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The Walking Dead ends mid-season as ratings king, change on horizon for the gang

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AMC's undead juggernaut The Walking Dead reached its midway point which aired on December 1st, and following the shocking mid-season finale, fans of the hit drama will be anxiously anticipating its return in February of 2014. The inevitable showdown between Rick's ailing prison crew and the Governor's contingent reached its "deadly" conclusion as advertised by AMC, attracting a healthy-sized audience to the tune of 12.1 million viewers. Following Sunday's highly watched, bloody finale, many question marks loom over Rick and the gang; part 2 of season 4 is sure to bring at least one new element to the show's plot when AMC's undead thriller returns, change (amctv.com).

The mid-season finale of The Walking Dead's 4th season saw familiar challenges, yet spurned a new wrinkle in Rick and the gangs operation moving forward; is Rick still the right person to lead the crew? AMC leaves viewers with questions to ponder over the three month break; will the prison gang, now scattered, be able to reunite and find another safe haven? Another dubious aspect of the plot going forward after the mid-season finale is the whereabouts of kitana wielding, lone-wolf Michonne. Did she end up finding her way to the getaway bus or flee with any of the other splintered units?

Rick's humanity, which has been fleeting since his all but forgotten days as Sheriff's deputy Grimes in season 1, has placed he and his dutiful crew in several precarious situations over the last two seasons. As the former prison crew struggles to re-establish their footing yet again under Rick, who appears ready to completely abandon his role of reluctant leader, the second act of season 4 looks to pose new obstacles beyond finding a new fort to replace the piece of mind lost in the prison war during the mid-season finale.

Season 4, which chronicled Rick, Daryl, Michonne and rest of the prison crew's precipitous climb to survive the perils of walkers, a deadly virus, and a maniacal psychopath, saw the events which concluded season 3's finale, "Welcome to the Tombs", come full circle. The prison crew passed on chances to take out the Governor during two very opportune moments in season 3 when Andrea decided against a prime chance to kill the sleeping Governor and when Rick, sitting face-to-face with Woodbury's homicidal leader, tried to reason rather than end the threat of more blood being shed. Andrea's decision directly resulted in her death while Rick's took months to come back and haunt the prison gang, leading the Governor right back to the prison gates, this time with tank in tow.

For those who have not seen the mid-season finale "Too Far Gone", as is true with most Walking Dead finales leading into a series break, lives were lost. AMC does not usually spare anything in the shock and awe department, and "Too Far Gone" is no different. The stakes were high in the series' midway point, instead of humans versus the undead, the calamitous mid-season finale pit human against human in a fight for rights to the prison; the winner gaining the security of its walls, the loser forced to leave and find new asylum in a world littered with walkers.

The Governor (David Morissey) begins "Too Far Gone" by giving a rousing speech to his crew preaching the unit's "survival and piece of mind"; after bringing the prison gang's character into question and convincing his crew of greener pastures behind the prison walls, the Governor (no longer agreeing with the "Governor" moniker) prepares to use his new captives, Hershel and Michonne, to find a peaceful resolution (Hoffman, Dickerson, December 1, 2013).

As Rick, Tyreese, Carl, and crew scramble to restore balance to the prison while those ailing from the mystery virus recover, a thunderous explosion rattles the prison bringing Rick and Daryl rushing outside to see the Governor standing on a tank. The Governor gives Rick til sundown to abandon the prison or he will kill his captives (Hershel and Michonne) and take the prison anyway. After Rick gives one final heartfelt plea to the Governor and his people to stave war and unite both sides against the real enemy (the walkers), the Governor, dismissing this notion, proceeds to behead Hershel in front of everyone, including his own two daughters, beginning an all out war between both camps. The war ends up destroying the prison both sides are fighting for and ultimately costs the Governor his life after he is mortally wounded by Michonne and shot in the head by Lilly.

The prison war, which had been brewing since season 3's finale "Welcome to the Tombs", was nothing short of cataclysmic and will mean a fresh start of sorts for Rick, Carl and the rest who are yet again forced to find refuge as they scour the land of the undead. When part 2 of season 4 returns next year, viewers will be watching a new set of challenges beyond the prison walls that housed the crew for the last two seasons. How will Rick, Carl, and the rest of The Walking Dead survivors that fled the prison find each other? Will a new leader emerge or can Rick find it within himself to take the reigns for another season? Tune into AMC February 9th, 2014 when The Walking Dead returns with new episodes to find out.

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