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The promos all promised a deadly fall finale for "The Walking Dead" -- and boy, did it deliver, in one of the most shocking episodes of the series on Sunday night.
Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Henry Hanks

CNN

(CNN) -- [The following contains spoilers for the December 1, 2013, episode of "The Walking Dead."]

Your move, "Game of Thrones."

The promos all promised a deadly fall finale for "The Walking Dead" -- and boy, did it deliver, in one of the most shocking episodes of the series on Sunday night.

Midway through the episode -- despite Rick's pleas to the Governor (whose name, we recently learned, is actually Brian) to let go of his hostages, Hershel and Michonne, so his group and theirs can learn to coexist in the prison -- Hershel, the wise old doctor, was brutally beheaded by the Governor.

Thus began the biggest action sequence since the end of season two, with Rick's group of survivors (including Maggie and Beth, who just saw their own father murdered) in a shootout with the camp the Governor recently took over.

As this was happening, the Governor learned that the little girl he swore to protect, Meghan, had recently been killed by a walker, and he shot her in the head without even flinching, to keep her from turning.

It was the Governor and Rick in hand-to-hand combat, and as soon as it looked like Rick was a goner, Michonne ran the Governor through with her sword, and Meghan's mother, Lilly -- the Governor's new girlfriend -- later finished him off.

If that wasn't enough, we saw Tyreese (who was killed at this point in the comic books) saved by two young girls who had been trained in using firearms by Carol.

Speaking of Carol, her closest friend in the prison, Daryl, soon got over his anger at the fact that she had been banished and went to work, using grenades and a walker's body, to take down the Governor's people and his tank, before the members of the group abandoned the prison, before it became completely infested with walkers.

The stunned reactions to all of this on Twitter carried through the night, with various (humorous, of course) GIFs of people with dropped jaws and passed out on the floor.

Celebrities weighed in as well, with "Modern Family's" Sarah Hyland saying, "I blame @WalkingDead_AMC for Haley crying on #ModernFamily till February because the tears will not stop. Really. I'm ruined."

"I am going to need a minimum of 6-7 months to get over this episode of The Walking Dead," said actress Leslie Grossman ("Popular," "What I Like About You").

"Speechless," tweeted Yvette Nicole Brown of "Community," also a regular on the "Talking Dead" post-show.

"I'm going to bed. Watching @WalkingDead_AMC is an hour of pure crazy cardio," said Melissa Gilbert. "I'm exhausted! One question: where's Judith?!!"

Where indeed? The episode ended with Rick and Carl coming upon an empty baby car seat, devastated to see that little Judith Grimes was nowhere to be found. This raised the possibility that she had been killed or somehow, someone (Beth?) was able to rescue her in the melee.

But the question remains, why Hershel and why now? (Putting aside the fact that he died in the comic books at this point.)

"It's a very important part of the story that Hershel died; it isn't just shock death," executive producer Scott Gimple explained to The Hollywood Reporter.

"We're going to see now with all these things taken away from Rick if he can come back from this. Moving into the next season and a half, the loss of Hershel will be felt and will be this driving element toward Rick's character."

Fans will have to wait until February 9, when the show returns, for the next chapter of the story.

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