The Walking Dead is back! After the incredible strong first half of season 3, there seemed to be an immense build up of pressure for the show to deliver on this midseason premiere. The episode was not intense or action-y in any way, however, and focused mostly on the plot side of things, and featured a lot of talking, which is not uncommon for this show.
The episode began with the Governor pitching the Dixon brothers against each other in a fight to the death, and Merle immediately began to beat into Daryl, but then quickly revealed that he had a plan. At about this same time, Rick showed up to rescue Daryl. The Dixon brothers fled Woodbury with Rick's raid group, but quickly began fighting over what to do about Merle, who had been working with the Governor and had a turbulant relationship with Rick, Glenn, and Maggie. While in the process of escaping, they also managed to let a few walkers into Woodbury, but more on that in a minute.
Merle began tearing the group apart as soon as they left Woodbury, eventually (and deservingly) ended up getting pistol whipped by Rick. Michonne proved to be an incredibly frustrating character once again by not revealing that she knew Andrea and it really seems like at this point, Rick is probably right in wanting to cut her loose.
Eventually, Merle wakes up and Daryl decides to leave the group to go off with him, and Rick lets Daryl go. The rest of the raid group heads back to the prison, where newcomers Tyrese and his group are waiting to see if they will be allowed to stay at the prison. Hershal talks extensively to Tyrese and seems to believe that he is a good guy, but ultimately Hershal knows that it's up to Rick to make the decision as to who gets to stay.
Tyrese and his group go out to bury one of their own when two of the members of his group declare that they could easily take over the prison. Tyrese dismisses this logic immediately, however, and it becomes apparent that he is a moral man, and this could prove to be a blessing for Rick if he was willing to accept him into the group.
The episode was very Carol centric, from her immediate sadness when learning that Daryl had not come back to her helping to give Beth advice about raising "baby asskicker." The best moment in the entire episode may have in fact been the box with that written on the side of it. Carol also talks to Carl about the loss of his mother, and it's clear that Carl won't be recovering from his grief anytime soon.
Glenn and Maggie have their wounds treated by Carol, but they are both reserved about what happened to them at Woodbury. Hershal declares that Glenn is like a son to him, and urges Maggie that he does not want to lose her. Glenn is clerly angry about what has happened to him and it will be interesting to see how he handles himself for the rest of this season.
Meanwhile, in Woodbury, many of the residents fear for their safety and try to leave but are stopped by the guards, and leadership in Woodbury quickly breaks down. The Governor sits in his office and does nothing, obviously devestated by the loss of the only thing he cared for in the world, his daughter (who also happened to be a zombie). There is a walker attack in the midst of all the chaos, and Andrea manages to kill them, but is unable to shoot a wounded man to prevent him from turning. At this point, the Governor walks out of his office, shoots the man, and then leaves again. Andrea gives a speech that reassures the people and it becomes clear that things are going very sour in the once seemingly peaceful town.
Back at the prison, Rick must decide whether or not to let Tyrese's group join or not, but quickly loses his mind and sees Lori's image in a white dress, and starts yelling for it to leave. He pulls out his gun and screams leave, and Tyrese and his group assume that it refers to him, so they immediately leave, afraid that Rick is going to kill them. It's clear that Rick is in the worst mental state he's ever been in, and this is certainly going to cause some undo grief in the future.
What's most interesting about where the show is headed is the similarities between the Governor and Rick; both claim to be dictators, both seem to have once been great men, and both are crippled by the loss of the only thing that was important to them. When the two eventually do meet face to face, it's going to be interesting to see which is the lesser evil. We're routing for Rick because we've been following him all along, but he may not actually be the better man in the end.
Overall, this was a good episode to come back on and hopefully the second half of season three will be just as strong as the first.