Walking Dead's Kirkman reveals what's next for Daryl + Merle

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Feb 11, 2013, 3:16 PM EST

It’s been a long few months, but The Walking Dead is finally back. After all the speculation, it doesn’t look like anyone really expected what played out last night—especially the Daryl and Merle storyline. So what’s next for everyone’s favorite redneck brothers? Spoilers ahead!

Series creator Robert Kirkman opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about the decision to have the brothers strike out on their own, after Rick refused to let Merle return to the prison with the group. It was surprising and it happened quickly, much like most twists on this show.

But don’t worry, just because they’re on their own, it doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing a lot of them:

“It'd be a disservice to have those guys off the table for too long. We're definitely going to follow Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Merle's (Michael Rooker) journey and see the interaction between those two. We haven't really seen very much interaction between them aside from a vision in the second season. These are characters that have changed very much while they were away from each other. Now that they're back together, they're almost two completely different people.

Daryl has always been more subservient to Merle, who is more of an overbearing individual. He was clearly lost without him a bit in the first season. Now that Daryl has had time to become his own man and find himself, it's a question of whether or not he's going to wash away that progress and go back to the status quo or if he's going to use the progress to try and affect Merle.”

That’s a storyline fans have been wanting to see ever since Daryl became a leader among the group, and it’ll make for some compelling stuff to see him stand up to his big brother and become his own man. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Oh, and what about that WTF ending that found Rick hallucinating (again), this time about his departed wife Lori in her wedding dress? Outgoing showrunner Glen Mazzara told Entertainment Weekly it's all about watching Rick unravel under the weight of leadership, which is expected to get a lot worse once the war with Woodbury begins:

“That’s exactly the story. What becomes of this group if Rick is at his most fragile point? And if you look at when these hallucinations appear, it’s at moments of great stress. And the pressure is increasing on Rick. He’s cracking under that pressure, but our group is dependent on Rick to keep it together so they can all survive. That is the story of the back half of the season.”

Rick might not have his wife to lean on anymore, but he does have his new pal Hershel. Mazzara said that friendship will be a big part of the next few episodes, as Hershel tries to help Rick find his sanity once again:

“And if you look at that moment — and this is important — if you look at that moment when he sees her, it’s right when he’s about to let Tyrese and his group join the group and stay in the prison. And his sanity cracks and his subconscious shows him this vision, which is a classic horror moment. And it’s at exactly the wrong time, and it ruins something for that group. And Hershel, who is very astute and a good friend of Rick’s and has a lot of insights into that Rick-Lori relationship — this will be an arc for him, the fact that his friend is slipping away. It activates Hershel in an interesting way. Hershel spent the back half of the first part of the season recovering from his injury. Hershel is now back and he’s ready to kick ass with his one good leg. He really needs to save his friend.”

What did you think of the midseason premiere? What did you see coming, and what surprised you?

(Via The Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly)