by Kat Rosenfield
"The Walking Dead" will be stumbling and moaning back onto your television tonight, with the long-awaited premiere of its highly-anticipated third season. But before we ready our weapons and bar our doors for the next round of zombie shenanigans, it's time for a trip down memory lane — with a brief roundup of what was going on when we last hung out with Rick's merry band of misfit survivors in Season 2, and some guesses at where the next installment of the series might lead.
Read on for our "Walking Dead" cheat sheet!
So Long, Sofia
The endless (and, frankly, kinda boring) hunt for Carol's missing daughter was one of last season's most-maligned plot points... that is, until she stumbled out of Hershel's barn with a newfound thirst for human flesh and Rick shot her in the face. Whoa! We take back everything bad we said about you, Season 2. Losing one of the two surviving children to the Walker virus was a watershed moment for the series, a brutal rejoinder to criticisms that the season had grown dull and a major blow to the cautious optimism of the survivors. Not only was it an important lesson to the group about the fallacy of hope in a world gone mad — when the dead start walking, happy endings are a luxury of the past — but it was a declarative statement from the show itself: Yep, we went there. And if they did it once, they'll do it again... so don't get too fond of Carl, okay? Just in case.
Love, Survivor Style
Nobody wants to die a virgin, so it's only natural that a romance or two would blossom in the midst of all the zombie-killing. The most likely candidates for some action in the upcoming season: Glenn and Maggie, who've got a good thing going... even with Hershel occasionally throwing them the Old Man Bigot side-eye. (Priorities, Gramps. Half the country is undead; a little interracial romance isn't even on the radar of Things We Should Worry About.) Also of interest: the dynamic between Carol and Daryl, who showed surprising sentimentality in his dogged search for the missing Sofia. Might something be brewing between these two? We'll see.
It's What's Inside That Counts
There's one ongoing drama we won't be seeing this season: the battle between Rick and Shane for the affections of pregnant Lori, which resolved itself neatly enough when the increasingly unstable and murderous Shane died of a stab wound in a moonlit field. But where one subplot dies, another is born — in this case, when Shane sprang back to sorta-life as one of the walking dead. It was the final piece in a puzzle we'd been pondering since the end of Season 1: What did Jenner whisper to Rick in the final moments before he torched the CDC? The answer: that everyone, even those not bitten by walkers, are infected with the virus that turns dead people into undead people. You know, just in case the survivors didn't have enough to worry about.
Behind The Mask
And finally, let's talk about new characters! With Sophia, Dale, Shane, and a fair few of Hershel's nameless relatives having bought the farm when the zombies invaded it, new blood is a necessity on "The Walking Dead". And while the rest of the group found their way into the surrounding countryside (where they're camped out in the shadow of the prison that'll serve as a major setting in the upcoming season), Andrea stumbled into the woods... where she was saved at the very last minute by a hooded, faceless figure with a pair of, er, unusual pets. And though her identity wasn't revealed in the finale, fans of the books know exactly who the new addition is: Michonne, a hardcore, sword-wielding survivor who should ensure a hell of a zombie body count in the coming season.
Are you all caught up for the "Walking Dead" season premiere? Tune in later for our recap!