Season 3 of The Walking Dead has come to a close, but just like the gruesome fate that potentially awaits each and every character, the series will return to stalk and torment those still counted among the living.
But unlike the climax of season 2 – which teased viewers with a tantalizing and somewhat-foreboding glimpse of the prison – season 3 reached its conclusion with a slight sense of optimism (as Rick and the others welcomed the citizens of Woodbury into the prison), but no real indication of the direction The Walking Dead would be headed in season 4.
In a series of interviews, comic book creator Robert Kirkman discussed the season 3 finale, the fate of Andrea, Milton and the Governor, as well as what fans can expect from the core group of survivors, now that they seem intent on making a go of it as a community in the prison.
While there have been certain key deviations the series has taken from the source material, e.g., Andrea's demise, Kirkman maintains that at least some of season 4 will focus on the dynamic between Rick and the recently-welcomed Tyreese.
"There's some really, really cool and big stuff that people have been expecting, or that people have been anticipating from the comics, that will work into Season 4. To give a hint, I will say that we do have Tyreese and Rick, who are now united, which is a big moment for the comic book fans. There's a lot of story that comes from those two guys being on the same side. We'll possibly see a bit of that in Season 4."
But Rick aligning himself with Tyreese won't be the only change fans will see in the character. According to Kirkman, Rick's brief interaction with the Governor and the environment he created in Woodbury has caused Rick to re-think some aspects of how he intends to survive in this zombie-infested world, and what it means now that he's decided to no longer keep everyone at arm's length or, as we saw in 'Clear,' ignore a stranger's plea for help.
"It's going to be different in a lot of ways. We'll see a very different Rick Grimes for one. His experiences against the Governor and with the various things that happened to him in season three are informing his character in huge ways. We'll see a lot of familiar elements from season three: we'll see the prison, Rick and his group are still in the same place but those elements are all going to be radically different. I can't really get into it but season four is going to be extremely different than season three in some very startling and cool ways.
This is the moment where Rick takes a turn; he's no longer going to be pushing people away, he's no longer going to be doing what ever he can to protect these people in ways that hurt other people. He's not going to be the guy who would leave that guy on the side of the road -- the backpack guy in Episode 12. He's letting the people of Woodbury in and trying to tell Carl that these people are like us, you have to be open to this and the only way to survive in this world is to have people and be in a community. That's going to be a big part of season four."
While Rick seems more intent on exploring his compassionate side, and possibly learning to grow a community, Carl has adopted a far more ruthless, kill-or-be-killed type of mentality. As evidenced by his merciless killing of a young man who appeared to have been surrendering, Carl's shift into that of a child soldier has now yielded some negative results, and the youngster may soon find himself at an ideological crossroads with his father.
"Rick's got his work cut out for him. He's aware of this and he sees what allowing his son to become a child soldier has brought, which is a very big part of Season 4. Moving forward in the show, this is a guy who's working as hard as he can to maintain a life for this child. [In] the process of surviving... he's allowed his son to lose a pretty substantial piece of his humanity. It's now a question of: Is there going back? Is this now status quo? These are the things that a father will have to deal with."
In the closing moments of 'Welcome to the Tombs,' we saw as Rick welcomed not only Tyreese and Sasha into the fold, but he also brought the people of Woodbury to the prison. There have been questions circulating as to why the decision was made to stay in the prison, rather than the relatively normal confines of Woodbury, but Kirkman says the continued threat of the Governor makes the prison the more sensible choice for Rick and the others.
"They see the prison as something that is much more easily defended than Woodbury. They were able to get into Woodbury easily themselves. The Woodbury defenses are very effective against zombies, but not very effective against humans. They see [the prison] as much more of a defensible position."
And while the comic creator acknowledges the next season's storyline will begin at the prison, there's no guarantee that is where it will end.
"There’s always going to be new locations and new places to discover and explore. I don’t want to reveal too much; Season 4 is still five months away. But I will say that as we see at the end of Season 3 we’re definitely going to start Season 4 at the prison. We may be there the whole season and we may not be… But there are going to be some big differences from Season 3."
Season 4 of The Walking Dead will premiere this fall on AMC.
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC