By the time "The Walking Dead" Season 5 returns on Sunday, February 8, 2015, more than two months will have passed since the dramatic events of the midseason finale. There's a lot to look forward to in the eight episodes to come, including more characters and content from the comic books, and - of course - the dramatic fallout from Beth Greene's (Emily Kinney) death in the Grady hospital storyline. Here are five things to keep in mind as we approach the second half of AMC's zombie apocalypse juggernaut.

1. Episode 9 Called One of the Best Episodes in "TWD" History

Season 5, Episode 9 is the next new episode coming our way in February, and it's meant to be visually unique, very emotional, and so good it's been dubbed the best. We may feel differently - it may end up being a polarizing episode - but the praise comes from people involved with the show who don't use those superlatives every week. Special effects master Greg Nicotero directed Episode 9 -- as well as several other episodes - and back at Walker Stalker Con Atlanta, Greg said he believes Ep 9 is the best episode the show has ever done. Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) told Entertainment Weekly pretty much the same thing, adding in a new EW radio interview that Episodes 9 and 10 are two of his favorites, and this second half is his favorite ever. After the Season 5 premiere, Chad Coleman (Tyreese) talked to Forbes about the rest of Season 5, teasing, "I never thought I'd say there's actually a better episode than 'The Grove.' But there is." He may have been talking up Episode 9, too. And considering Season 4's "The Grove" (the Lizzie/Mika "look at the flowers" ep) is on many fans' best lists, it's safe to say you don't want to miss what happens next. Warning: Major comic book spoilers referenced ahead.

2. Noah's Trip Home May Lead to Alexandria -- and a "Brand New Show"

Rick's group needs a new mission, and AMC already revealed it when posting the first two minutes of Episode 9. The new goal is to get Noah home to Richmond, VA, because that's what Beth wanted and since the place had walls when Noah was there last (over a year ago) it's a potential sanctuary for our group. What if Richmond is a bust? They'll keep going - and they'll probably keep going to Alexandria, VA, courtesy of a new character who'll introduce our crew to the kind of safe zone they hoped to find back at Terminus. Showrunner Scott Gimple has said Season 5 will be like a "brand new show" in the second half, when everything changes. It won't happen right away, but after the first couple of return episodes, we should start hearing about the Alexandria Safe-Zone, a major location in the comic book series. AMC's Episode 11 synopsis references the group meeting a "friendly person" and that should be ASZ recruiter Aaron. The Episode 12 synopsis seems to place them at the Safe-Zone - and since Rick is still there in the current timeline of the comic - years from this point in the story - get used to the place. It's home. First two minutes of Episode 9:

3. Rick Grimes Will Lose His Hair

There should be a mini time jump toward the start of Episode 9 to take our group from Georgia to Virginia, so we don't have to follow them every step of the way, and part of that is shown through Rick's increased beard grown. However, actor Andrew Lincoln was spotted with a new look during back-half filming, and it was noted by all that he was clean-shaven like Rick hasn't been since Season 1. What gives? Andrew joked to The Hollywood Reporter, "Either I'm not in the show anymore or there's a flashback where I found a razor." Or, more likely, he finds a razor at the Alexandria Safe-Zone, as he did in the comic, and he cleans the hair slate when he gets there as a sign of civility and moving away from the brutal existence they've endured on the road. Based on a behind-the-scenes video, we know Rick will be clean-shaven in Episode 12, which is also when AMC's synopsis heavily hints to the group struggling to fit in at Alexandria.

4. Morgan Will Catch Up ... Eventually

Morgan Jones' (Lennie James) return in the Season 5 premiere got a lot of attention, but his second return was overshadowed by Beth's dramatic death. Don't forget about Morgan, though, since comic book writer/executive producer Robert Kirkman said they have "big plans" for the character, and showrunner Scott Gimple said everything we've seen of Morgan so far "is absolutely leading somewhere." At the end of the midseason finale, Morgan saw the map Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) left Rick, showing the route to D.C. Morgan is still far behind Rick's group in the timeline, but a time jump in the second half may give Morgan a chance to catch up. Don't be surprised if he pops up at the Alexandria Safe-Zone by the finale. That's just a guess, but Morgan is part of the group at the Safe-Zone in the comic, and actor Lennie James was spotted at the Season 5 wrap party at the end of filming. And it's not like Morgan has anything else to do but follow his BFF all over the South. (Morgan vs. Daryl - who will get Rick's final bromance rose?)

5. There Will Be Two Dozen Main Characters

If you thought the cast was big before ... just wait! Andrew Lincoln told Entertainment Weekly, "We also introduce a lot of new characters in this back eight, and Scott [Gimple] and the writers have done a tremendous job of servicing maybe 24 principal characters. It's been an astonishing feat from their end as well." So far only two new cast names have made the press rounds - Ross Marquand and Alexandra Breckenridge. They are rumored to be playing comic book versions of Aaron the Alexandria recruiter and Jessie Anderson, an Alexandria resident. If they follow the comics, there will certainly be a lot of personality clashes and some new "villains," but also new friends and the potential for romance. Rick isn't getting all cleaned up for nothing! That said, this is "The Walking Dead" and we know more deaths are coming, possibly soon. So as we welcome new faces, we'll have to say goodbye to some others, however much it hurts. It's the circle of life!

What are you most excited to see when The Walking Dead returns?