Danai Gurira
Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Season 4 has been a roller coaster ride for Michonne so far on The Walking Dead. One minute, she’s smiling and handing Carl a stack of comic books; the next, she’s clutching baby Judith and crying like a baby herself. One minute, she’s finally enjoying being part of a bigger community; the next, she’s watching that jerk the Governor slice off Hershel’s head and destroy everything they had built at the prison. So what does Michonne do now? The good news (for us, if not her) is that we will find out the answer to that question when The Walking Dead returns on Feb. 9 with the final eight episodes of the season. The midseason premiere will show us where Michonne ends up —both mentally and physically — after the fall of the prison. And yes, it includes the introduction of two brand new “Pets” (as seen in the picture above). We spoke with Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, to get some additional intel in terms of what to expect. (Also be sure to check out our midseason Q&A with Andrew Lincoln and our preview chat with Norman Reedus.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So we start the final eight episodes with everyone sort of splintered off into smaller groups and I know in this first episode back we are going to see what happens to Michonne as the prison falls and where she goes. What else can you tell us?

DANAI GURIRA: What we know is that she was really starting to settle in. She really cared about this place. She really wanted to prevent what she knew the Governor was capable of. She didn’t see any hope in his transformation or redemption. The idea that this actually happened just as she was letting her guard down. You know she says to Daryl in episode 404, “I’m not going to go out and look for him anymore.” So the trail did get cold and she starts to will herself more to just being there, and not like man-caving on her horse anymore. She does that little trip with Hershel and starts to literally help more with the housekeeping of the prison. So to get to the point where all that is lost is severely traumatic for her. What happens to Hershel right next to her, in her presence, something that she couldn’t prevent, that for her is extremely traumatic. You know she likes to take care of business. She had just started to slip into being a member of the community and plugging in and that is huge for her. It’s revolutionary for her. So the loss is pretty extreme. So the question is, how does she metabolize this? How does she handle it?

EW: What’s the aftermath for everyone in terms of seeing of Hershel executed? There have obviously been a lot of deaths on this show, but that one was so brutal for such a kind and gentle soul to be killed in such a savage way. What will that loss do to everyone?

GURIRA: I mean, really what everyone has to do is process and survive. But they have to survive, and will they even have the time or space to process? Of course they live in an apocalypse where there’s no more walls and there’s no more protection, so how is everybody going to handle this loss? It could go any which way. How do we navigate this world while still trying to metabolize all these losses and grievances? This is a volatile moment. This is a scary moment for everybody.

EW: For the most part this show has been one big group. Now that everybody seems to be splintered off into smaller groups, how will that change the show?

GURIRA: I think Andy said it best. There’s space around events in a way that is definitely different. There is a lot of honing in on people and their experiences and their inner turmoil and outward trauma. There’s a lot more getting to know everybody. We’re not functioning in an ensemble-like way anymore because the group is fractured. What I love about that is that looking at it from a macro-perspective it is fantastic storytelling-wise because in the little research that I’ve done I learned that one of the key elements of war is displacement. People are caught up in the concern of where people are and what happened to them and not having any way of finding out. That’s such a rich, authentic component of what really happens in a war zone. So I think that’s really thrilling that’s going to be rippling through the back eight.

EW: Any other teases for Michonne coming up?

GURIRA: What’s interesting for Michonne is that she is on the tip of something. She was on the tip of something in those first eight episodes. Was she going to settle in? Was she starting to open up? Then the trauma hit and I think the big question is, will this clam her back up or open her up? It’s a question of going back to the old her or going on a different path. That’s the question sitting on her soul as she tries to metabolize the trauma that’s befallen her.

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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