With "The Walking Dead's" fourth season now officially at the halfway point, it's time to hit the road with Rick Grimes and friends to mourn those we've lost, celebrate those who have survived and remember the moments that will be burned into our souls forever.
Season Four has been one Hell of a ride, packed with disease, death and destruction. And just think -- there's still half a season to go! For now, as fans wait for the AMC series' return in February, let's look back at some of the heart-stopping and head-lopping moments that took place throughout the first eight episodes. Grab a bottle of Bob's booze while you're at it -- you might need it.
10. Here piggy, piggy, piggy...
When fans first saw Rick and company's pigs, the animals represented more than just a tribute to those 'adorable' Geico ads: They represented a possible future, a time when the survivors could use domesticated animals to provide food for themselves, a promise that the days of hunting and gathering may actually be behind them. It was as if the group had climbed out of the Stone Age and was beginning to regain things that were lost.
And then people started to die, the pigs possibly the carriers of some sort of super-flu to which the group had no cure. Rick began to be clued into this tragic reality, and when a group of Walkers breached the fences, Rick was forced to slice the screaming pigs' throats to lure the Walkers away. The look on Rick's face as he slaughtered the beasts he and Carl had cared for was one of pure disappointment as the realization washed over him that the promise of civilized comfort was an illusion. As he sliced their throats, and the poor pigs shrieked, Rick and the audience understood that there is no place for domestication or tomorrows in this world, just blood, screams and panic.
9. Class is in Session
When Season Four opened, there were moments of perceived rural tranquility, with organized spaghetti night, children playing, farming, chores getting done and story time. Viewers were introduced to a number of new children, beyond Carl, providing a glimpse of hope for the future of civilization. The kids played together and even Carl, hardcore protector that he is, had found a couple of pals to spend time with and be a kid again. The kids seem to enjoy story time with Carol, an event that Carl first resisted, thinking it to be kid stuff. When Carl finally breaks down, hoping to find a quiet moment of innocence, he learns that Carol's story time is really a workshop in how to efficiently slaughter Walkers. Rather than reading "Harry Potter" or Dr. Seuss, Carol demonstrates knife combat, turning the little darlings into killing machines. This is an impactful moment, a stark reminder that playtime, and childhood, is over.
8. An Enemy in Our Midst
Despite Carol's Stabbing for Beginners, things were still pretty peaceful within the prison. Carl had become pals with Patrick, a McLovin-looking guy who seemed like a really nice boy and a person who really benefited from the protection the prison provided. Like most nerds in America, he thinks Daryl is the coolest thing on two legs, and would not survive five seconds outside the prison. But within those walls, Patrick thrives. Most of the season premiere shows just how far the survivors have come, but Patrick suddenly seizing and dying in the shower filled the audience with a cold realization that the days of tranquility were over. Patrick's death, the first from the super-flu, kicked off a series of events that found the domestic tranquility of the prison shatter and the reality of the Walker world crash down on the survivors.
7. Herschel's Speech
"You walk outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. Nowadays, you breathe and you risk your life. You don't have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you're risking it for."
With the super-flu in full effect and his son-in-law Glenn dying inside the prison, Herschel, perhaps the noblest character on "The Walking Dead," decides to forsake his own safety to treat the people that have become his family. At this point, Herschel had lost most of his biological family, his farm and his leg. He had seen civilization crumble, but refused to put his own needs and safety over the comfort of others. He wanted to comfort the dying and heal the sick, and to Hell with the consequences. Herschel's speech kindled a sense that the best of humanity is still alive and well in the body of an old man that, by all rights, should have given up long ago. His words serve as a reminder -- if one stays true to his beliefs, humanity will find its way back through compassion and kindness. And then, a few episodes later, the Governor arrives to show viewers that there is another side to humanity. A speech that was intended to be inspirational and moving became words that foreshadowed its speaker's horrific final moments.
6. The Governor Again
After The Governor lost Woodbury, he had nothing. His Walker daughter was gone, he lost an eye and his beloved city was no more, while his beloved followers (worshippers?) abandoned him to find sanctuary in the arms of the enemy. When fans see the Governor again, he is almost a Walker himself. The once unpredictable and dangerously emotional man was reduced to a plodding shell, devoid of any sense of self preservation. When he found a family desperately trying to eke out a modicum of an existence, The Governor also found something to protect again. Two sisters, a young girl and a dying patriarch, turned to the Governor for protection, unaware that when they opened their hearts to the man they know as Brian, they were waking one of the great evils left in the world. The shell of a man once again had something to protect, something to control, and God help anyone he saw as an enemy.
5. Death From Above
The season premiere focused on the newly earned peacefulness of the prison, but this is "The Walking Dead," and on every episode, a little mind-numbing terror must fall. When Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, Sasha, Tyreese and a couple of new characters venture out on a supply run, they end up in an abandoned market. Little do they know, on the roof is a helicopter and a ton of Walkers who have been wandering around for God knows how long. When the roof suddenly gives way, all Hell breaks loose.
