Fight the dead. Fear the living.
This tagline for The Walking Dead is the perfect way to explain the first half of Season 3. It's been all about the characters' survival and learning who to trust, all while finding the most creative way to kill walkers.
There are some great episodes in the The Walking Dead Season 1 and 2, but this stretch of eight episodes really knocked it out of the park. Some great pacing along with maintaining a focus on the characters has made it probably the most compelling yet.
Sure, the walkers remain that frightening vision of the new world, but the biggest threat for the survivors remains with each other.
"Made to Suffer" continued to establish that concept while finally delivering to us fight night, round one for the prison versus Woodbury.
It's fantastic that Rick remains dedicated to his group. He could have so easily given up on Maggie and Glenn, but literally slipping into enemy territory and facing certain death wasn't enough to keep him or Daryl and Oscar away. He's done a good job proving his leadership ability and even giving Daryl some focus when the prospect of Merle came up.
That said, Rick is still stuck with some emotional issues. I had thought that it had been a quick fix after his phone revelation, but seeing Shane was not a good sign that things are back in order. It was a nice surprise I wasn't expecting, but I can't wait to see how long until Rick breaks again.
And did anyone think Shane looked like Wolverine with that haircut and beard?
I did enjoy the gun fight, although I though Glenn and Maggie's rescue seemed a little easily done. Yet, it was certainly interesting that the two sides really didn't get a chance to meet and spent more time anonymously apart and firing bullets.
It really makes me want to see a personal standoff between Rick and the Governor even more. Except I have a feeling that the Governor Rick will be forced to face down the road will be nothing short of pure evil.
In a lot of ways, the Governor that we've come to know has had some sense of humanity, as depraved as he was with his floating heads and caged daughter. Michonne's stabbing of Penny was that turning point for his character to simply slip into complete darkness.
How cool was that fight between them? It was brutal and bloody, with each head smash and gut punch. And when Michonne stabbed the Governor's eye, I was completely taken aback. She came so close to finishing him off for good.
However, I'm unfortunately at a loss when it comes to why she was so hell bent on killing the Governor. Andrea was apparently in the same confused boat. I really want to like Michonne, but I feel like we're missing those deleted scenes or backstory that would fully explain her actions.
Yes, I get she was upset the Governor sent Merle to kill her and she knew all along that he was lying and hiding darker secrets, but the Governor never really did anything that would warrant what felt like her preparation for ultimate revenge. If she had been interrogated like Maggie, then sure, I could completely understand it. If she knew all about his head tank or had watched him murder the national guard, then definitely, her return to Woodbury for the Governor would make more sense.
Heck, I would have understood if she went after Merle.
At least her acknowledgment of needing Rick near the end may be the first softening in her hardened cracks, but I'm really hoping that the second half of the season spends more time on Michonne's characterization beyond the fact that she looks bad ass with a sword. I really want to know why she does the things she does.
Which makes me that much more curious about the new group of survivors led by Tyreese. How will they fit into Rick's team? Will they get a chance to be more than "that guy or girl from the other group," and will all of them manage to stick around long enough?
And I hate to say it, but after Oscar died, I can't help but think that Rick's side is only allowed to have one African-American at a time.
At least the other prisoner, Axel, managed to have some staying power, but who knows how long that will last. It was rather funny that he went from drooling over Beth to calling Carol a lesbian because of her haircut... to then being suddenly interested when he found out she wasn't.
Except Carol wasn't having it and I love that she still has a great humor and sensibility throughout it all. She's definitely one of my new favorites.
But even with the worlds colliding and the characters all picking sides, the final moments gave me something I was looking forward too. Sort of. Daryl and Merle have reunited.
Unfortunately, Daryl managed to get captured (how did that happen?) and Merle was called a traitor by the now one-eyed Governor.
I really was hoping for more of an interaction between these two, but that will obviously take place when the show returns. Both of these guys have essentially been in similar roles for their respective leaders (Rick and the Governor), so it will be interesting to see what their newest situation forces them to do.
Will Merle switch sides? Will Daryl accept his brother? Will the two run off? Will one of them kill the other?
And why, oh why, is Andrea still hanging out with the Governor, not to mention still trying to prove she can handle a gun when all the boys are around taking action?
If the severed fish tank heads, the walker daughter, the fact the Governor tried to kill Michonne and now has her old pal Daryl captured - combined with a raucous crowd of overly angry Woodbury townsfolk - isn't enough to deter her, I don't know what will.
She better be back to her senses by the next episode or I will have lost all hope for her, even if she just really really wants to believe that Woodbury is the perfect place and the Governor is the perfect man. Wake up!
It's hard to believe we'll all have to go through The Walking Dead withdrawals until the drama returns in February, but this episode was a nice way to cap off what's been a great first half of season three. There's certainly so many directions the story and characters can go that I can't wait to see how the rest of the season plays out.
What did you think of the episode? What do you want to see when the show returns? Sound off below!
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.