The Walking Dead mid-season finale Too Far Gone is a game changer. (SPOILER ALERT)The original group of survivors has been battered from every direction so far this season. The group has faced conflict within the group, an epidemic that caused the deaths of a huge number of the group, and the banishment of Carol.
Now Hershel has been murdered, the prison has been destroyed, and the group is scattered. It remains to be seen if the group will find each other again or if all of the group members will survive after the battle for the prison.
Judith is missing and may be dead. Rick is reeling from the murder of Hershel, Judith’s disappearance, and the breaking apart of the group he tried so hard to protect. Fans were left at the end of the episode with a lot of questions and a lot of tears shed for Hershel. The Walking Dead doesn’t return for the rest of the season until February 9th.
It’s more than just the loss of Hershel that changes the show permanently. After all, characters come and go regularly on this show. Even the characters that fans love can be marked for death at any time. One of the reasons why the show continues to attract record breaking audience numbers is because the writers and producers are not afraid to take out a popular character if it is integral to the progression of the story.
Even though The Walking Dead is following one band of survivors the story ultimately is larger than they are. Because of that the story has to keep going in new directions, and when The Walking Dead returns in February 2014 fans will see the show change direction once again.
For the last season and a half the story has been focused on the group at the prison and Woodbury. Now the prison is destroyed, and so is the fragile sense of security the group had carved out for themselves. Once again they will be thrown out into the post-zombie apocalypse world to face other survivors, walkers, and other threats like illness and bad weather.
There have been hints about what lies ahead for the original group of survivors. In a previous episode this season Daryl, Tyreese, Bob and Michonne heard a voice broadcasting over the radio in the car they were driving. Bob mentioned he had been with two other groups of survivors at various points. There have been hints about possible safe zones and camps that exist out in the larger world. When the season picks up again in February it looks as if the members of the original group, who will be on their own for the first time, will start to see what is happening in the world outside the prison and the small area they have occupied up to this point.
The characters that remain will change from the people that fans know and love. Already in this season fans saw Carol become someone that many fans didn’t recognize. Now that the group is split some of the characters who had been primarily in the background like Beth will be given the chance to develop and shine. Beth escaped the prison battle with Daryl but separated from her sister Maggie. All of the other survivors are scattered by themselves or in small groups of two or three. Everyone will need to change in order to survive.
Too Far Gone gives fans the chance to experience some of what the characters are going through. The security of the group is gone. So are the relationships they have built and the sense of community and family that grew over the past three seasons.
Fans are left grieving for Hershel, worried about their favorite characters, wondering what happened to Judith, and without any answers. One thing that the creators of the show can count on is that the fans are more invested than even in what will happen to the survivors they have come to love. Even with the loss of a beloved character fans will be anxiously waiting for February and the return of The Walking Dead to see what comes next.
The second half of The Walking Dead Season 4 also may bring fans glimpses of the new series set in the Walking Dead world that will tell the stories of other survivors. The second Walking Dead series is tentatively set to air in 2015.