9:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'The Walking Dead': Where We Left Off and What's Next
"No one is safe." "People are going to be dropping like flies."
That's how The Walking Dead executive producers Glen Mazzara and Robert Kirkman describe the second half of Season 2 of the zombie drama, which returns Sunday and picks up immediately after "Barnmaggedon."
After Hershel received a first-hand lesson that curing the zombies was impossible, the group will continue to be torn in different directions between the cautious Rick and aggressive Shane. "The alliances are not so clean," Mazzara says of the aftermath of Sophia's return and subsequent death. "It becomes very, very messy because there are no right answers."
Dropping teases like "There are deaths in these upcoming episodes and I believe all of them are surprising," The Hollywood Reporter caught up with EPs Mazzara, Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd and Greg Nicotero as well as cast members Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Steven Yeun and Laurie Holden to get the scoop on what's next for the back half of the season.
RICK (Andrew Lincoln): In the first episode back, Rick, Glenn and Hershel meet a pair of strangers (including Terriers' Michael Raymond-James), which will change the way Rick heads the group. "Rick is battling his own demons and moral choices," Hurd says, noting that he'll still question whether or not he's equipped to lead. "That's what keeps him in the leadership role: What would the alternative be? How would that affect everyone? He'd be left behind and the weak wouldn't be protected."
LORI (Sarah Wayne Callies): Both Rick and Shane will claim paternity for Lori's unborn child, adding only more tension to their already difficult relationship. "She's the Lady Macbeth of the group," Nicotero says. "She loves Rick but you also are always curious whether she actually believes that Rick has the chops to protect them, where she knows that Shane is the powerhouse of the group."
SHANE (Jon Bernthal): The fact that Sophia was in Hershel's barn while everyone toiled away looking for her will up the friction between Shane and Rick in the back half of Season 2, producers say. "It's a big vindication for him to know that he was right," Kirkman says. "It's going to put a bit more tension there and be a bit of a powder keg situation that's going to lead us well into our third season." Adds Nicotero: "Shane really does mean well; if you look at the scene in front of the barn and what he did, he had the right intentions. He just handles it all the wrong way." Says Hurd: "That's what splits the group -- he consistently does things that he knows are essential for the group but does them the wrong way and doesn't really handle it well."
DARYL (Norman Reedus): Daryl took Sophia's reappearance and subsequent death the hardest as she represented hope that his missing brother, Merle, is still out there. "To keep looking for something keeps him alive," Reedus says. Still reeling from the group's lack of motivation to search for her, Reedus says Daryl will become Rick's No. 2. "Rick will go to Daryl more and ask [for suggestions] rather than telling him what to do," he says, noting that it will further help the former abuse victim accept his standing among the group's go-to leaders. "Daryl is starting to feel like these are his people, which is going to set up something great for when Merle comes back. I can't tell you when he's coming but he's coming."
CAROL (Melissa McBride): Carol and Daryl will continue to bond after Sophia's death and consider splitting off from the group -- together. "Carol's got to decide: she lost her husband, she lost her kid, is it worth it? Do I need to be with these people?" Reedus teases, noting that they'll weigh whether or not they need to stay with the people who were responsible for beating up her late husband and lost her daughter. Notes McBride: "She'll go to him and say, 'Don't pull away'; she recognizes the damage it does to Daryl when she pulls away and will try to take care of him."
GLENN (Steven Yeun): As the group struggles with its allegiances between Shane and Rick, Glenn will be divided between Maggie her family at Hershel's farm and staying with Rick's group. "That's something that is tearing him apart," Yeun says. "Glenn is still in the middle right now. He was the bridge between the two camps and a mediator in a way and you can only do that for so long."
MAGGIE (Lauren Cohan): After the barn shooting, Maggie will hold on to Glenn tighter than ever -- forcing him to grow up in the process. After agreeing to be dropped down the well and serving as the de facto errand boy for the group, Yeun says Maggie will put her foot down and push for him to stop being seen as the risk-taker. "That was said between them but now it has to be said in action among everyone else," he notes.
HERSHEL (Scott Wilson): After realizing that the undead actually are dead via the brutal barn shooting that, in Hershel's eyes, ended the life of his wife, Hershel's whole belief system has been turned on its head. How he responds to the news will offer him a first-hand glimpse at the other threats that exist in the world. Ultimately, he'll look to Rick and Shane with what they've done to protect their family when it comes time to protect his own. "Everyone is having that darkness in their soul where they have to look in and either find faith that it's worth living or give up," Hurd says.
ANDREA (Laurie Holden): Shane brought her a step closer to becoming the fierce sharpshooter from Kirkman's comics and the duo shared a steamy car scene setting up a second love triangle among the rag-tag group of survivors as Dale continues to watch over her with great interest and concern. "She has a bond with Dale and the two men end up putting her in the middle in the same way that Rick and Shane have Lori in the middle," Mazzara says. Meanwhile, Holden says Andrea -- still mourning the loss of her sibling, Amy -- will take on a more sisterly role for others in the group like Carol. "She gives them strength and support," she offers.
DALE (Jeffrey DeMunn): The moral compass/watchdog of the group would be best advised to watch his back after confronting Shane about his role in Otis' death. "People do have to take sides and we know that Shane has no love for Dale," Mazzara says. "Dale can't stand Shane and that's an interesting dynamic that definitely gets played out throughout the back half of the season."
CARL (Chandler Riggs): Nicotero notes that Lori continues to make "dubious" choices and will chose to leave Carl shortly after Sophia's death -- something he notes makes her behavior very in line with another member of the group who consistently puts others ahead of his own family's needs. "She ends up showing the same kind of behavior that Rick shows," Nicotero says.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC. Come back to THR's The Live Feed after the episode for our weekly Dissection.