All spoiler alerts in effect: There is no joy for fans of The Walking Dead this Monday morning. Hershel Greene has left the building.
As recounted by The Hollywood Reporter AMC's apocalyptic zombie drama closed its season-four midseason finale last night with the death of a beloved character and an ominous reset that has set the survivors off into an entirely new direction.
And nobody can say they didn't see it coming.
The entire third season and the first half of the current campaign were constructed as a lead-up to a battle royale between the noble southern sheriff Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the psychotic despot known as The Governor (David Morrissey).
Last night, that clash finally came and naturally there were casualties of war.
As teased in last week's show, the battle began with the Governor taking hostage the kindly, one-legged Hershel (Scott Wilson), the de facto Socrates of the prison survivor group, along with Michonne (Danai Gurira), the sword-wielding killing machine responsible for taking out the Governor's eye last season.
Once back with his new community, the Governor, or "Brian," tells his followers that Rick's prison people are the ones responsible for burning down the makeshift town of Woodbury – and claims they were also responsible for killing his young daughter and poking out his eye.
Brian/The Governor's new girlfriend Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson) starts to express concern about her new lover, who seems more than willing to slaughter other people in order to obtain their fort. Lilly finally starts to realize that Brian isn't who he said he is.
Back at the prison, Glenn (Steven Yeun) is slowly recovering from the deadly flu, while Rick explains to Daryl (Norman Reedus) that he banished Carol (Melissa McBride) from their group for killing two members in a misguided attempt to protect the others.
Daryl, who seemed to have some sort of relationship with Carol, accepts the news without incident.
All of which is forgotten when the Governor shows up at the prison with a tank, literally, and a ragtag army. After revealing he has taken Hershel and Michonne hostage, he demands to "talk" to Rick.
Obviously, there isn't much of a discussion. The Governor's demand that Rick's people vacate the premises, despite Rick's assertion that there are still sick children in their group.
While this is going on, Lilly is back at camp and watches in horror as her daughter Meagan is attacked and killed by a walker. It wasn't the first time a parent had to watch their child killed by a zombie on The Walking Dead.
Rick, being Rick, naturally stands his ground. The Governor tries to force the point by taking a swing at Hershel with Michonne's sword. And Hershel loses his head.
From that point on, all bets and plans for making peace are out the window. The Governor growls the line made famous from The Walking Dead comic books: "Kill them all!"
Rick and The Governor are engaged in a death battle and just as the Governor is about to strangle him to death, Michonne pops up and puts a sword through Rick's attacker.
After that, Lilly shoots her duplicitous boyfriend. The Governor, at long last, appears to be dead (although we haven't seen actual proof of the body yet).
But the prison is now useless as a haven. The fences are down and zombies are straggling everywhere. Rick finally finds his son Carl (Chandler Riggs) and together they discover Judith's baby carrier. Empty and bloody. Was the baby of their family taken by walkers or by some well-meaning survivor?
The midseason finale ended with the remaining survivors on the prison bus rambling off to parts unknown. The second half of The Walking Dead's fourth season picks up again on Feb. 9