[**Spoiler Alert**: Do not read if you haven't watched Sunday night's winter finale of "The Walking Dead."] Now that’s how you do a winter finale. Sunday night’s episode of “The Walking Dead” delivered shocking twists and turns, a surprising reunion, a ferociously intense shootout, some unexpected newcomers, and a brutal fight scene so eye-poppingly gruesome that it’s easy to forget this show actually airs on basic cable. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the lingering questions that remain for when the show returns with all-new episodes in February.
+ Will Daryl and Merle Both Survive? Daryl, who was taken hostage by the Governor during the Grimes gang’s raid, is treated to an unexpected reunion with his long-lost brother. The two are confronted with each other in the arena by the Governor, who has framed Merle as a terrorist responsible for the invasion. The episode concludes with the people of Woodbury calling for their heads. How and if they make it out alive is anyone’s guess.
+ Will Rick Come to Trust Michonne? Michonne’s disappearing act in which she killed Penny and partially blinded the Governor doesn’t sit well with Rick. Understandably so, given Michonne’s frustrating inability to communicate with actual words. When she does reunite with the group, Rick is dubious of her intentions. But, as she points out, whether they go back into Woodbury to rescue Daryl or return to the prison to fight off the Governor’s remaining legions, Rick needs both her and her sharp sword of death. Of course there’s also the question of why lone wolf Michonne wants to team up with Rick in the first place. In an interview with EW, executive producer Glen Mazzara says, “Now she feels like Rick is a good guy and one of the things we’ll see is a relationship — not a romantic relationship necessarily — but a relationship, a friendship, a human connection with Rick throughout the back half of the season. They sort of need each other. They’ve been like two atoms being drawn to each other. So when she goes back there she feels that if she doesn’t join Rick’s group in some sense, she’ll just perish. She probably won’t survive out there. At some point some zombie or some bad guy will grab her and nobody will give a s—. She’s at rock bottom. She has nothing left. Look at that mess — the fish tanks with heads, and this guy’s crying and holding his eye, and the girl’s got a sword through her mouth. I don’t think you can really hit lower at that point. So she’s kind of scared in terms of, what has my life become? And she’s looking for a road back. And the only way to do that is by reaching out to Rick and that group.”
How Will the Loss of His Eye – and Daughter – Affect the Governor? The gory fight in which Michonne stakes the Governor’s eye with a glass shard will go down as one of the show’s most graphic moment to date. Now, with his walker daughter and his right eye gone, where does the Governor from here? “Now it’s a much darker, more vengeful Governor that’s coming after them in the second half of the season,” Mazzara tells EW. “He’s not just going to forgive and forget. He now knows that prison is there and he’s bent on destroying those people and that is really the arc for the second half of the season.”
+ Who Are the Prison Newcomers and Are They Good Guys? The episode opens with a band of outsiders seeking refuge inside the prison after one of their own is bitten. Carl comes to their aid when they find themselves under attack within the prison’s walls. But once in the cell block, Carl wisely locks the gate. The group’s leader, Tyreese, is quick to point out the benefits of being in a walker-free environment. Of course the question remains, who are these people and what are their intentions? And when Rick returns, will he allow them into his group? Without giving away which side of good and evil Tyreese stands on, Mazzara teases, “The story of Tyreese will be very, very interesting throughout the rest of the season.”
+ Which Side Will Andrea Choose? Andrea felt abandoned by Rick and co. after she was separated from them in last season’s finale and found comfort at Woodbury and in the arms of the Governor. Now with the reveal that Daryl was one of the infiltrators, her alliances will be tested. Says Mazzara of Andrea’s role in the second half of the season, “Andrea becomes the focal point. She’s the connective tissue. She has to make choices about how she’s going to deal with this. She’s caught between a rock and a hard place and she has to make choices to pick one side or the other or bring the groups together.”