"The Walking Dead" returns on Sunday (Feb. 9) following a brutal mid-season finale in December, in which the moral center of the group (Hershel Greene, played by Scott Wilson) came to his tragic end.
After The Governor (David Morrissey) gave a last push into the prison yard (and ultimately getting sliced himself), the beloved prison group was forced from their home, scattered to the wind and splintered beyond belief.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his son Carl (Chandler Riggs) are forced to deal with the possible death of baby Judith. When the winter finale closed, all that was found was a bloody carseat, leaving the family in even worse shape than they ever were before.
Maggie Green (Lauren Cohan), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) are injured and left in the dust, as the bus -- with Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) on board -- takes off out of the gates.
Meanwhile, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Beth Greene (Emily Kinney); Glenn and a bus full of red shirts; and Carol Peletier, who had been exiled earlier in this season, (Melissa McBride) are faced with overwhelming uncertainty. Some will break; others will become stronger.
In the interim, katana-welding Michonne (Danai Gurira) finds herself all alone, going up against a cruel world of walkers and coming to terms with Hershel's death. As has been teased before, fans will get a much-needed look into her past.
The episode, appropriately titled "After," rises with Michonne, still at the prison, taking out walkers. Fans will be sad to know that she is tasked with putting down Hershel's now-turned head, but elated to see a dead Governor. There is no sign of Lilly, who put a bullet in his brain in the very last moments of the mid-season finale.
Cut to: Michonne flashback. As evidenced by the photos above, it is revealed that she did have a son, an adorable one, at that. You can also witness her two "pets" before they were, her "love" and his best friend Mike. "They weren't human to begin with," she had told Andrea back in Season 3. How exactly it all plays out remains to be seen.
The dream-like state plays out like some twisted nightmare. In a bright orange top, Michonne is chopping away at a cutting board. Moments later, her knife transforms into her signature katana, blending fact and fiction. Her son runs into the room, and she picks him up. The little group are debating about staying in camp, but Mike doesn't want to take her son along.
As she turns, her lover has lost his arms, symbolism of what eventually transpires. Her mind is muddled, blending her past with her present. While the sequence is vague in presentation, fans will be able to get a sense of what happened next.
All in all, "After" only focuses on three characters: Carl, Rick and Michonne. Heading into the hour-long episode, Carl and a down-and-out Rick wonder across the landscape, trying to find shelter. With Carl coming of age, all his rage pours out and onto his father like a busted faucet. He's hurt over the "death" of Judith, and of course, over the beheading of Hershel. But don't fret, they will meet up with Michonne (who is coming to terms with everything in her own way) by the episode's end, shedding a bit of hopeful optimism on the group.
"The Walking Dead" returns on Sunday, Feb. 9, on AMC at 9/8c.
Check out photos of the Michonne flashback above.