"The Walking Dead" invaded Comic-Con again this week — its fourth appearance before a devoted fanbase that is multiplying faster than the undead in postapocalyptic Georgia.
The AMC zombie hit didn't deviate from its usual panel MO: offering up a few tasty morsels about the upcoming season but nothing meaty for fans to really chew on. After screening a tantalizing trailer for Season 4, showrunner Scott Gimple acknowledged that "it's going to get insane very quickly." No kidding: The walkers are evolving from solo wanderers to aggressive herds. "It's an escalation," said creator Robert Kirkman. "The world is getting worse."
Watch the Season 4 Comic-Con trailer now:
Fortunately, the producers and cast were a bit more forthcoming during interviews with the press later that afternoon. Here are a few of the highlights:
"TWD" Meets "World War Z"
"It's a world in which the walkers predominate more than ever, and they're pressing in upon them," executive Gale Anne Hurd told reporters. "They're not just out one walker in a field somewhere. They're omnipresent, and they're pretty ravenous. And boy, does Greg Nicotero have some new tricks up his sleeve."
"This season we've surpassed other seasons in terms of walkers," agreed the show's special-effects mastermind, co-EP, and frequent director. Praised star Andrew Lincoln, "They put pressure on the group in a completely new way and also made the zombies terrifying again in one fell swoop."
At the same time, Norman Reedus, who plays fan favorite Daryl Dixon, said, "You don't just see a monster" in Nicotero's "creepy" creations. "You see the sad, lost, dying person behind the monster."
"A few walkers this season have some significance in terms of story," conceded Nicotero, "and you'll see it in the first couple episodes. … You don't always want [the zombie] to be scary; sometimes it can be creepy, sometimes it can be unsettling, but you kind of invest in it. … This season we've made it a point to integrate the gags in those moments. There was one in an episode we just shot the other day that we've never done before, and it was so great. "
Among the Living
We'll also see "a new format to the way the stories are told" in Season 4, hinted Kirkman, "in the same way that Season 3 had a new format. There's going to be a similar element done in a very different way."
"The power dynamics will be very different, we'll come at them from a different angle from what you expected," added EP David Alpert.
"It's interesting having three alpha males in a setup now, and that's quite a combustible mix," said Lincoln — correcting himself to "three and a half" to include Rick's son, Carl. "[He's] a young man who's got different attitudes to his dad. … It's about that wrestling match as well."
"[Rick's] son becoming a murderer made him rethink his responsibilities as a father … and maybe his whole attitude to surviving in this world," said Lincoln. "That's where you arrive certainly in Episode 1."
"When I read the first script, I was really surprised and thrilled — certainly for my character," said Lincoln. "Where they put Rick at the beginning of this season is nowhere near what I anticipated, and for that reason alone I was very, very happy."
Chad Coleman is also delighted about the show's "jaw-dropping commitment" to his own character, Tyreese: "Each and every script's just wow, wow, wow ... the audience opening him up and getting an opportunity to see who he is, and they've been spot-on with that."
Showrunner Survival Skills
Instead of being daunted by taking over the reins as TWD's third showrunner, Gimple said, "it really feels comfortable. I know all of these people; I know how this show is made. I love doing it."
Initially, however, Gimple said he was "wary" about working on set — but only because of the bugs. "I'm not the most outdoorsy fellow," he admitted. In fact, Kirkman had to stop him from purchasing a full-body protective net. "I said, 'Scott, you can't go to Georgia in a spacesuit. No one is going to respect you.'"
The Governor's Return
After playfully defending his character's murderous rampage, David Morrissey said, "It takes its toll on him and it costs something inside him … [but] you have to wait to see what that cost is." (At least he doesn't have to worry about his head floating in someone's fish tank.)
Gimple loves the fact that Morrissey's return to the show "keeps people guessing — and keeps us doing new and interesting and crazy things. I think when you see what we do with him in Season 4, you'll be like, 'Oh yeah, that is a great reason to keep that guy around.' It's gonna be some really cool stuff."
Although Michonne "finds comfort" in being alone, Danai Gurira said she has chosen join Rick's gang because she believes "there's something about this group of people that in some ways could save her soul." When asked about potential romantic hookups, Gurira laughed: "Everyone wants Michonne to get some! It's so sweet. I appreciate that!" Nicotero, however, joked that sex would "take her mojo away."
"Her tantric power is stilled!" responded Gurira. "We can't do it!"
Status: In a Relationship
"We're a couple — it's official," said Lauren Cohan, reconfirming Glenn and Maggie's popular pairing. "We do try to live this season, not just survive," she explained about the show's only, well, surviving couple. But don't expect the lovebirds to provide a playmate for baby Judith. "It's like being at the precipice of deciding what survival and what society is," Steven Yeun said darkly. "It's kind of the mantra for everyone: What is the point of life?"
Watch Your Back, Daryl Dixon
"I get a lot of hate mail every time I kill any character in the comic, which always aggravates me," said Kirkman when asked whether any "Dead" characters should be untouchable. "Specifically about the Daryl thing — that fan reaction's going to get him killed, because I feel like it's a dare. I'm like, 'Oh really, really? You're going to riot? All right, we'll see.' No one is safe."
"The Walking Dead" returns Sunday, 10/13 at 9 PM on AMC