All's quiet on the "Walking Dead" front — quieter than normal, that is.
Don't worry: when the new season begins on Sunday, the howls of the dead will still echo throughout the world AMC has built over the past four years. But the walkers are on the outside looking in when season four begins: after winning the battle against Woodbury, Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors have bolstered the ranks of the prison, creating a safe new home in the process.
"They have a momentary respite from walker attacks," producer Gale Anne Hurd told MTV News about where we find the characters during "30 Days Without an Accident," the season-four premiere. "They've worked on integrating some of these groups [from Woodbury]. They were shooting at each other when we left off last season."
Now, with the action picking up several months after the season-three finale, Woodbury expats like Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and his sister Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) are well-established and vital members of the prison society.
"Tyreese is still trying to find his footing," Coleman said of his character, a fan-favorite from creator Robert Kirkman's comic books. "He's trying to find his way. He has an aversion to the walkers in a way that most of them don't. There's something in his humanity that makes it very hard for him to take them out. You have to have people with that kind of consciousness."
Like Tyreese, Rick underwent a transformation of his own between seasons. "The Ricktatorship" days are long gone when season four premieres, with Rick instead attending to other, less-violent matters.
"He's put his energy into agriculture and growing things. That's where his heart is," said Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick. "He's still in the group, but in a different way, nurturing things and sustaining them."
With Rick out of the leadership limelight, other characters have stepped in to pick up the slack — folks like Daryl Dixon, surprisingly enough. Daryl and others are at the helm of the prison in the season-four premiere, marking a major shift from where so many of these characters began.
"We're not even remotely the same as when we started," said Daryl actor Norman Reedus. "Now, it's about what are you going to stand up for, who are you, what are you going to fight for, these are your feet on the ground, what are you going to give up of yourself and what are you willing to do to survive."
If Reedus' words sound ominous, that's intentional. The characters of "The Walking Dead" fought long and hard for their well-earned peace, sacrificing parts of themselves for the greater good of their society. The result: a safe-haven where kids can learn and play, where food is in healthier supply than ever, and where love is a genuine possibility.
"But as is the way with our show, it doesn't last for very long," Lincoln teased of the show's new status quo.
In other words: prepare for more of those literal and emotional gut-wrenching moments "The Walking Dead" does so well, sooner rather than later.