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AMC’s extremely popular (and extremely gory) zombie drama, The Walking Dead, will return on Sunday for the final eight episodes of its third season, after a midseason break that left fans hanging with a series of cliffhangers in December.
When the series left off, protagonist Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his allies had just faced off against the sinister Governor (David Morrissey) — and though Rick and company managed to escape intact, second-in-command Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) was captured, and the Governor clearly intends to retaliate. What do we know about the second half of The Walking Dead‘s third season? A guide:
1. Rick’s mental state is still “very fragile”
Rick descended into madness over the first half of the season, as he “heard” the voices of his dead wife and allies via a telephone and thought he saw his dead friend Shane during a firefight. Though Rick has generally managed to hide his delusions from the group so far, he won’t be able to do so forever. “Rick’s mental state is very fragile at a time when the group needs him to be on his A-game. And he’s emotionally compromised,” says Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara at Entertainment Weekly. “How do we retain our humanity under such dire circumstances?” adds Mazzara at The New York Times. “That’s something that Rick has to face not only for himself but also for his son and for the group that he’s sworn to protect.”
2. Daryl will be torn between Rick and his brother Merle
In the finale of the first half of this season, the Dixon brothers were reunited for the first time since season one — and the long-simmering tension between Rick and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) will leave Daryl between a Rick and a hard place. “Daryl is caught in the middle and has to make choices,” says Mazzara at Entertainment Weekly. And though he won’t say which side Daryl ends up choosing, Mazarra offers some hints at The Hollywood Reporter: “Merle and Daryl, if you remember, are survivalists — they can handle it out on their own. The question is does Daryl want to leave his new family behind? Does he want to fall back into that same pattern he had his whole life of being Merle’s little brother and taking orders from him and letting him bully him? Also, if Daryl chooses not to put up with that, how does that force Merle to change?”
3. Andrea will continue to oppose her former allies — but feel conflicted
Andrea (Laurie Holden) became romantically involved with the Governor during the first half of the season — but the brewing conflict will force her into a position of power. “As the Governor focuses on his plan to seek revenge on Rick and Michonne, Andrea is forced into a leadership position in Woodbury to protect those people,” says Mazzara at The Hollywood Reporter. And her relationship with Michonne (Danai Gurira) will continue to be a major factor: “I don’t know if there are romantic feelings. That’s something we discussed,” says Mazzara. “It’s a complicated dynamic with how much these women do care for each other. That story line plays out throughout the entire back-half of the season.”
4. Tyreese can’t necessarily be trusted
Readers of The Walking Dead comic book series were happy to see fan-favorite character Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) introduced in the show’s midseason finale — but his ultimate motives are still very much up in the air. “Tyreese is not necessarily a good guy who simply joins Rick’s team and fights against the Governor,” says Mazzara at Entertainment Weekly. “He’s a wild card…. His priority is keeping his own group safe.”
5. Another major character from the comic book will appear
Between Michonne, the Governor, and Tyreese, The Walking Dead has had no shortage of fan service for readers of the comic book — but there’s at least one more on the way, teases Mazzara at Entertainment Weekly.
6. Every character on the show is expendable — including Rick
The first half of The Walking Dead‘s first season was a bloodbath, with major characters like Lori and T-Dog getting the axe — and fans can expect more of the same as the season continues. “There will always be death in The Walking Dead, so I don’t think anybody should get comfortable,” says Mazzara at Entertainment Weekly. “The Governor and Rick are gearing up for war, and without sounding silly, there will be blood.” When Vulture pressed Mazzara about whether even Rick could be killed off, he cryptically replied, “for me, everyone is fair game.”