Recap | <i>The Walking Dead</i>: 'The Suicide King'

"Look at this. Pathetic! All these guns and no bullets in me?" -- Merle

The Walking Dead has returned with "The Suicide King," and if you were under the impression that things were going to get better for our favorite group of survivors after the first eight episodes of Season 3, then you are in for a rude awakening. The Governor has lost any glimmer of light in him while Rick has gone fully off the deep end, which means we're likely in for quite a treat when these two finally do come face to face.

"The Suicide King" picks up right where the midseason finale, "Made to Suffer," left off: Merle and Daryl are being forced to fight to the death by the Governor as Andrea looks on in horror. When zombies are brought in to tip their fight, Rick, Maggie and their group start firing at the assembled Woodbury crowd and help Merle and Daryl escape. Panic ensues, with the Governor standing unmoving in the middle of it.

Merle helps the group escape Woodbury, cutting a hole in the fence that walkers soon enter through. Once they're a good distance away from the town, tensions quickly rise between Merle and those he escaped with. Rick wants Merle to stay far, far away from their camp, and Glenn, Michonne and Maggie are furious about the way Merle treated them while they were in Woodbury. At least Merle finally reveals Andrea is still alive and getting cozy with the Governor, something Michonne failed to tell Rick.

Rick eventually knocks Merle out to get him to shut up, but that's not the end of their troubles. It's clear Rick isn’t going to let Merle return with them to the Prison, but Daryl isn't about to abandon his brother again. Despite the best efforts of Glenn, Rick and Maggie to convince him he's their family now, Daryl decides to go off with Merle. "Don't ask me to leave him,” he says. “I already did that once.” As for Carol, he claims she'll understand why he left.

Back at the Prison, Tyreese and Sasha try to ingratiate themselves with Hershel as they wait for Rick to return. They explain how there had been 25 people in their camp at one point, but eventually they were all killed off. Although the four new survivors are now looking for a home, Hershel warns Tyreese not to get too comfortable at the Prison. The other two men in their group, Alan and Ben, don't take too well to that sentiment and end up trying to convince Tyreese and Sasha to take over the Prison before Rick gets back. Fortunately, they refuse. Somehow it doesn't seem likely that Alan and Ben will rest easy in the episodes to come, despite the fact they didn't act out now.

Meanwhile, things are worse in Woodbury than they ever have been. The town is in turmoil and the residents are clamoring to leave, but of course Martinez and the guards at the gate won't let them, at one point even threatening to shoot a person for honking his horn and riling up the walkers. That all occurs before it's revealed zombies are actually inside the walls after entering through the hole Merle left.

Andrea steps up to the challenge and shoots the zombies as the townspeople gather around her, but she can't bring herself to kill a man left dying. As those gathered stare in horror, the Governor comes out of his seclusion in his apartment to put the man out of his misery. The Governor reenters his home without saying a word, but Andrea storms after him and reprimands him for his behavior. He says he's through "holding [the Woodbury residents'] hands," and is blunt about his decision to withhold from Andrea that he had her friends captive.

"You're just a visitor here,” he says, “just passing through. So why should I tell you?" Milton then comes in to tell them there's a good chance the town’s situation could get ugly. Milton tries to calm the people but fails, and it's Andrea who steps up to tell them the history books will look back at Woodbury and see "we persevered." That seems to give the survivors the strength they need, but the way the Governor silently watches the exchange from his window doesn't bode well for anyone involved.

Unfortunately, the Woodbury situation is just about as ugly as the one back at the Prison. Glenn is livid that Rick didn't kill the Governor when he had the chance, and there's a clear divide in his relationship with Maggie. The two of them aren't talking, and it's up to Hershel to act as their intermediary. Carol doesn't react well to the news that Daryl went off with Merle, but she explains in a conversation with Beth that she understands why he did.

At least there is some brightness in "The Suicide King." Carol and Carl have an adorable scene as they wait for Rick and the group to return in which Carol tells Carl just how proud his mother Lori was of him. He says he feels guilty about being mean to her before she died, and Carol seems like she wants to help him come to terms with that. The episode is also replete with cute reunion scenes, including one between Maggie and her family, and one between Beth and Rick.

Things don't look too bright for Michonne, whom Rick has already made clear needs to be gone as soon as possible. Hershel cares for Michonne, who is passed out in bed, but Rick wants her to leave once her injuries and concussion are healed.

The tensions present in the camp are exacerbated when Hershel tells Rick about Tyreese and the other people staying in the separate prison cells. When Hershel suggests Rick let Tyreese, Sasha, Ben and Alan join their group to make up for those they lost, Rick seems to consider it. It's not until he actually meets with them that he makes his decision clear: They won't be staying.

"I can't be responsible," he tells Tyreese, who replies rationally, "You turn us out, you are responsible."

Hershel finally steps in, telling Rick he's wrong to make the others leave and that he needs to start giving people a chance. Unfortunately, it's at that moment Rick sees a vision of Lori standing above him and it becomes evident to all that he's losing his mind. Rick starts yelling at the figure and waving his gun around, causing Hershel, Glenn, Maggie and even Carl to usher Tyreese and his three followers out and away to safety. Tyreese's crew seems to be gone (for now), but it's Rick's camp that might be in the worst danger. They have finally realized just how close their leader is to cracking -- if he hasn't already.

"The Suicide King" isn't as solid as "Made to Suffer," but it does make it clear that Season 3 is going to continue its spiral downward in its back half. Who will end up being the more unhinged leader: The Governor, or Rick? Someone's going to snap soon at the Prison, be it Glenn or Carl or maybe even Alan or Ben, and at that point the balance of power for the survivors is going to be seriously upset. Their situation is all the more precarious because the Governor is itching for revenge, and he's looking to come storm the Prison as soon as he is able. Rick needs to pull himself together quickly if he hopes to survive this onslaught without another massive batch of casualties.

Grade: B+

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