'Walking Dead': Andrew Lincoln talks 'Clear,' Morgan's return and Michonne's new direction

walking-dead-rick-andrew-lincoln-clear-season-3-amc.jpg"The Walking Dead" star Andrew Lincoln says tonight's exceptional episode, "Clear," is one of his favorites since the pilot, and it's easy to see why.

A simple three person mission involving Lincoln's character Rick Grimes, his son Carl ( Chandler Riggs) and Michonne ( Danai Gurira) -- a third wheel both of the guys are somewhat skeptical of -- turns into one hell of a day. Rick (and the audience) finally discovers what happened to Morgan Jones (the character played by Lennie James, last seen in the show's pilot) and it's not happy news.

Morgan has become something of a mad hermit, driven crazy by the loss of both his wife and son, and isolated himself on the top floor of a building rigged with booby-traps and filled with weapons to keep out hungry walkers and stray humans alike. He writes on the walls, rants to himself, and only goes outside in full body armor. In short, Rick sees his own future if he can't put Lori's death behind him and focus on keeping his son and the rest of their group alive.

RELATED: Full recap of "The Walking Dead" Season 3 episode 12 "Clear"

There had been rumors online about James' reappearance at some point this season, but the guest turn was kept mostly under wraps (his image wasn't used in any promotional material and he wasn't credited until the end of the episode, although the episode's "previously on" recap did include flashbacks to the pilot likely blowing the reveal for some observant viewers).

We had already seen the episode when we spoke to Lincoln at Friday night's PaleyFest 2013, and got his thoughts on reuniting with James, what seeing Morgan again means for Rick, and the status of Rick's feelings about Michonne, now that she proved herself to Carl.

Congratulations on an amazing episode. What was it like to finally work with Lennie James again?

Andrew Lincoln: It was one of the great thrills. It was very strange as well because I hadn't seen him socially since the pilot episode. Rick is in a completely different space, as is he, and yet there were so many familiar things. It was my birthday when he did the story about what had happened to his boy and it was one of the greatest birthday gifts I could ever get: just to sit and watch that man act. He's an extraordinarily gifted and brave actor.

And what do you think seeing Morgan again does to Rick?

He feels intense responsibility that he wasn't able to help his friend and great pity for what happened to him. But also I think it holds up a mirror to where he potentially could go if he continues to isolate from the group and let the grief overwhelm him. I think it is a massive turning point. And it's a brilliant episode. I think it's incredibly well written. I thought Tricia [Brock] did a beautiful job directing it as well. It's one of my favorite episodes since the pilot actually.

Will Rick start to lay off Michonne a little now?

We'll see about that! [ laughs] As much as he can. The thing I love about those characters, when I watch movies like "The Magnificent Seven" -- the audience doesn't want them to be that close. That's the tension between those characters. If they become too chummy or lovey-dovey, I don't think that's the show. I don't think it's real. They're both warriors. They're both built from the same genetic code. It's satisfying if we do have some moments -- it's lovely the beat that we have at the end, he makes a joke to her. It's a movement in the right direction, but that's all you're gonna get!

RELATED: Danai Gurira discusses Michonne's Season 3 evolution

He still butts heads with Daryl from time to time.

Yes, as you would. We're tied together but the reality is people are making bad calls left, right and center, so you ultimately are alone in this group. I buy that fact and I love it. It's so satisfying when Daryl and Rick have a moment of like, 'Thank you.' They're few and far between because they too are alpha males and it would be unnatural for them constantly to be buddying up. I just don't think they're that kind of people and I love that about them. They're built from sterner stuff.

And obviously the world they live in plays a big part of that too.

It's war. That's what I love about the show. It pares away stuff -- you're left on your own, just with raw emotion. Hopefully that's why people are compelled to it. It's not a law show or a cop show it's about people desperately trying to hold on to their humanity.
Photo/Video credit: AMC