Don’t panic! The Walking Dead Season 4 is almost here again. After December 1's Episode 8 mid-season finale, the AMC show will finally return with eight more episodes, starting Sunday, February 9 with Episode 9, "After." Use this time to psych yourself up for the second half. To help, here are 10 things you can look forward to, now that the excitement/devastation of the prison war is behind us.
1. Cliffhanger Resolution
Um, yeah! Try cliffhangers plural. On the mid-season finale, all of our survivors fled the prison in half a dozen different directions. Episode 9 will follow three characters — Michonne (Danai Gurira), and (separate from her, for a little bit) Rick and Carl. We'll see their post-prison actions first, then follow the others in Episode 10. The February 9 episode will give us a glimpse into Michonne's past and show the changing relationship between the Grimes guys, who believe baby Judith died in the prison attack. We believe (or at least hope) otherwise.
2. Carl Owns Episode 9
Normally we wouldn’t be too pumped for a Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) episode, but we’ll take whatever Team Prison content we can get. A while back, TVLine shared a spoiler on the 2014 mid-season premiere. According to Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes), it’s a big showcase for Carl. “[Carl] does something this season…. Man,” Andy teased, laughing. “Episode 9 is his episode. It’s so cool.” Yes, the promos and sneak peeks (watch the videos below) have heavily featured Carl, who is coming into his own.
3. Lots of Comic Book Stuff in Episode 9
Robert Kirkman, who wrote the comic books and executive produces the AMC show, wrote Episode 9, and a while back he told AMC, “Episode 9 will probably be the episode that’s closest to a direct adaptation from the comic book aside from the premiere episode. It’s been a lot of fun for me working on them because I’m basically just rewriting something I’ve already written, which means I get to go back in and go, ‘Woah, what’d you do there? Let’s fix that.’” We're guessing that he's talking about how Carl steps up after the battle, since Rick is injured. That pretty closely follows the comics, so read more about what should happen here.
4. Eugene/Rosita/Abraham Are Coming
We’re expecting three potentially major characters to arrive toward the end of Episode 10: Sgt. Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos), and Dr. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt). In the comics, our group meets Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene back at Hershel’s farm, where the group returns before heading back out on the road. If the TV farm is kaput from the Season 2 fire, we may just meet this trio a different way. Showrunner Scott Gimple has said they’ll tell a “version” of this group’s story, so expect some changes. In the comics, Team Prison joins them on their travels to Washington, D.C., since Eugene says he’s a big-time scientist with answers on how this zombie thing went down and he needs to connect with government and military people in D.C. Kirkman recently told Entertainment Weekly, “I think the main thing to look at is that these are some very interesting and dynamic and explosive characters that will be breathing some new life into the show, which is something that all of our new characters do. They’re going to be pushing things in new directions. So they will definitely be an X factor that changes the dynamic of the show quite a bit. There’s cool things ahead with them.”
5. Some Odd Couplings
Tricia Brock, who directed Episode 10, told Columbia Daily Tribune that Episode 10 will feature four different storylines and "some of the oddest couplings of groups you've seen" on the show. "There was violence, difficulty in dealing with one another, terror,” she added. “It's a very intimate episode. We see how these very odd groups were thrown together and how they deal with that." Maybe it’s a mixture of Team Prison, “good” people from The Governor’s camp (like Tara, maybe Lilly), and the new trio. We are expecting to see Tyreese and Carol in the same group at some point in the back half, since some fans saw them together on set, and that whole Karen killing storyline must be further milked. Lizzie may have a big role in that Tyreese/Carol story too.
6. The Return of Morgan
UPDATE: Bad news! Scott Gimple just gave Entertainment Weekly a Morgan update: "He will not be definitely in season four. Somebody misquoted me on that. Will he be on the show again? Yes. I am absolutely certain of that." His original Morgan quote came during Comic Con and made the rounds via Twitter, but maybe it was taken out of context? Maybe he just said Morgan would return at some point and SFX assumed he meant Season 4? Dang it! Original post: Over the summer, Scott Gimple said Morgan Jones (Lennie James) would return this season. We don’t know how or when, but in the comics, Rick, Carl, and Abraham run into Morgan when they return to Rick’s hometown. Maybe we go back there when Team Prison is out on the road, and maybe Morgan joins the group this time. Or maybe Morgan comes to the group — he could even stumble upon some folks on the road. We're expecting to see him on or just before the season finale, "A."
7. The Arrival of Gareth
Gareth is finally coming! It’s about time, right? Yeah, we don’t know who he is either. All we know is that he’s a remix of an unidentified character from the comic books, he’ll be played by Andrew J. West, he’ll show up in the second half of the season, and his “guest star” role will have an important presence with the option to possibly make him a series regular in Season 5. Or he could just die by the end of the season, who knows. Is he related to The Hunters or perhaps a version of Father Gabriel?
8. The Hunters?
No idea if The Hunters are coming this season or not, but they’ll probably be mentioned or featured at some point … right? The Hunters are a group of survivors featured in the comic books; they are cannibals who hunt people, and they get into a tussle with Rick’s group on the road to Washington, D.C.
9. The Sanctuary?
We haven’t forgotten about that radio message and, thankfully, neither have The Powers That Be. We're supposed to get news on the radio tease "sooner rather than later." (The answer about the rats/rabbit dissection will be coming later.) The sanctuary message is possibly connected to The Hunters, to lure people, but it could be connected to a different kind of sanctuary, like Fort Benning or maybe a place featured in the comics, the Alexandria Safe-Zone. Since the season finale is called "A," do you think that's related to Alexandria, or are they saving that for Season 5? It feels way too early for Negan and The Saviors to show up as the new villains, but maybe they will also arrive in Season 5. (Update: Kirkman recently said Negan will "definitely not" be featured in Season 4. He's actually thinking more like Season 9, although that sounds like way too far ahead. Let's talk him down to Season 6.)
10. An “Ambitious” Season Finale
Season 4 wrapped production in November. While they were filming the season finale, Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) told Vulture, "It's a very ambitious episode; they went big with it.” The Season 4 finale, Episode 16, "A," will air on Sunday, March 30, and here are some early details on that. Will this also be the "most controversial episode" they've ever done, or is that another ep?
After the finale, we’ll have to wait all over again for Season 5 to premiere, probably in mid-October 2014. The cycle continues!
What TWD stuff are you most looking forward to in 2014? The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.