SPOILER ALERT: The recap for "The Suicide King" episode of "The Walking Dead" contains storyline and character spoilers.
This zombie apocalypse world is "making the living less like the living," new prison refugee Tyreese tells Hershel, and that, as the first new "Walking Dead" episode since December 2 previews, is going to be the theme of the rest of the third season.
Chief among those living who are becoming less like the living: Rick and Glenn, who are so angry and just plain freaked out by recent events that they're threatening to no longer be the guys we first got to know in Season 1.
Rick is still haunted by Lori's death and the birth of Lil' Asskicker, of course, not to mention the continuing planet of responsibility he feels to keep his group alive. For Glenn, that hand-to-hand combat with the zombie Merle sicced on him in Woodbury unleashed his fierceness, but the Governor's attack of Maggie, Glenn's beloved, has left Glenn feeling helpless and angry, and the zombie head he stomps into mush in tonight's episode is just the first of many ways that anger is going to manifest itself before he deals with his time in Woodbury.
As for how everyone else fares in Woodbury, when we left off with the gang in December, Daryl had just been reunited with big brother Merle, only to be thrown into the town's gladiator pit for a fight to the death. "Brother vs. brother … winner goes free," orders the Governor. With death coming to at least one of them courtesy of the Governor and zombies nipping at them from all sides, the Dixon brothers are saved only by the guns-and-grenades attack carried out by Rick and Maggie.
The rain of violence sends the Woodburyians into chaos, with townsfolk scrambling to avoid the bullets and explosions, as the Dixon duo escapes and the Governor stands in the middle of the mess smiling.
Merle leads the pack to a section of gated Woodbury where they can escape, and Rick, Maggie, Merle and Daryl meet up with Michonne and Glenn by their car. Guess who isn't happy to see Merle or consider the prospect of him joining the gang back at the prison? Yes, Michonne, who he tried to kill, and Glenn, whose Woodbury trauma began when Merle nabbed him and Maggie and delivered them to the Governor.
"Oh yeah, he is a charmer," is Merle's description of his former ally, the Governor, but no one's in the mood for Merle's sense of humor, and after a quick debate, it's decided that taking Merle back to camp is not a good idea.
Fine, Daryl says, but he left his brother behind once, and he's not doing it again. So if Merle is cast out, Daryl's splitting with him, and the Dixon brothers head off into the woods without either faction -- Rick and company or the Dixon brothers -- really thinking through how much stronger they are together than apart.
The newest prison dwellers?
Back at the prison, Hershel is tending to Tyreese's friends and getting to know their history in zombieland. Beth comes in holding the baby, and Sasha's questions lead to the revelation that Lil' Asskicker's mama is dead, and that the baby is only a week old. Shocking! Lori's death happened in the season's fourth episode; this is episode nine … everything that has happened in these last five episodes has happened in just a week, which is important to note in considering just how fragile and "less like the living," as Tyreese so perfectly put it, these characters have become.
Tyreese, who has bonded with Hershel, is a truly good guy, but he also has a motive in sharing his group's story: He wants to take up residency at the prison, too. Hershel tells him it's not his decision, meaning they'll have to wait 'til daddy comes home -- i.e. Rick -- to see if they can stay for supper(s).
Tyreese's friends don't want to wait. They see a chance to take over the prison for themselves with Rick and the others gone, but Tyreese, determined not to become one of those who are losing their humanity, prevents them from attacking anyone.
On their way back to the prison, Maggie, Michonne, Rick, and Glenn have to stop when a fallen tree and a crashed truck block the road. It's there that Glenn stomps a zombie head like it's a watermelon, and screams at Rick for not killing the Governor when he had a chance during the attack in Woodbury. "Do you know what he did to her?!" he shouts at Rick, about Maggie? We know that although the Governor tortured and attacked Maggie, he stopped short of raping her, but that may be a detail Glenn is not aware of yet.
The Governor, meanwhile, is MIA back in Woodbury, where, post-attack, the townsfolk, unaware of exactly what life outside their gates is like, try to leave in droves. The Governor's minions try to stop them -- with the threat of shooting them -- and Andrea tries to play peacemaker with everyone, while her lov-ah hides himself away in his apartment, gathering his weaponry and plotting his revenge on Rick.
