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Beaten, bruised and cast once again into the wilderness, Rick and Co. have not had a stellar run so far this season. But the mid season premiere will find them with better spirits, a new outlook and the situation well under control, right?

Right.

The Prison is in shambles and covered with walkers. Michonne surveys the wreckage of what could have been, and (as usual) takes charge of what must be, killing walkers with her sweet-ass samurai sword. She finds a couple of walkers to relieve of their jaws and hands, and is soon back to her old undead-camouflage ways. But not before she destroys the sad, still biting zombie head of poor Hershel.

And away we go…

Carl has become an intense survivor who seems to care less about his wounded father Rick than about killing zombies. And he has started to take command. He pretty much has to, as Rick is less than up to his old walker slaying ways. Basically, the old man is losing his touch, and Carl is beginning to rebel, as most teenagers do (and always at the worst possible times). They clear a house and settle in for an uncomfortable stay.

We get a fantastic, long overdue look into what made Michonne, Michonne. Her nightmare about her missing baby son and fellow pre-apocalypse survivors (one of which may have been the baby’s dad) speaks volumes. Meanwhile, Carl does his best Holden Caulfield impersonation while his father tries to recover without medical attention or an ounce of compassion. As two walkers attempt to gain entrance, Carl lures them away from the house, using his new-found cockiness to venture just a bit too far from the implied safe zone. He fends off the walkers, but finds himself trapped under their “corpses” and almost out of luck.

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Michonne walks through the ranks of the undead like Jane Goodall, but all around her she is reminded of her fleeting humanity. Carl on the other hand takes a turn to yell at his unconscious father, showing his own adolescent humanity. As every son must do, he finds fault in his father, even though he forgets what Rick has done for him (season two, anyone?). Ah the folly of youth, as evidenced by his attempt to take over a neighboring house as his own. On his own. Like a young man getting settled into his first apartment away from his folks. And as such, he screws it up and is almost bitten yet again by a hidden walker. He takes pleasure in his victory on the roof with a can of chili, as the walker he recently trapped reaches for him from inside its new prison.

Michonne, alive alone among her troupe of undead, cannot take it anymore and begins to slaughter them wholesale, by the dozens in fact, including her two decoys. It is a tough moment for her. Carl wakes up next to his dad on the couch, who struggles for breath. He can’t shoot his dad, who is jacked up, but not a zombie. He becomes the scared kid he should be, and while he is strong, he is still Rick’s son. And Michonne still misses someone. It seems as if everyone is at the end of their already frayed ropes, and is questioning why they still hang on.

See you next week, gang…