It's baaaack! "The Walking Dead" returns tonight (October 13) for its fourth season, and with it comes all of the sweet blood-spattered action missing from your television since season three concluded.
Speaking of season three ... does anyone remember where we left off? Your friendly neighborhood MTV News team does, having just finished a full-series marathon ourselves over the weekend. Whether you're new to the show or just foggy on the details, we have you covered. Read on for our recap of "The Walking Dead" thus far.
Let's start with the basics: the world ended. The dead no longer stay dead, not without swift and decisive trauma to the brain. We enter the apocalypse through Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a former sheriff who wakes up from a coma and into this nightmare of a world. Rick leads a group of survivors including his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), the bow-hunting hillbilly Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), ex-pizza delivery man Glenn (Steven Yeun), former lawyer Andrea (Laurie Holden), among others.
In season one, Rick and his group end up at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, where they learn that everyone is infected with the disease that brings the dead back to life. In season two, they find salvation on a farm owned by the benevolent Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and his daughters Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Beth (Emily Kinney). That farm is eventually attacked by walkers, sending Rick and his companions, new and old, back out on the road.
Season three begins seven months later, as Rick's group discovers a potential new safe haven: a prison facility that's overrun by walkers. After a few days of clearing out the brain-craving monsters and making the place safe, the group settles into a comfortable rhythm — a rhythm that's shattered during a zombie attack just days into their stay. Rick's wife dies during the attack, following an emergency C-section to save her unborn daughter, Judith. Rick spirals out of control when he learns of Lori's death, so much so that he starts to see visions of her ghost wandering the prison and its surrounding property.
Elsewhere, Andrea, separated from Rick's group during the collapse of Hershel's farm, has been traveling on the road alongside sword-swinging Michonne (Danai Gurira). Together, they find Woodbury, a walled-in community run by a man called the Governor (David Morrissey). A charming Southern gentleman on the surface, the Governor's true colors as a murdering sociopath begin to emerge. Andrea falls for the Governor's smooth-operations, but Michonne sees right through the act. She leaves Woodbury and Andrea behind, but the Governor wants to make sure she can never come back, so he orders his lieutenant Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker), Daryl's older and meaner brother, to hunt her down. Merle fails, but comes up with a solid consolation prize in the form of Glenn and Maggie; he captures the happy couple while they're out on a supply run, and presents them to the Governor for interrogation.
After witnessing the abduction, Michonne finds the prison and tells Rick what happened. She leads Rick and a few others back to Woodbury, where they liberate Glenn and Maggie, but not without losing one of their own. Michonne, meanwhile, seeks vengeance on the Governor, de-braining his zombified daughter, and putting out his eye with a shard of glass. The trauma pushes the Governor over the edge. The already psychotic dictator loses his friendly facade, with only one thing left on his mind: vengeance.
Days after the Woodbury assault, the Governor retaliates against the prison, spilling even more blood and making it clear that mass-execution is very much on his to-do list. As a former member of the prison squad and a current Woodburian, Andrea attempts to broker a peace between the two groups, but the Governor will only make a truce on one condition: Rick has to surrender Michonne for her crimes against the Governor. He has two days to comply, or the Governor will obliterate the prison.
Rick considers the offer, even though he knows the Governor likely won't honor the deal. Before he can decide, Merle, now with the prison group, takes it on himself to bring Michonne to the Governor, as a way of solidifying his place alongside brother Daryl's new friends. Merle experiences a change of heart and lets Michonne go, deciding to go after the Governor by himself. Merle kills several of the Governor's goons, but dies in the process. Daryl eventually finds Merle's zombified remains, and puts him down for good, ending years of seemingly endless rivalry between the two siblings.
In light of Merle's actions, the Governor knows the prison won't surrender Michonne. He sends the full weight of Woodbury's forces against the prison, but Rick's team lures them into a trap, killing many and forcing them on the run. Frustrated and infuriated with his own people's incompetence, the Governor sends a hail of bullets into his own people, then heads off to who-knows-where.
Rick and his friends head to Woodbury to finish the job against the Governor, not knowing that he isn't there anymore. Instead, they find Andrea, on the cusp of death thanks to the Governor's bloodlust. As she dies, Rick's eyes open to the possibility of peace between the prison and Woodbury: rather than ending the war in bloodshed, Rick liberates the leftover Woodburians and brings them back to the prison. The season ends with the promise of brighter days ahead for Rick, his friends, and humanity at large.
Which brings us to tonight, where all of that hope will pay off — shortly before it all crumbles ...
Are you tuning into "The Walking Dead" tonight? Let us know in the comments below!