Where we left off: The mid-season premiere was pretty dang anti-climactic after all the excitement when the Prison Gang finally got to Woodbury. So Rick and his crew (Maggie and Glenn) managed to escape, along with the Brothers Dixon. Daryl chose his brother Merle over the rest of his friends. Michonne got to come back to the prison to get patched up. Tyrese asked if his people could stay in the prison and help, but Rick hallucinated his dead wife Lori and started shrieking at everyone to get the fuck out. What else? Andrea seems to be positioning herself as the new leader of Woodbury, while her boyfriend The Governor pouts and declares war. Okay, then! Onwards to zombietime!
Can we all agree that the last ten minutes of this episode were some of the greatest television we’ve ever seen? Holy shit. When Daryl showed up just in the nick of time, I let out such a heroic yawp that my cat leaped off my lap and knocked over an entire bottle of seltzer. But! I’m getting ahead of myself – we need to talk about the rest of the episode. But! That last chunk of story was SO EXTREMELY GOOD. Heart-racing, nail biting zombie action. Perhaps last week’s semi-snooze of an episode was just setting us up for what might have been the best installment of The Walking Dead yet. I think I’m still having trouble breathing.
So. At this stage of the game, we’re following three different location-based storylines: Woodbury, the Prison, and the Brothers Dixon tromping through the woods. Let’s start with Daryl and Merle. Although we learn that the Dixon boys were once planning on robbing the rest of the Still Alives, it turns out that Daryl has evolved beyond his once-redneck ways and feels compassion for his fellow humans. Merle, however, is still a bitch. He taunts and teases his little brother and acts like a wretched person. When Daryl steps up to save the Spanish-speaking family on the bridge, Merle is still ready to pillage whatever he can get his hand on. Merle just can’t understand why his little brother would risk his own neck to save strangers, even if there’s a baby under attack. Daryl’s had enough. He aims his crossbow at Merle to force him to stand down, and then finally realizes that he doesn’t belong with his brother anymore. After all, Merle abandoned him when he was a kid, so now it’s time for Daryl to go. Merle moans that he can’t come back to the prison with him – he almost killed Michonne and he beat up that Chinese kid, Glenn. "He’s KOREAN," spits Daryl. And so Daryl decides to return to his friends because it turns out that he belongs with people who are less simple-minded than his brother.
In Woodbury, the Governor abdicates his power to Andrea. She’s wary, and for good reason. The Governor sneaks off to approach Milton and ask him to keep an eye on his ladyfriend. Andrea goes looking for the Governor and realizes that he’s taken his soldiers and gone "on a run." Even though the Gov promised her he wasn’t going to retaliate, he’s just a lying snake.
At the prison, Rick continues to hallucinate visions of his dead wife in a wedding gown, and he goes off on a vision quest to find her. Or, as Glenn so aptly notes, Rick’s out wandering around crazytown. Rick is totally AWOL at this point, and Glenn assumes the leadership position. He wants to return to Woodbury and assassinate the Governor. But Hershel cautions that they ought to leave the prison to avoid an attack by the Woodbury contingent. Glenn doesn’t want to run – sure, they survived a winter on the road, but that’s when Hershel had two legs and L’il Asskicker was still in utero. Glenn and Carl sketch out a map of the prison to assess where the walls have been breached, while Carol and Axel fortify the fences and engage in some rather delightful flirtation. Now that Daryl’s gone, and since he now knows she’s not a lesbian, it looks like Axel is putting the moves on our favorite headscarf devotee.
Maggie is curled up in a fetal position and has completely withdrawn from the group. Glenn asks for her help, and urges her to talk about what happened at Woodbury. She finally describes how she took off her clothes to save Glenn’s hands, and how the Governor almost raped her while she was bent over the table. Glenn reaches out to her and she smacks him away. Glenn drives off to survey the prison, leaving Maggie alone. It’s not until Beth brings her the baby that Maggie finally re-emerges from her post-traumatic shock disorder and rejoins the world – and just in time, too.
Hershel hobbles across the fields to beg Rick to return to sanity and reclaim his leadership role. Rick finally confesses that he’s seeing things – he knows it’s irrational that he’s hallucinating dead people, but he feels like there must be an answer behind his visions.
In the most shriek-worthy moment of this season, Carol and Axel continue their light banter outside in the prison yard, and Axel’s head explodes as he’s telling a humorous anecdote. Holy. Shitballs. The prison is under attack! And Rick’s out wandering the woods, Daryl’s gone, and Glenn is driving around alone. The Governor’s men have infiltrated the prison and they open fire on the prison gang. Rick springs into action, shooting from outside the gates. Carol hides behind Axel’s body, using his corpse as a human shield. Carl and Beth run for cover and Hershel hits the deck. Maggie rushes out of the prison bearing automatic weapons, and the Prison Gang does their best to defend their home. It’s an epic gunshot battle, with the Governor and his soldiers spraying the prison with a nonstop hail of bullets.
In the heat of the action, a cargo truck drives up and rams through the prison gates. Who is driving this mysterious vehicle? Is it Andrea, coming to save the day? No! It’s a Woodburian soldier who unleashes a herd of zombies into the prison yard. The Governor grins. The Still Alives are outnumbered and it looks pretty grim for our heroes. Maggie takes out the sniper and the Governor peels away just as Glenn arrives. Michonne goes on the zombie warpath, katanas swinging. Rick is out of ammo and is set upon by too many zombies. But, wait! Here’s Daryl, our prodigal crossbow-bearer! And his nasty brother! They join the fight, dispatching zombies alongside Rick on the outskirts of the gates. Glenn and Michonne help Hershel into the car and they retreat behind the prison gates. Rick, Daryl and Merle are stranded on the outside, with a sea of ravenous walkers between them and their friends.
Great Scott. And that’s where we leave off – the prison fences are down, destroyed by that zombie cargo truck. And Rick and Daryl and Merle are surrounded by zombies. And now Andrea knows the truth about what sort of man the Governor really is. Goodness gracious. What will happen next week? I need to know now! I also need to go back and rewatch that battle scene, because HOT DAMN, that was some fantastic zombietime action. Hats off to you, Walking Dead. You totally slayed it this week.
And RIP, Axel. You seemed like you were a pretty great guy, even if you did rob a drugstore with a water pistol.