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Robert Kirkman and Greg Nicotero on The Walking Dead’s Season 4 Premiere

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) - The Walking Dead_Season 4, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Rick Grimes. Photo: Gene Page/AMC

When The Walking Dead’s fourth season began last night, Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon, Michonne, & Co. were living in a state of almost idyllic peace. There was farming, country music, an influx of new characters, and even story time for the kids. But by the end of the premiere, their world was thrown right back into chaos with a spectacularly bloody supermarket scene and a deadly new virus in the air. We caught up with executive producers Robert Kirkman and Greg Nicotero at their premiere party at Pillar37 this weekend, and both men warned us that things are about to get much, much worse.

“Pulling in a new threat in your fourth season, I think, is a good thing,” Kirkman said of the virus. “Also, it’s important to know that this is really just some form of the Spanish Flu. It’s something that exists in our everyday world now; it’s a time where there is no modern medicine. Scott Gimple, the new showrunner, really wanted to explore that new possibility of the simple things, the really little things, coming to devastate these people. That’s what we’re going to explore.”

Kirkman says that the new threat to the camp will quickly eliminate many of the newcomers we saw in the premiere, and Nicotero brought the mood down even further, hinting to Vulture that a fan-favorite might be in danger. “At the end, when Patrick dies, you realize that this is not an isolated incident. [Rick’s] pig is dead, we see the walker at the fence … it’s a ticking time bomb. Now, all of a sudden, [the virus is] right in the middle of the prison. We set up some great beats. Norman [Reedus, as Daryl] set up a great beat when he licks his fingers then shakes Patrick’s hand. You look at it and go, ‘Wait a minute, Daryl licked his fingers and shook Patrick’s hand and now Patrick is [dead].’”

Patrick’s death wasn’t the only terrifying moment in “30 Days Without an Accident.” There was also the bloodbath-from-above at the Big Lots supermarket, which Nicotero told us served a very specific purpose: “At the end of season three, we started talking about how our guys are so adept at killing walkers that the only way they will ever be thwarted is if they’re caught off guard,” he says. “How else do you catch people off guard than by dropping them in a middle of a zombie herd and physically dropping zombies on top of them?”

With Patrick “dead” and on the loose in the sleeping prison, next week’s episode, “Infected,” will find the prisoners caught very off guard when they face some hungry and diseased walkers over in Cell Block D. When we asked if this meant danger for the several new children in the prison, Nicotero assured that absolutely no one will be safe from this disease’s wrath — but also, the children might be less innocent than we think. “They become a really big part of the show, because Carol is determined to make sure that what happened to her and Sophia will never happen to somebody else,” Nicotero says. “That’s why at the end of the first episode, she’s teaching the kids how to defend themselves. What I love is that Carl goes to story time because he wants to be a kid … And he walks in and Carol is like, ‘Okay, so this for slashing and stabbing …’ You’re never immune in our world. We’re up to episode thirteen, and I’m so excited that I can actually talk about it. People better hold on.”

Kirkman and Nicotero on The Walking Dead Virus