Robert Kirkman reveals when The Walking Dead went “too far”

The Walking Dead is pretty unflinching in its portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world and the extreme lengths that survivors will go to to ensure their survival. However, creator Robert Kirkman  — who wrote the show is based on — has revealed there was one occasion he felt was “too far to go.”

Back in issue #17 of The Walking Dead, from 2005, we find hero Rick Grimes suffering from an extreme sense of guilt following the murders of Rachel and Susie, the twin daughters of Hershel Greene and sisters to Maggie. Rick blames himself for convincing Hershel to live at the prison, while his wife Lori tries to convince him that he’s blameless.

After that, inmate Thomas Richards tries to kill Andrea and has to be stopped by Rick. Rick learns that it was Thomas who brutally murdered the teenage girls and loses control, beating the former prisoner senseless and breaking his own hand in the process, justifying it by saying that Thomas had to be stopped from killing again.

Rick plans to execute Thomas. Lori is shocked by her husband’s authoritative tone, saying that killing him makes the survivors no better than him. However, Lori is alone here, and both Andrea and Dale agree with Rick’s new law: “You kill, you die.” After being told by her husband that he’s in charge for a reason, Lori calls him a prick, and Rick shockingly tells his wife to “shut the fuck up” before saying that Thomas will hang tomorrow.

The scene is key to establishing Rick’s state of mind following the murders at the prison, together with earlier events such as the deaths of Tyreese’s daughter Julie and her boyfriend Chris. He becomes increasingly authoritarian as he attempts to maintain the group’s tentative grip on survival.

The Walking Dead: Robert Kirkman’s idea for a brutal Rick-Lori scene “just didn’t work”

Robert Kirkman has revealed, however, that Rick originally went a lot further, with handwritten notes published in June’s The Walking Dead Deluxe #17 showing that he initially struck Lori in the face during her attempt to stop him from beating Thomas to death.

Rick delivers beating. Lori leaves then comes to stop him. Rick hits her. Looks back @ Lori. Goes back to beating Thomas. Tyreese stops him.

Writing in “The Cutting Room Floor” feature in the issue, Kirkman says that he was “trying to push these two to a breaking point,” but his efforts weren’t working and the scene was too much even for The Walking Dead. The writer says, “I realized having Rick hit Lori was just too far to go; it just didn’t work. I settled for the grating ‘shut the fuck up’ moment later in the issue, which is… pretty damn harsh on its own.”

Issue #18 saw Rick and Lori make up and agree that executing Thomas is the only solution. Before the sentence can be carried out, Thomas attacks again and Maggie shoots him dead, avenging her family.

Rick hitting Lori wouldn’t be the only cut to the issue: originally, Thomas locked himself in a cell with Andrea, who loses an ear from his attack.

Full details of the changes made to the comic can be found in this month’s edition of The Walking Dead Deluxe, which is the latest in a new run printed in full-color. Each issue also features fresh variant covers from artists Dave McCaig, David Finch, Tony Moore, Julian Totino Tedesco and Arthur Adams. The series is designed to give readers a whole new perspective on characters and events and breathe new life into the series.

The Walking Dead Deluxe #17 is now on sale at all good comic stores; issue #18 is released Wednesday, July 7, from Image Comics.

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