WARNING: Spoilers for the latest "Walking Dead" lie ahead.
Like winter in Westeros, war is coming for the cast of "The Walking Dead." On one end of the battlefield is Rick Grimes, the former lawman rapidly losing his sanity as he tries to keep his fellow survivors alive within the walls of a semi-secure prison. On the other end is the ruthless Governor and his walled-in community of Woodbury. Blood has been spilled on both sides of the conflict, leading the two leaders to their first-ever face-to-face sit-down in the latest episode of "Walking Dead," titled "Arrow in the Doorpost."
During their encounter, the Governor offers Rick a solution to their mutual problem: in exchange for a ceasefire, Rick must offer up Michonne, the sword-slinging survivor who destroyed the Governor's eye and killed his zombified daughter, Penny. But even as Rick seriously considers the offer, the Governor is already preparing plans to betray and slaughter the leader of the prison and his people.
With much on his mind — including visions of his dead wife Lori — Rick's stress levels are at an all-time high, and his sanity is quite possibly at an all-time low. To hash things out further, MTV News reached out to "Walking Dead" leading man Andrew Lincoln for more on Rick's current situation and the inevitable showdown in the final few episodes of season three.
MTV: After building up to this moment all season long, it was very exciting to finally see Rick and The Governor in the same room, face to face. What was your reaction to their initial meeting?
Andrew Lincoln: I've been champing at the bit since [Governor actor David Morrissey] arrived on set. The first time we even saw each other on a filming day was the episode where he shot Axel. The only bit of filming I witnessed was him spraying his gun and bullets in the air as he rode away. I just looked at the rest of the cast and crew and went, "What an a--hole. I hate that guy." [Laughs] It was great to finally get a chance to work with David. I've been a huge admirer of his and, like [Morgan Jones actor] Lennie James, I never had the chance to work with him in my own country, so we did it here in America. It was thrilling. The script was not what I anticipated; I thought it would be much more combative, almost closer to the Shane-Rick confrontation, much more of a clash. But it turned into something really interesting.
There were more mind games, two men sizing each other up, and trying to come to some semblance of an agreement. It was fun. We didn't really talk so much when we were working together because of the nature of the atmosphere in the room, but it was great to get these two men in the same room, to see how they respond to each other. There was almost a bond of common understanding; these are two leaders who have had leadership thrust upon them, for whatever reason. In spite of all of the conflict and confrontations, they can speak to each other like they can speak to no one else in their world. It was quite an enjoyable experience to play around with that. I think it was vital that Rick almost, almost, has sympathy for the guy.
When he sees the eye revealed, when he realizes the guy lost his daughter — and I thought it was a very smart move that Michonne, the outsider in the group who I have been very reticent about all season long, having her be the reason to call things off... that was interesting.
MTV: I thought so too. Last week's episode got a lot of praise, and was highlighted for being a stand-alone episode. But now, in light of new events, last week's episode feels vital: the Governor's terms, to hand over Michonne in exchange for peace, wouldn't have the same resonance if we hadn't seen that road trip with Rick and Michonne.
Lincoln: It's a beautiful counter-point to that last episode. Everybody was hoping that these two alpha individuals, Michonne and Rick, would come to terms, that she'd finally become part of the family. It's also great, because this is still a man who is unstable, who has just been called out by his son, that maybe he's not the leader he was. I really wanted the audience to feel the poison as it comes into Rick's ear, the solution of giving Michonne up. When I read the script, I thought maybe we should cut out before we hear the Governor say that to him, and that the reveal would have been on the bridge with Hershel — and you only realize that Rick lied to his group, that a deal is going down, when he tells Hershel. But it works. I love playing around with the story, but I love how it worked. I agree with you. Last week's episode was my favorite since the pilot, because it has so many resonances with the pilot — but equally, this week's went to a completely different area. I really didn't anticipate the story heading this way, especially after the conflict we've had. I thought it was a very smart thing for Glen and the writers to do.
MTV: Seeing Rick and the Governor interact was interesting, but I was equally interested in some of the other interactions — Daryl and Martinez, Hershel and Milton. You get the sense that under different circumstances, these people would work well together.
Lincoln: Josh, I'm with you. I'm totally with you. The stories I've always loved from conflicts and war zones, is when you would hear about the Germans and the English waking up on Christmas day and playing a game of soccer. I think this entire episode is about a common understanding — and that makes it much more painful that there's such an inevitability about this conflict, led by these forceful individuals. Those scenes were my favorites when I read the script. I loved everything I had to do with the Governor, but to have that discussion as well, was brilliant.
MTV: War is a very real possibility for Rick right now. Not the best timing, considering the recent state of Rick's mind. Is he ready for what's coming up?
Lincoln: I don't know if he'll ever be the man he was, and that's one of the great joys of playing this part. He does keep changing and building up in other areas of his psyche, but he's deteriorating in others. I do think he's one of these animals who is galvanized by action. ... I think if Rick had been alone, he might not have been this tenacious survivor. But he has this family now, this incredibly tight family. In spite of losing his wife, he has this incredibly loyal unit he calls his family. That's his driving force. And certainly his son is pulling him very much back into reality. In the last episodes before we finish this season, you see a man coming out of the darkness and hopefully returning. I don't think he can return the complete man that he was, but he realizes the enormous responsibility on his shoulders. He has to step up.
MTV: We're close to the finish line on season three now. What can you tease about the final few episodes?
Lincoln: The final few episodes ... well, fifteen is epic, and incredibly emotional. It's one of my favorite episodes, as is sixteen. I won't be amiss in saying that not everybody gets out alive. Of course — we are "The Walking Dead," after all! [Laughs] And it's season three!
What did you think of Rick and the Governor's first meeting? Tell us in the comments section below or let me know on Twitter @roundhoward!