Hey, kids, the lovely zombies of the neighbourhood are back! The ball is picked up where it was left, with Daryl and Merle facing an angry mob stirred up by the governor. It is surprising that the situation is completely resolved in the teaser, though: after a marky statement about them fighting to the death, Joffrey style, Rick and the others sweep in and save the day. The credits roll, and we're back in Walking-Dead-land. Somehow, I wouldn't have expected such a quick escape from Woodbury for all of them, and it feels a bit rushed.
|The governor in his new badguy stance.|
Things get resolved in a coherent fashion back on the road, though, so one can overlook this minor glitch in the beginning. Since Merle isn't exactly the most popular guy with Michonne, Glenn and Maggie right now, none of them wants him along, and Rick isn't happy about the idea either. Unfortunately, Daryl puts blood over sense and bonds with Merle, hiking off in the woods, despite Rick desperately trying to get him back. So the group returns to the prison, where nobody has done anything stupid yet, reinforcing a nice season 3 trend. In case you forgot, Tyreese and his ragtag band are locked in there, awaiting Rick's call.
|Tyreese's skin marks him for dead meat, though.|
Hershel is obviously keen to integrate them into the group, thinking about the danger of Woodbury (a fear that's only reinforced once the others come back and tell them what happened). First, though, Rick makes sure everything else is allright. Tyreese and company are going nowhere anyway, another clever decision that needs to be applauded. So we get some time to deal with the fallout from the Woodbury events. This choice by the writers shows some thought, since had the group immediately adressed the Tyreese problem, there would have been two consequences: the survivors would have had no chance to being affected by Woodbury, since they would have had to make rational, strategic choices, and second, these choices would have been rational and strategic. The only logical outcome would have been to integrate Tyreese and gang into the group.
|Because, you know, manpower.|
And it would have been a right choice. Tyreese shut down an attempt by the wiseguys in his team to take over the prison. The argument was not that they couldn't have done it (Axel and Beth practically begged them to smash their heads in with two shovels), but "common decency", betraying a mindset that fits the group pretty much. Of course, the group doesn't know that yet for sure, but for these decisions, Dale 2.0 (Hershel) is there, provided with a good moral compass and some empathy.
|Totally not Dale.|
But back to the fallout from Woodbury. Maggy is clearly suffering from some form of PTSD, being nearly raped and all, and Glenn is boiling angry that they are in this mess, angry at everyone and no one in particular. I'd guess this becomes a problem later on. Rick himself is also close to snapping, and with Daryl gone, there is no voice of pragmatic reason anymore. Carol, on the other hand, takes Daryl's takeoff pretty well ("he has a strict set of rules"). A bit surprising, but she really toughened up this season and became a character in her own right instead of a talking prop.
|Bitch, I got this.|
We're coming close to the end. Rick finally confronts Tyreese and the others, and decides (stupidly, but not out of character) that they need to go. He can't trust any new people, and the only measure of safety for him is to keep the group at its current level. He already decided to kick Michonne out as soon as she can walk again (she suffers from a concussion), and given the mount of information she hid from them, this is reasonable, too. Hershel tries to talk sense into Rick, but before he succeeds, Rick sees Lori standing there in her bride's gown and totally snaps, scaring Tyreese and anyone else. Tyreese flees the scene, and we leave the prison on this cliffhanger. Things got very intersting. Obviously, their own demons prove to be at least as deadly as the dangers from outside.
|Thought you saw the last of her?|
In Woodbury, people are cracking, too. However, it's not half as compelling to watch. In the light of recent events, several people want to leave the town asap, but the guards won't let them, and they nearly shoot at the fugitives. Andrea steps in, takes control and defuses the situation. Of course, she is not able to do the necessary thing when two stray walkers attack and bite a random guy, so the governor comes out and shoots him in the head. Woodbury always lacked something, and it becomes increasingly clear what it is: believability. I can't take it serious as an existing town. The stark contrast between the sunday picnic suburb routine and the gruesome "sport" with zombies and duels to the death never really made sense, and people fleeing because they were attacked, preferring the zombie apocalypse to guarding the town better seems odd. Perhaps they will transform Woodbury into more of a dystopia fitting the personality of its leader, we'll see. So far, Andrea puts in a rousing speech about the history Woodbury is making, and governor nods in approval. The stage is set for a hopefully faster paced episode 10.