Showrunner Mazzara told Collider that mid-season premiere 'Nebraska' will pick up "five seconds" after the cliffhanger finale of 'Pretty Much Dead Already'.
"After the finale, finding Sophia in the barn is just a huge event that rocks our characters and changes everything on the farm," he explained. "So, I think the stakes are much higher and people are dealing with a lot more."
He added that the second half of the season "accelerates the storytelling", following criticism from some fans that the first seven episodes lacked pace.
"I don't know if we'd say that we regret any of the episodes that we did," said Mazzara. "I'm proud of those episodes and, if some people feel that some of those episodes were slower than others, I could argue that we were spending time with our characters."
Kirkman added: "We recognise this criticism, and it is valid, but we are working on a 13-piece puzzle that, as a whole, should be seen in a different light. We're hoping that, when it's all put together, people will see that it all came together in a good way."
Mazzara also suggested that The Walking Dead is "a difficult show to write".
"People have expectations about the show," he argued. "If we have a zombie attack every week, people say it's the zombie-of-the-week. And, if we don't have zombies, people say there are no zombies. So, it's a challenging situation.
"[But] I think people will be satisfied, by the end of this run. You learn how to do a show, as you're writing it. The story material reveals itself, so if there's a way to break down that criticism and look at it moving forward, that's valid."
The Walking Dead returns to AMC in the US on February 12. The show resumes on FX in the UK on February 17.
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Watch a new promo for the return of The Walking Dead below: