Warning: Possible spoilers ahead.
The Ricktatorship is alive and Ricktatoring. In one of the more surprising moments of "The Walking Dead" so far, Rick Grimes banished admitted murderer Carol from the prison group in Sunday's "Indifference."
With the idea of safety-in-numbers clearly taking a back seat to Rick's bigger concerns — like whether or not Carol could be trusted not to kill others, including Rick's children — at the infection-overrun jail, "The Walking Dead" executive producer Gale Anne Hurd talked to Yahoo TV about Sunday night's episode, and reiterated a warning offered by series stars like Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus: There are lots more twists ahead, and you will not see them coming. "I assure you of that," Hurd says.
[Related: Most Shocking 'Walking Dead' Moments So Far]
This episode, with Rick's big decision about Carol, felt as monumental, as game changing, as some of the big character deaths.
Yes. We do tend to make our fourth episode of the season … it's become sort of a tradition that something explosive happens in the fourth episode. Last season it was Lori dying and T Dog dying. This season it's equally monumental, but just in a completely different way.
Did Rick know when he left the prison with Carol on the supply run that he wasn't going to bring her back?
I think he wanted to see how she handled it. Was she regretful, was she repentant [about killing Karen and David], or is she someone that it might be dangerous to have around? I think he was using their reconnaissance trip to feel her out. At the same time, he has, up until this point, abdicated power to the council. Of course, with the outbreak of the virus, a lot of the people on the council are sick. And she was on the council. It may be that Rick will have to revert to making decisions on his own.
What do you think was the one moment that pushed him into the decision?
I think there were a number. One of them, I think, though, was when she was so eager to just leave [Sam and Ana], the two new people that they encountered behind, and basically said, "They're not here. Let's leave." [He begins to wonder] if Carol has become so heartless that she might make a decision that would end in one of his family members' or other friends' loss of life? Has this brutal world created someone incredibly callous in Carol, the person who was certainly one of the most almost touchy-feely people, and certainly someone who, up until the zombie apocalypse, was a victim?
He has to weigh all that in his mind. Is she someone who's going to be safe to leave Judith with? Is she someone that he can entrust Carl to? It's a delicate balance between making good decisions and tough decisions, and making the wrong decisions.
The cast and crew break down the fourth episode, "Indifference":
The watch seemed to be a key thing, too. Carol gave Rick her watch not as a memento, but because she assumed the reason he was so upset about Sam's death was because Sam had his watch …
Right, which is, of course, not it at all. In her mind, at this point, I think we're getting the sense that practical decisions become almost more important than human life. Human life is only valuable … she thinks there's a certain point at which you just cut bait.
And yet, on one level, on a purely survival level, you can understand her justification for what she did, up to a point.
Of course. If you think about it, if it had worked, if the illness had been stopped in its tracks because she'd killed Karen and David, you'd be looking back on it a lot differently, maybe. Or maybe not, but the truth is, it didn't work. In retrospect, it certainly was not only the wrong move, but indefensible.
Carol accepted Rick's decision to banish her from the prison fairly quickly and easily, even after he told her she couldn't take Lizzie and Micah with her. Did she maybe agree a little too quickly, a little too easily? Maybe this isn't the end of Carol's time with the group?
She also answered very quickly when he asked if she was responsible for the deaths back in ["Isolation"]. She's become a real pragmatist. I don't think she's going to spend a lot of effort defending her actions or arguing. She understood at the time that there could very well be repercussions, and that they would be severe.
If you look at Season 2, they were ready to kill Randall because they didn't want him to get away and warn the camp he was with that they were on the farm, because then armed killers and rapists would come back. They were to the point of killing him. I am sure that Carol knows that could've also been a choice [for her]. It was not just about banishment.
Rick made this decision without input from others. Will he regret that?
He would not have been able to keep that information [about what Carol did] to himself if she came back. I'm sure, given the confrontation that he had with Tyreese, that he would've assumed Tyreese would've killed her.
But is he worried that Tyreese will be just as upset when he finds out what Carol did and then doesn't have the chance to confront her about it because Rick has tossed her out of their community?
At the moment, he was just doing the expedient thing. It was certainly far more expedient than creating one more crisis that would traumatize everyone by saying, "OK, I've brought her back. She's guilty. She's admitted to it. Now what are we going to do?" I think there's a point at which a good leader says, "I'm going to handle it, and I'm going to handle it now."
We've gotten a lot of hints this season that Michonne might be ready to open up, especially to Daryl. Will we get more of her backstory soon?
It's certainly possible. We certainly have seen her begin to open up. She's not just a character who scowls, who's a quiet scowler.
She told Daryl she's ready to give up on looking for the Governor, that she'll be sticking around the prison …
They have bigger fish to fry at this point. When everything is going well, and they're growing crops, and they have essentially a peaceful existence, you can pursue [him], whether it's revenge, or even a hobby, but not when their lives are in such jeopardy.
Speaking of the Governor, the first four episodes of the season have been so eventful that we've almost forgotten about him, but he's still out there, probably ready to strike at some point?
We have a lot of story, and we have a lot of characters. That's what's been wonderful. We've had opportunity, without having to introduce the Governor, to get to know the characters more deeply and see how they react with another threat.
Was that always the plan? With Tyreese, for example, who is such a beloved character in the comics, and who people were so excited about when he came on to the show. Was that always the plan, that we would get to know him gradually, and then this season he really became front and center?
It was always the plan that Tyreese would have a much greater role, but we had so many characters last season. I know it's difficult, because not everyone makes it through to the next season, but if everyone did, we couldn't add to the cast.
Are you finished filming on Season 4 now?
No, not quite yet.
"Breaking Bad" director Michelle MacLaren is directing an episode later this season. Is that the season finale?
Yes, it is. We are big fans.
George Romero recently told a British magazine he'd been asked to direct some episodes, but turned down the offer. What was the reason he gave?
We had talked to him very early on, yes. He basically said he created his own zombie universe. He said what he wants to say about zombies, and we're saying what we want to say. We understood that entirely.
How would you describe, in general, the rest of Season 4?
I would say what's about to happen … you certainly won't see it coming. I assure you of that. (Laughing) And it's not just one thing. It's cumulative.
Watch a sneak peek of the next "Walking Dead" episode:
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.