*WARNING: Spoilers for The Walking Dead season nine*
Showrunner Angela Kang spilled the secrets behind The Walking Dead‘s latest bloodbath, which saw The Whisperers capture and kill several Hilltop residents, leaving their zombified heads on pikes to mark a border for the group’s territory.
In the closing moments of episode 15, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Siddiq (Avi Nash) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsurra) come face to face with the severed heads of Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Henry (Matt Lintz), the adopted son of Carol and Ezekiel (Khary Payton).
“It’s really hard to decide who dies,” Kang told Entertainment Weekly. “And any time there is death on the show, sometimes it’s just story-related, sometimes, as with Andy [Lincoln], it’s because there’s a personal factor. There are contractual things.”
“There are all kinds of things that go on. In this case, we love all of our actors. Some of the people who are on those pikes, we knew from the time we cast them that they were gonna be on the pikes. We specifically cast Brett Butler as Tammy knowing that she would wind up in that array. And we told her that at the time we cast her.”
Kang added, however, that the death of some characters was intended to feel random, as “we think that with Alpha, in some ways, this is an act of terrorism. And the thing about it is it’s terrifying because sometimes you don’t exactly understand how or why she picked her exact victims. And so that’s a big part of it.”
The showrunner also teased the show’s future, hinting that there will be “some more Highwaymen stuff” despite the death of their leader Ozzy (Angus Sampson).
Season nine’s finale will also explore the impact of this event on Carol. “We started this season seeing her really happy,” she said. “We saw her get engaged and be married, and she grew out her hair because she wasn’t being abused. She had this happy family. And obviously, a loss like this is going to have a gigantic emotional impact. We’ll start to see some of that impact in the finale episode, and where her head is at and what she winds up doing.”
Yet, the finale is also set to “take a little bit of a left turn”, with Kang adding: “We’ve seen our people go up against enemies. We’ve seen them go to war. We know kind of the rhythms and what that looks like. And we wanted to explore like, ‘Okay, well the Whisperers are a completely different group than we’ve ever encountered before. What’s different about if something like this happens when it’s the Whisperers involved?’ So we thought that we wanted to tell the beginning of that aftermath here.”
The Walking Dead airs its season nine finale on 31 March in the US and 1 April on FOX in the UK.