[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from The Walking Dead comics series. Read at your own risk.]
The third season of the zombie drama featured a dramatic story between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and The Governor (David Morrissey), who, following repeated attempts to coexist, ultimately turned his gun on his own camp after killing Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Merele (Michael Rooker). The move marked a major departure from Robert Kirkman's comics, which serve as source material for the series, and prolonged The Governor's story that many thought would conclude in the third-season finale.
While season four has spent more time exploring The Governor's recent backstory and evolving characters including Rick, Carol (Melissa McBride) and Hershel (Scott Wilson), The Walking Dead has set up a midseason finale that largely seems to be telling the same Rick vs. The Governor story. Only this time, the beleaguered hero and eye-patched villain have more in common after returning to their respective leadership roles in a bid to protect their loved ones and communities.
"Any sort of Rick-Governor conflict is going to be a very different conflict -- if there is one," showrunner Scott M. Gimple tells The Hollywood Reporter. "If these two people [have a] showdown -- and God knows it certainly looks like that at the end of episode seven -- I would hope that they're two very different men who have gone through very different things."
Indeed they have: The Governor, following his deadly assault, attempted to start anew as "Brian," a peaceful guy who did everything in his power to not have to love again. Only all that changed when he met Megan, Lily and Tara and realized that love meant protecting his new family and becoming the man he once was, with the ability to kill those who endangered his group. Without the walls of Woodbury, The Governor has learned how difficult it is to exist in this world and has been keeping his brutal past under wraps and going by his real name: Brian.
Rick also attempted to turn his back on his leadership role with the prison group after taking in all the women and children remaining in Woodbury after Andrea's shocking death. That experience, however, didn't last long and he was thrust back into the position after a deadly flu outbreak, attacks on the prison and a mysterious person baiting walkers to the grounds by feeding them rats.
"One of them has tried to lay down his guns, tried to stop from being a leader, tried to pull his child back from the brutality of the world, tried to pull himself back from the brutality of the world and from the brutality of leadership," Gimple explains. "And we see him in the first episode [of season four] having achieved that, but it's all taken away from him bit by bit in those first five episodes. Carol tells him he can be a farmer but he can't just be a farmer."
"Rick is a different guy from the season-three finale and season-four premiere," he adds. "The Governor, from the beginning of [episode] 406 is very different guy. When these two guys meet, in some ways, they're meeting for the first time, and in some ways, it's a new story. The only way to achieve that is to tell a different story with those characters leading up to it."
Time will tell if Sunday's midseason finale will be the long-awaited bloody battle for the prison depicted in the comics -- during which Rick loses both his wife and young daughter. Should the AMC show opt to follow Kirkman's source material, it will be interesting to see if Brian's new love interest, Lily, is anything like her comic book namesake. During the battle in the comics, it was Lily who, under The Governor's orders, took aim at Lori and unbeknownst to her, killed a mother and her infant daughter. After The Governor kills Hershel, a distraught Lily winds up turning the gun on the psychopath and feeding him to walkers, putting an end to the deadly conflict. It's unclear if -- or how much -- the AMC adaption will follow the same story or if Morrissey's story will continue into the second half of season four considering he is signed on as a series regular. Then again, producers have always maintained that no one is safe on this show.
Hit the comments below with your thoughts on The Walking Dead's fourth season so far and come back soon for more from our interview with Gimple. In the meantime, check out a preview for the midseason finale, below. The Walking Dead's midseason finale airs on Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.