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'The Walking Dead' returns Sunday (and a review)

Danai Gurira as Michonne in

Danai Gurira as Michonne in "The Walking Dead" Credit: AP / AMC Gene Page

"The Walking Dead" is back for the second half of its fourth season Sunday. Here, without further babble, is my review. Bottom line: I still love this show, rolling zombie heads and all.

"The Walking Dead," AMC, Sunday, 9 p.m.

What it's about: In the wake of the epic prison battle between "The Governor's" (David Morrissey) forces and those loosely led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), there is only death and chaos. The survivors begin to scatter as the "walkers" overrun the prison, now completely abandoned. Nothing -- in other words -- is the same. Battered Rick and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) stumble away to who-knows-what-or-where. Michonne (Danai Gurira) and her trusty katana hack their way through the chaos, too. But what remains of the others -- Glenn (Steven Yuen) or of Maggie (Lauren Cohan) or Daryl (Norman Reedus) or Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson) or ANYONE? All questions awaiting answers as the second half of the fourth season begins Sunday.

My say: In the 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy, "The Road" -- later made into the movie of the same name with Viggo Mortensen -- a man and his son pick their perilous way through a post-apocalyptic landscape that is (initially) sculpted only with questions and no answers. That's your scene-setter for Sunday night, too, and quite possibly the balance of the season: Down that long, muddy road where Rick and Carl struggle is most certainly danger -- but what lies at the end?

AMC has said "The Walking Dead" could go on for years and years, so that metaphoric highway now extends to a vanishing point on the horizon. But that tension of not knowing what lies around the next corner, or behind that closed door, or in the shadow of the dark woods is what has always animated "Dead" at its best.

Yet the "not knowing" turns Sunday night into a joy ride of real terror. For, like the survivors, we are all now in an unknown world surrounded (paradoxically) by familiar things -- white picket fences, cans of pudding, spacious homes with spacious, airy porches.

(Carl looks on in joy and wonderment at a wide-screen TV alongside a huge stack of DVDs, then his face clouds over: Oh, right.)

Sunday is brutal, but is also another reset that allows just the briefest light of humor and humanity to penetrate the gloom. And it is terrific.

Bottom line: "Dead" brazenly reinvents itself once again, and the result will have you crawl under the living room couch for safety. (Ah, yes, couches, thank goodness for those.)

Grade: A

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