Here we are, 10 episodes into season 3 and things are heating up again. Feedback on last week’s episode was mostly positive, some people felt it was a little slow though. Fair enough—it was kind of building block episode, the board had to be shaken up and pieces put in place for the second half of the season. I think this week’s episode really pays off after last week’s episode, but let’s do a run through of the action.

Last week: Daryl and Merle headed off into the woods on their own, Andrea was starting to take the lead in Woodbury, Glenn and Maggie were left physically and emotionally beaten, Michonne was left to heal in a prison cell, Tyreese and his group were kicked out, and Rick was losing his marbles.

We start at the prison. Rick’s shoring up the defenses and picks up his binoculars. He looks at Michonne getting out of the abandoned bus (where she appears to have set up camp) and scans the yard, where he once again sees Lori, this time standing by her grave. He rushes down but she vanishes. He then sees her outside the fences and heads out there. As he stands with her and touches her face, Michonne watches from a distance, looking concerned.1-RickLori

After the credits we check in on Andrea and the Governor. He’s remorseful. He admits to messing up and promises no retribution against the prisoners. And then he asks Andrea to lead Woodbury while he takes some time to rethink. It’s basically everything Andrea wants to hear. He leaves her to think about it.

In the backwoods, Merle takes a leak (classy) while Daryl tries to reason with him. Daryl wants to go back the prison, Merle says that by now everyone at the prison will be killed. Daryl looks none too pleased at the thought.2-Daryl

At the prison, Glenn’s going over a map of the grounds, figuring out where Tyreese came in and planning out how to clear and fortify that area. Glenn’s playing leader. He wants to go back to Woodbury and assassinate the Governor but the group is reticent. Hershel reminds them how well storming Woodbury went last time and wants to leave the prison behind before the Governor shows. Glenn acquiesces to not attacking the Governor but refuses to leave the prison. He and Carl (Carl!) plan to go into “the tombs” to clear out any walkers that followed Tyreese’s group in.

Back at Woodbury, the Governor speaks with Milton, questions his loyalty, and when satisfied he tasks Milton with watching Andrea. Cut to Andrea looking for Martinez and the Governor. No one on the wall will say where he is or confess any knowledge of his whereabouts. Luckily, Milton comes strolling by and Andrea asks him where the Governor is. Milton says he doesn’t know but is an awful liar. Andrea storms off, frustrated.

In the meantime, Glenn and Carl have been trying to clean out the tombs but there are too many walkers. Glenn goes to talk to Maggie, who’s been hiding out in her bunk. She finally tells Glenn what happened to her with the Governor. Glenn asks if she was raped. She says no, she was humiliated and worried and scared but not raped. She’s mad that Glenn was worried that she was raped and won’t let Glenn even comfort her.3-GlennMaggie

Axel and Carol continue Rick’s fortifications while Axel tells Carol how he got arrested for carrying a toy gun and admits to not even knowing how to use the gun he’s got. Axel, you’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, maybe you should have told someone that you don’t know how to use a piece a little bit earlier?

While Axel flirts with Carol, the Dixon brothers come across a family trapped on a bridge. Merle thinks it’s funny because, well, he’s Merle, while Daryl runs to help, because Daryl is a badass.

A walker slaughter fest ensues, but the award for kill of the decade goes to Daryl for pulling a walker partway out of the back of a hatchback and then slamming the door on it’s head. I watched it five times.4-hatchbackYES

Merle eventually decides to help, and then immediately turns jerk again when he actively starts looting the car of the people they just saved. This prompts Daryl to pull his crossbow on his brother, a crucial decision for Daryl. Merle begs off and the family heads on their way (driving over the head of a downed walker as they back up—SQUISH).

An important scene follows but the crux of it is this: when the Dixons were young, their father was abusive toward Merle, who left as soon as he could, not realizing (or perhaps just in denial) that their father’s abuse would be transferred to young Daryl. When Merle accidentally rips Daryl’s shirt we see a crosshatch of scars all over his back. Merle is taken aback and expresses remorse, or at least as much as he can. Daryl and Merle are squared. Daryl has come to terms with Merle and decides to head back to the prison, leaving it to Merle to come or not. Merle says he can’t after what he’s done to Michonne and Glenn. Daryl says “I may be the one walkin’ away, but you’re the one that’s leavin’… again.”5-poorDaryl

An aside on Daryl’s evolution: When we first met Daryl he called Glenn a Chinaman, Glenn corrected him, saying that he’s Korean, to which Daryl replies, “whatever.” Tonight we have Merle calling Glenn Chinese and Daryl correcting him, “he’s Korean.” Merle: “whatever!” I love it. Daryl at his most lovable tonight, ladies. It’s also worth noting that both Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker are great in this scene.

Back to the prison we go, where a pissed and hurt Glenn gets in the truck, after promising Hershel that he’s not going back to Woodbury. He tells Hershel he just needs to get out. After Glenn drives off, Hershel notices Rick just wandering around the grass outside the grounds. Moseying, as it were.

Hershel calls Rick over to the fence to warn him about Glenn’s behavior, and stress to Rick how important it is that he come back. Rick dances around the reason he’s outside the fence, but eventually confesses to Hershel that he’s seen Lori, and Shane too. Rick says he can’t come back yet.

Axel and Carol watch from a distance. Axel says he did better in prison, and is just about to launch into a funny anecdote about his brother when—BOOM—headshot! The Governor has come to teach Rick’s group a lesson and dispense some payback. A protracted gun battle ensues between Rick’s entire group (minus Glenn) and The Governor and couple of his men, who are spread around the prison.8-Governor

In the midst of the gunfight, a mysterious, masked stranger crashes through the gates and releases a horde of zombies into the prison yard, while the Governor watches with a smile on his face.7-mystery

With havoc unleashed, the Governor and his men retreat.

Out of bullets, Rick is surrounded by walkers, grappling with two of them and just barely able to keep them at bay. Rick is just about finished when a crossbow bolt kills one of the walkers on him. Merle kills the other with a length of rebar through the head. With the walkers around them dispatched, Rick looks at Daryl, who gives him a little nod.8b-DaryltotheRescue

Michonne slices her way across the yard to help Hershel, cutting heads off left and right, and joins a recently returned Glenn. They get in Glenn’s truck and get back to the inner gates of the prison.

The group, now separated by a yard full of walkers, look on in dismay. The last shot is Rick, looking at what the Governor has done, grim and resolved.9-Rick

So what did you guys think of the episode? I loved it. I thought it was really well paced, great action, brutal zombie violence, and Norman Reedus, Michael Rooker, and Andrew Lincoln all killed it (figuratively and literally). Some really interesting character growth for both Dixon brothers, and the Governor escalated the conflict even more.

Food for Thought:

Who is the masked figure that dropped the zombies off in the yard?
Did you love Daryl’s arc this episode as much as I did?
Will this snap Rick out of his crazy (looking at that last shot, I don’t know)?
Where the hell are Tyreese and company?
What do you guys make of Andrea at this point?