Published Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Grantville Episode: 'Walking Dead' shows off downtown landmarks


Ever since the first season of AMC television network’s hit show “The Walking Dead” aired, a big question — maybe the biggest — in the minds of many viewers has been, Will we ever find out what happened to the father and son who saved Rick from zombies in the premiere episode?

And since the third season began, there has been a question on the minds of many Cowetans — When will the scenes filmed in Grantville finally air?

Both those questions were answered Sunday. But then, most residents in Grantville knew the answers all along.

In the show, Rick, Carl and Michonne return to Rick and Carl’s hometown, hoping to scavenge weapons for the upcoming war against the Governor.

They roll into downtown Grantville, first checking out the old sheriff’s department and jail to see if any of the weapons Rick left are still there.

It’s clear the town has been fortified by someone, and it only takes a few moments for that person to appear — perched on top of a building with a rifle and wearing body armor and a helmet. He tells the three to drop their weapons and leave.

Of course, these three are not going to give up their weapons, so Rick tells Carl to run to the car, and Michonne tries to get on top of the building. Carl ends up shooting the man after he comes down from the rooftop. He’s only unconscious, not dead, thanks to his bulletproof vest.

When Rick pulls off his assailant’s mask, he sees it’s Morgan. In the first episode of the first season, it was Morgan and his son Duane who found Rick wandering the streets, after the sheriff woke up in an abandoned hospital in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

In Sunday’s episode, they drag the unconscious Morgan up the steps to his apartment — which in actuality is the home of Grantville Mayor Jim Sells.

The other major location featured in the episode is the city’s transformed — and almost completely unrecognizable — freight depot.

The historic railroad depot was turned into the King County Café. Carl and Michonne embark on a risky trip into the zombie-infested restaurant to recover a framed photo of Carl, Rick and Lori that hangs in the restaurant. Carl wants his baby sister to know what her mother looked like.

And as they leave town, they drive by some of the most distinctive buildings in Grantville — the roofless ruins of the city’s former cotton mill. Inside, Morgan disposes of zombie bodies.

Sunday night was a festive one in Grantville, with a watching party held for the show.

“They told us early on we were Episode 12, so we knew it was coming,” said Sells. Previews for the episode clearly showed characters of the show walking into Grantville.

“We loved it. It’s the talk of the town,” said Sells. “We really enjoyed seeing it, because everybody recognized everything in it.”

“It was really good to see the town,” said Grantville resident Michelle Foster, who watched the show at home with her daughter, Mandy. “You could see the genealogy library, the Methodist Church in the background, the set of buildings that once housed Nick’s Pizzeria.”

Though Morgan’s return was a big surprise for most viewers of “The Walking Dead,” some residents in Grantville already knew he was coming back — because they saw him.

He was only in town for one day, Sells said. Lennie James is a “very busy actor. Everything was timed around him being able to come for the day,” he said.

But it was kept very secret what happened to Duane.

“We were all wondering what happened to his son,” Sells said.

Duane, as it turns out, was killed by his zombie mother, which was a surprise to most fans of the show. When we last saw Morgan in the series premiere, he was sitting upstairs in the house where he and his son set up camp, using the rifle Rick gave him to practice head shots on the walkers below — with the intent of shooting his zombie wife.

But he never followed through, and one day she came upon Duane, who was unable to shoot her, and attacked him.

Morgan’s stronghold in Sunday’s episode, complete with writing all over the walls and plenty of booby traps, is the front side of Sells’ downtown apartment. Sells said filming crews used the back side for makeup and a place for the directors to watch from and the front side as Morgan’s home.

“It was really interesting,” said Sells, who had to move out for three weeks. He was surprised to see how much filming was done inside.

The set crews are “incredible craftsmen,” said Sells. “They painted Morgan’s room four times,” he said.

But the real craftsmanship was in turning the train depot into the King County Café. Crews erected a false doorway for the restaurant and painted red signs on the white depot. The porch railings were removed, and the inside was transformed into a restaurant.

“That restaurant was complete. If you didn’t know what they were doing and you walked in there you would think it was a real restaurant,” Sells said. “I couldn’t believe the attention to detail. It was phenomenal.”

They even paid him $65 to rent a pinball machine and put it in the café.

“And when they left, everything was back like it was,” Sells said.

Sunday’s episode, “Clear,” will replay at 10 p.m. Friday, 3 a.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday.

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