When walkers invade the town -- thanks to that hole in the fence made by Merle so he and the others could escape -- one local gets eaten, and the Governor finally re-emerges, but only long enough to put the zombie chow out of his misery with a bullet to the head.
After successfully calming down the Woodburyians -- with a speech that would probably win her the job if there was ever an election for Governess -- Andrea finally goes off to confront her boyfriend, who 'fesses up that, yes, he knew Maggie and Glenn were her friends, and, no, he didn't tell her about it. But what about her friends, he asks. What about everything they've done, which has resulted in the deaths of several Woodbury citizens? Shockingly, that seems to quiet Andrea down, and, no matter how many problems it would solve if she did, she does not pick up a piece of the Governor's arsenal and turn it on him.
Speaking of meltdowns …
Rick, Glenn, Maggie, and Michonne return to the prison, where Hershel checks everyone out. Rick tells him that as soon as Michonne's well enough to travel, he wants to kick her to the curb.
While examining Glenn and Maggie, Hershel realizes something is amiss, but neither is spilling details on what happened in Woodbury. They are not talking to each other, either, and Glenn only seems more pained when Hershel tells him he thinks of him as his own son. Hershel had once told Glenn he trusted him to help protect Maggie, and now that Glenn feels like he failed to do that, he also clearly feels like he failed Hershel, too.
Hershel's got other things on his mind, too, however, namely convincing Rick that it's in everyone's best interest to let Tyreese and his group stay at the prison. They all owe their survival thus far to Rick, Hershel tells him, and they have gone along with every decision he has made. But when he makes it clear he wants Tyreese and friends out, Hershel tells him he's wrong this time. At some point, Rick needs to start trusting people. Besides, with the Governor nice and riled up and retribution almost certainly on its way, there is strength in numbers.
Tyreese pleads his case, too, telling Rick that those in his group will find their own food, help defend the prison against other groups, contribute in any way they can. "I can't be responsible" for more people, Rick responds. "You turn us out now, you will be responsible," Tyreese answers.
Hershel delivers his speech, and it looks like Rick might be considering … and then he sees something. a woman in a gown (Lori?), a ghostlike figure, on the upper level of the prison. And he begins shouting at the woman, "Get out! What do you want from me?"
Yes, y'all, Rick is losing the very, very loose grip on sanity he's had since Lori died and he had those phone calls with the dead. He's screaming at a ghost, but everyone in the room thinks he's shouting at Tyreese and his friends to leave, so, instead of getting shot, they flee, and Rick's friends are left to wonder: What just happened?!
- Carol, while on walker patrol with Carl, tells him his mom was so proud of him. Carl says he just feels guilty for how mean he was to her … how on earth does this little boy continue to be the most resilient one in the bunch?
- On a happier kiddie note, who knew Carol had such serious DIY skills? It's not like she can drive down to the local Michael's or AC Moore and pick up some craft supplies, yet she managed to fashion quite the, well, fashionable little crib for Lil' Asskicker, using some recycled fabric and an old mail carton. It even had the baby's name, er, nickname, beautifully painted on the side.
- Echoing Tyreese's sentiments on what trying to survive in their crazy world does to humans, when Rick describes the Governor's crazy fight-to-the-death plot and asks Hershel "What kind of a sick mind does that?" Hershel replies, "The kind this world creates."
- During Andrea's speech to the Woodburyians, as she's trying to convince them they can bounce back from the day's events, she says, "Years from now, when they write about this plague in the history books …" Hmmm, so that's how they characterize what has happened, what brought about this zombie-filled world? A plague?
- When Rick returns to the prison and holds Lil' Asskicker, she starts crying and you can tell he's starting to freak out a little bit. Anyone else have flashbacks to the "M*A*S*H" series finale, when a baby's cries led to Hawkeye's breakdown?
Now, what did our fellow "Dead"-heads on Twitter think about "The Suicide King"?
We second @thecrunkpanda, who wrote:
@beautifulmoreso noticed that little kiss Hershel's daughter Beth planted on Rick when he returned to the prison. Beth, the object of a blossoming crush by Rick's son, Carl.
And who hasn't wondered this for themselves? @erin0915 tweets: