The Walking Dead has never shied away from gore, and season 5 has to be one of its grisliest ever years. If you need a reminder, that season saw Rick Grimes and company encounter the Terminus gang, nicknamed “Termites,” who turned out to be vicious cannibalistic monsters. Things got very bloody on both sides, as Rick’s lot repaid the Terminus group in kind by brutally wiping them out once they got free.
Things were so brutal, in fact, that Andrew J. West, who played Terminus leader Gareth, wondered whether the episodes he was in would even be allowed to air as shot. While speaking on Skybound’s Talk Dead To Me podcast, West recalled filming some of the horrific scenes from the season premiere, including when Gareth and his men slit a stray survivor’s throat, which led him to question whether any of this visceral footage could be used.
“I remember shooting that trough scene in the beginning of the premiere of Season 5, where my henchmen are going across and cutting the guys’ throats. [Greg] Nicotero was directing that episode, and I remember going up to him and saying, ‘Is this gonna air? How much of this are we gonna see?'” West said. “And he’s like, ‘I don’t know, we’re going to try and get as much as we can.’ I remember thinking, ‘There’s no way. There’s no way AMC is gonna show all of this.’ And they did, they really did.”
West went on to say that, to him, the violence “didn’t feel gratuitous” as it allowed the storyline to explore complex themes about morality, revenge and justice.
“It felt like it was setting up what was to come in that storyline, and sort of the climax of that — my little arc there — was the church scene. Then it sort of spun off from there in terms of, what is morally acceptable now? How do you treat people? How do you behave depending on what other people have done to you, how other people are living, how they’re surviving — it was complicated, and I loved it.”
Fittingly, Gareth met his own gory end when Rick fulfilled the promise he made in the premiere to use the villain’s red-handled machete to kill him, hacking Gareth to death in episode 3. West described his character’s death as “bloody as hell,” adding: “I was digging fake blood out of my ear for weeks after that, too. It was everywhere.”
Despite West’s fears, these episodes aired pretty much without complaint. It wasn’t until the devastating season 7 premiere, which saw Glenn and Abraham horribly murdered by Negan, that AMC revealed they would be toning down the violence somewhat in response to a sizeable backlash.
The Walking Dead will return sometime this year for its delayed tenth season finale.