Considering 'The Walking Dead's popularity and ratings are at an all-time high, with even detractors of the show's more slowly-paced second season firmly changing their tunes about the show, was there any doubt that AMC would renew its zombie golden goose for a fourth season? Well, mixed news to 'Dead' fans today, as 'The Walking Dead's February 2013 premiere won't prove to be its last. AMC has officially renewed the series for a fourth season, likely to begin fall of next year, but with one major change: show-runner Glen Mazzara.

While 'The Walking Dead's mid-season finale "Made to Suffer" is barely cold in the ground, AMC has decided to keep the fires burning by renewing 'The Walking Dead' for an additional season, to consist of an unknown number of episodes. The move is something of a no-brainer for the cable network, considering the mid-season finale brought 10.5 million viewers, up 58% from last season's winter finale.

Curiously however, show-runner Glen Mazzara has announced his departure from the series beginning with the fourth season. Mazzara picked up the reigns after AMC let go of Frank Darabont mid-season 2, most agreeing that Mazzara's focus on action revitalized the series.

“Glen guided the series creatively for seasons 2 and 3,” AMC said in a statement. “[We're] grateful for his hard work. We are both proud of our shared success. Both parties acknowledge that there is a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward, and conclude that it is best to part ways. This decision is amicable and Glen will remain on for post-production on season 3B as show-runner and executive producer.”

Glen himself issued a statement about the departure, reflective of similar sentiments from executive producer Gale Ann Hurd and creator Robert Kirkman, saying:

My time as showrunner on The Walking Dead has been an amazing experience, but after I finish season 3, it’s time to move on. I have told the stories I wanted to tell and connected with our fans on a level that I never imagined. It doesn’t get much better than that. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey.

Interestingly, the network more or less confirmed a fourth season months ago by announcing a contest to win a walk-on role in the fourth season, though the network followed up by saying nothing had been made official yet. 'The Walking Dead' will pick up season 3 in February with "The Suicide King," with the fourth season presumably set to premiere in fall 2013.

What say you?  Are you happy to have a fourth season of 'The Walking Dead' confirmed, even without Glen Mazzara? What new characters and storylines do you think the show will get into? Give us your predictions in the comments!

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