The series has provided viewers with a straight-on zombie horde attacking the group countless times, but to start off this season, the writers figured zombies from above would be a real attention grabber, and they didn't disappoint. When the roof caved in, legions of zombies fell into the market, some splattering on the floor, others rising to terrorize the group. With one of the most innovative zombie attack sequences in the genre's history, "The Walking Dead" not only provided fans with a healthy dose of gore, it drove home just how tough the survivors can be while rekindling the dynamics between characters. So much story happened during this sequence that it's only in retrospect that we can properly appreciate the biggest, most innovative set piece the series has pulled off so far.
4. "I Have a Tank." "We Have a Daryl."
One of the bigger, "Oh, shit," moments of the season involved The Governor, innocently hanging clothes to dry while talking to his new little girl. It all seemed calm and normal -- until the camera panned back to reveal the freakin' tank. That's right, the biggest and most violent psychopath conceivable, who once keep zombie heads in fish tanks for his viewing pleasure, now had a tank. The site of the massive, rolling murder machine should have made even the most hardened fans heart sink. When the tank arrived at the prison, it was truly biblical, as the looks on the survivors' faces told the story. How can they hope to beat a tank?
The answer, of course, was simple: Daryl Dixon. When the tank rolled into action, the attack was devastating, the lifesaving fences tumbling down, and the prison, a place symbolizing security and a future world, was broken down into chunks of concrete. But when Daryl sprang into action, the tank never stood a chance. The tide of the battle turned for good when Daryl coolly slammed a grenade down the tank's muzzle, singlehandedly blowing it up. When former ice cream truck driver turned murderous minion Mitch hopped out of his burning engine of death, Daryl dispensed a little Walker-world justice, dispatching Mitch with one between the eyes.
3. The Sniffing, Sneezing, Achy-Headed, so Carol Doesn't Shank You In Your Sleep Medicine
Ah, Carol, how far you've come. From a mousy, unsure of yourself housewife, to doting caregiver, to mourning mother, to emissary of death, no character's arc has been as extreme as Carol's. When the super-flu threatens to decimate the prison's population, the ever-pragmatic Carol did what she could to stop its spread, which apparently entailed quickly stabbing the patients' brains and then burning their bodies, including Tyreese's new lady friend.
The most chilling thing about this dark little plot twist is the way Carol confessed to Rick, with the same tone and cadence as if she was telling him she threw out the garbage. In her voice and her actions, it is clear Carol has become the ultimate survivor. When Rick exiles her, he sparks off weeks of online controversy, as the morality of his decision has become one of the most debated plot points in the show's history. Carol is still out there, and fans will have to wait to see exactly where she'll show up. With the prison destroyed and the group scattered, Carol's help would certainly come in handy. Just hope, if Carol joins a pocket of survivors, they make sure to muffle their sneezes.
2. The Kids are All Right
The world of "The Walking Dead" is no place for innocence. From poor Sophia, to Morgan's son Duane, to The Governor's precious little flesh-eater Penny and his surrogate daughter Megan, not many kids have been able to survive for long. Enter little Lizzie Samuels, who has taken it upon herself to follow Carol's lessons and protect herself and her fellow children. When The Governor arrives to take the prison, Rick's crew must take up arms to protect their home. When Aisha, a woman loyal to the Governor, had Tyreese dead to rights, Lizzie and her sister Mika made the exiled Carol proud by shooting her right between the eyes. Carol's lessons live within Lizzie and Mika as they are soldiers in humanity's fight for survival. It's a tense moment, seeing a little girl holding a smoking gun, a shocking reminder of the new world order, but it is also an image that proved to viewers that the good, no matter how weak and innocent, will always fight tyranny.
1. And All Shall Fall
If "The Walking Dead" does one thing well, it's playing audience's emotions like Mozart tickled the ivories. When fans were forced to endure watching Herschel, the moral center of the survivors, a Job-like man who did nothing but endure while refusing to lose faith, have his head sliced off by The Governor, it was one of the most brutally cruel moments in television history. Fans saw Herschel drowning in his own blood before being hacked to pieces, his severed head tossed on the ground like a slaughtered animal's. This violent, bloody action sparked off the battle between The Governor's men and the prison residents, a fight fueled by the idea that nothing is sacred and anyone could die horribly, man, women, or child.
With Herschel dead and the survivors seemingly broken, The Governor was about to strangle the life out of Rick with his own bare hands, when Michonne's sword burst through the Governor's chest, transitioning our emotions from the shock of Herschel's death into triumphant joy at seeing the devil fall. As The Governor bled out on the grass, his new lover, Lilly, who just witnessed The Governor shoot her recently deceased daughter in the head, ended the Governor's vile life by putting a bullet in his sick skull. From the moment Michonne's sword, wielded by The Governor, sliced through Herschel's neck to the second Lilly rid the broken world of its (so far) greatest evil, the prison raid and the accompanying bloodbath were the most intense moments of television this year. R.I.P Herschel. Rot in Hell, Governor.