves as strong — Dawn — but who ultimately was weak. It's sad and tragic and awful that when Beth found her strength, when she was ready to face the world, that this weak character took her out. But Beth couldn't allow Noah to go back into the hospital just so Dawn could appear strong. She couldn't take that, and she struck out.
Did Dawn mean to kill her? I don't believe she did. We tried to portray it with some ambiguity. That makes it that much more tragic. We don't like hurting the audience; that's not what we're about. We're trying to tell stories that don't always have happy endings. They didn't for Bob, and they didn't for Hershel. One might say Gareth had a happy ending because he didn't have to be that guy anymore. It's a really terrible thing, but it’s also part of these stories we tell that we have these characters find out just how precious life is, and how much they all mean to each other, and how they have to find ways to go on once they've lost them.
I know we could have told amazing stories with Hershel, I know we could have told amazing stories with Bob, I know we could have told amazing stories with Beth. These characters are not killed because we didn't have more story for them. They were killed because that was part of the story, and we all — the producers and writers and actors of the show, the audience — we all have to feel these losses. It's a part of the story.
But I'm definitely ready to apply to The Big Bang Theory. I don't think they kill anybody.
What does this particular character death do for the storyline? How will it change the other characters and their direction?
The question is, Where do they go from here? Where do they go in a practical way, but also an emotional way? How do they deal with the fact that they got so close to everything working out, and then it was all snatched away from them so quickly and so definitively, in such an awful way? These characters are going to face some pronounced darkness. It's going to harden them that much more, but then it can't all be dark. When the light finally breaks out, are they going to be prepared to receive it?
Everyone's going to be impacted by Beth's death, but Daryl and Maggie especially. Viewers have questioned why Maggie hasn't been more worried about Beth throughout the season, but has it been a matter of Maggie not allowing herself to think about Beth? That if she started thinking about any of that, she wouldn't be able to go forward?
Yes. That was actually very well said. At the beginning of [the Season 5 premiere], she asks Daryl if Beth is alive. Daryl says she's alive. Now, saying that anybody is alive days after you've last seen them in a very fraught situation is a statement of hope. It is not definitive. It has been difficult for Maggie to just be like, "Oh yes, she's definitely alive, and everything's cool." She hasn't been able to access that, and we will be talking a little bit about that in the second half of the season.
The opening moments of the episode, with Rick chasing down Lamson, were brutal. How much of Rick's behavior there was anger at himself for having allowed himself to trust Lamson after everything they've been through?
I think he was angry with himself for that, but I think ultimately it was just an act of pragmatism. "I have to stop him. We cannot have him get back to the hospital, so I'm going to take care of this." It was just sort of bottom-line, taking care of business. He didn't enjoy it, but he isn't wringing his hands over it, either. Rick has learned he simply has to do what needs to be done to keep his family and his people safe.
I think [Beth's death] has cemented him that much more into that way of thinking. It hasn't changed him as much as verified his approach, which is a no-nonsense, take-no-chances, making sure he and his family and his people are safe no matter what, approach.
In hindsight, would Rick have gone with Tyreese's plan? Or would he have gone with his original plan to rescue Beth and Carol?
If it was up to him, he probably would have gone with his original plan. Would that plan have worked? I really don't know, in that confined space with that many guns.
Eugene appeared to be waking up a little bit at the end of "Crossed," but in the midseason finale, he was still either asleep or unconscious in the fire truck. What can you say about him going forward?
Eugene is getting there. He has a bit of healing to do. Abraham did a number on him. But Eugene is a serious part of the next half of the season.
In the Season 5B preview from Talking Dead, Michonne is trying to convince everyone they should move forward, find another safe haven. Is that a big goal in the second half of the season, to find somewhere they can build a community again, like at the prison, instead of just surviving day to day?
I think that's Michonne's goal. Seeing Carl in the church talking about being prepared to just live out in the world, and seeing her people becoming more hardened, and seeing how things went down in the hospital, Michonne is very into the idea of finding another safe place.
Two hopeful things at the end of an incredibly sad episode: 1) The whole group is back together, and 2) the reappearance of Morgan. Seeing Morgan, and having him find that map with his friend's name on it, may be the only thing that could have possibly provided a happy moment after Beth's death. So what does Morgan's second appearance this season mean?
I like hearing the word "happy," because it is a very sad episode. And in Season 7, these postcredit appearances by Morgan are really going to take off... no, no, I'm kidding.
Morgan had a prayer. He kind of laughed at the whole idea of praying in this world. Right afterward, he finds this map that has maybe his only friend in the world's name on it. Maybe Rick is somewhere close by, or maybe he's on this path to find him, but at the very least, something's going on here. He's motivated to look for Rick, I would say. That's a very hopeful thing.
Don't know how that's going to turn out. It could turn out badly. Things turned out badly [Sunday] night. Or it could turn out well, or it could be somewhere in between. At the very least, there's a nice little hopeful element right there. Just by virtue of the place, mentally, that Morgan seems to be in, that's a hopeful thing, too. Think about where our group is after the loss of Beth, which is just devastating. They are just crunched down into the earth, and yet here's Morgan standing up, doing all right. Does that mean that maybe there's hope for our characters too, coming back from wherever they are?
The Walking Dead Season 5 returns on Feb. 8 on AMC.