Andrew Lincoln Andrew Lincoln

And here we thought marital problems would be the least of our worries in a zombie apocalypse.

But that's exactly what Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) are facing as The Walking Dead duo tries to settle down in this season's "safe haven," an overrun and zombie-infested prison that's already nearly claimed one member of their group — with plenty more death on the way. That's because it isn't walkers the group needs to worry about: There are actual live prisoners within those walls.

Walking Dead Postmortem: Did the prison claim its first cictim?

How will the living threats— including the impending introduction of the Governor (David Morrissey) — affect Rick and Lori's ability to reconcile? sat down with Lincoln to get the scoop on what's in store for Season 3, including the Rick vs. Governor showdown.

Rick and the group need to make the prison safe to live. What are the difficulties in doing that?
Andrew Lincoln:
If you had met these characters on the back of Season 2 and there hadn't been the time jump or we didn't have Lori's baby being the time bomb, Rick would certainly have been the general and pushed them on, but I think he realized that they are so desperate. The silence of the [premiere] teaser says it all. They're on the point of eating dog food now. They're so desperate. They have to do this. He sees potential at this place, and he sees that it could essentially be the safe haven that they've been waiting for. It is their only solution and he realizes that. There is a human threat obviously in Episode 2 which he deals with in an incredibly brutal way, but in his mind's eye, a necessary way. You get a real sense of where Rick has gone and the extremities that he's willing to go to in order to keep the family alive.

How is Rick doing as a leader? Is anyone questioning him this season?
I think he's proved himself. No one has died. The problem is the fact that mama and papa don't speak. There's a huge rift. They're dying emotionally. No one's calling into question his leadership. The Ricktatorship thing was a necessary tool to get them to survive. Everybody realizes he's the man for the job and that killing Shane [Jon Bernthal] was a necessary evil to get the right guy leading the group. The thing about Rick is that he will always lead to the weakest link, where Shane was not of that opinion. He said, "We keep the strong, cut away the weak." And that's one of Rick's enduring strengths and his humanity, but it's also his weakness. And then you meet the Governor. Shane's policy is where the Governor's at. It's what would have happened if Shane had been a leader a little bit further down the line.

Between Rick and The Governor, these are two very strong, very opinionated leaders who just want to keep their people alive. What does this war between them look like because it can't all be physical.
A battle of wits as well. I mean, I think it is. It's who they turned into because of this new world. I like the fact that they may be foes, but they're also sharing the same experience. They're the only people who know what it's like to have the burden of leadership and responsibility to people's lives that has been thrust upon you. Certainly the writers have come up with a really smart way of tying in the two worlds. And I think also, having the Governor is a really great way of opening up the world. You've been following the one man and his family and these group of survivors for so long. Season 2 was very much about the ideology within the group. Who's going to be leader? Now it's about outside of the prison and other humans. So it's much more about the threat of humans.

Is there a possibility the group might be split between staying with Rick or joining the Governor?
That's not necessarily where we go initially. But certainly, that's in there. Who is better? I said to the writers that I'm really interested about what is Rick's breaking point? I think we find it this season.

The Walking Dead Scoop: Can the group survive Season 3?

Lori and Rick are broken right now. Is there a chance they could fix their marriage?
They are their first loves. They're almost at a cellular level. They love each other and they can't help that. Even though they're broken, they're the last memory that they have of their life before. In any other circumstances, of course, they'd draw up the papers and leave each other. But they have a child who's turning into a soldier because he has to, otherwise, he dies. He turns into Sophia. The pressure is ridiculous on this couple. I think they do a pretty damn good job of holding it together in this hell.

This is what I realize more and more: This is a family drama set in hell. That's the way I've played it. Last season, I read Lonesome Dove, just because I felt it was right and it was a beautiful book and it just resonated with Season 2. This season, it's The Road. That was the book that I read. I think that that's very much where we're headed.

In addition to facing this new human threat in the prisoners and the Governor, Rick will also have to face his past in two very different ways: Andrea (Laurie Holden), who he left behind thinking she was dead, and Merle (Michael Rooker), who he inadvertently left for dead. What do those reunions look like?
They were fun to play. Having Merle back is a terrific thing for the show. The interesting thing with Andrea is that she doesn't know what happened. So for her to harbor a resentment is odd when how could she know that we didn't go back for her? She left. So how does she know that we left her? We were in the middle of an invasion. That was her POV.

But there is a mutual misunderstanding. Will that weigh on Rick once he finds out she's alive?
No. Because the way Rick saw it, he just killed his best friend, an invasion happened, the barn burned down, chaos reigned, everybody spread, we fortunately found my wife again and child. There were waves of zombies, so it was one of those decisions that was brutal, but necessary in the same way that it was a necessary execution of Shane. I know that I'm defending my character, but that's the deal. We would have died.

I do laugh when Laurie Holden goes, "You left me." And then she says, "I came back to the road side." When? What, midseason break? When did you do that? And it's funny. We play with each other. She'll say, "You know you gave me 32 seconds' worth of consideration." She's going to count it out. And I'm like, "I'm sorry. I had just killed my best friend and we were trying to survive!" It's brilliant. I love it.

The Walking Dead Scoop: Will Rick and Lori's marriage survive?

What will surprise viewers about this season?
I think every episode is crazy. You wait. I think that Rick goes down the rabbit hole this season, and you start him off in a very dark place. The work that I've seen everybody been doing has been fantastic. I do think it's more brutal and severe. Each week the audience gets slapped in the face, but it's also got incredible moments of hope and emotion. There are two episodes in particular that I think are magnificent. It's almost like they're outdoing themselves to try and come up with new and inventive ways to punish us. I've still got the dirt under my fingernails to prove it.

Do you think Rick & Co. will survive the third season? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.