The Walking DeadAfter the insanity that was last week's episode of The Walking Dead, I feel pretty safe calling it: this show has officially upped its game. We've had amputations, a bunch of severed heads, grim boiler-room surgery via pocketknife, and more gruesome deaths than you can shake a viscera-coated stick at. Bonus, no one's saying "Where's Carl??" anymore. Season 3: winning.

As for tonight's episode, apparently this was the first show of the season directed by Greg Nicotero, the twisted genius in charge of the makeup and special effects. So, you know. That mayyyyybe explains a thing or two.

Let's get to the recap (as always, don't read past the jump if you're avoiding spoilers!):

We open with a heartwarming scene of the idyllic life in Woodbury: kids playing, dogs cavorting, everyone's drinking chilled beverages and having a grand old time. And here's the kindly Governor, bent over a child's head as he gently brushes her hair. So sweet! So fatherly! So -- um, is that a chunk of exposed, rotted SCALP?

Yes indeed, we've moved right ahead to learning that the Governor's daughter is a walker, and he's keeping her holed up in his house because Daddy still loves his baby girl, even if she is a moaning undead ghoul. Also, it seems everyone's been fighting zombies the hard way all this time, because all you have to do to keep them from biting is throw a bag over their head! With that protective layer of THIN CLOTH, you can cradle their snapping jaws right near your own jugular, NO PROBLEM.

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Michonne decides to go snooping into the Governor's home to get her sword back, and she finds his diary, which goes all crazypants with pages and pages of obsessive slash marks after Penny, his daughter's name. You know, just in case it wasn't super obvious by now what the defining event behind his madness might have been.

After skimming his masterpiece (stay tuned for the bestselling sequel to The Governor's Diary, "/////////////////////////////////////// Part 2"!), Michonne stumbles onto his next big secret: a bunch of walkers held captive outside in a cage. She lets them out and dispatches them in a bitchin' display of katana-fueled gore, then argues some more with Andrea about how it's time to leave. Like now, Andrea.

Andrea decides to stay, because life is better now that she doesn't have to eat twigs and she can wear dumb shirts from Forever 21. "You'd just slow me down anyway," Michonne spits, and walks out of Woodbury. Which is bad news for Andrea but good news for this show's renewed dedication to solving pacing problems, because Michonne's eternal suspicious brooding really needed to resolve itself.

Meanwhile, back at the prison, Rick's not doing so great. He goes from shellshocked to crazy with rage/grief, storming around inside the prison killing walkers, violently and gruesomely, with an axe. Hershel points out that the newborn -- which, in the grand tradition of all shows/movies, is actually like 2 months old -- will need some formula, and that's when like 50 pissed-off lactivists burst out of nowhere shouting BREAST IS BEST.

Ha. Okay, no, what happens is that Daryl and Maggie tear off on his bike and find a ... well, what is this place, a home daycare? Whew, that's convenient. Also, there's an awful moment where it seems like we're going to see a walker baby/toddler but it's just a possum. (Daryl: "Dinner!")

When they return, there's a fantastic moment with Daryl feeding the baby. I'm caught between the involuntary kegeling caused by this deeply appealing scene, and being distracted by the, like, 50 ounces of milk they're giving to what's supposed to be a newborn. OMG YOU GUYS FORGOT BURP CLOTHS.

Rick has continued to spiral into darkness, both metaphorically and literally. He shoves Glenn into a wall, then makes his way into that creepy dank boiler room where Lori died. But Lori's not there. There are ... chunks, and blood, but Lori's body is gone. Nearby lies an hugely bloated walker, who is, I guess, totally fattened up with a Lori Food Baby.

Let me just take a break here to say what the fuck? Lori was dead, and a walker ate her? It ate all of her, like her skull and everything? Why are there so many dead bodies everywhere if walkers are happy to chow down on corpses?

Well, anyway. As if the scene wasn't gross enough, Rick shoots the walker, then starts stabbing wildly at its stomach. Is he trying to cut Lori out of there? Is this all some awful revisitation of Lori's birth scene? I don't even know, but BRRRRRINNNNNGGGG. Oh, no big deal, just an old-school telephone ringing in a post-apocalyptic world where there are no communications or electricity. BRRRRINNNNNNNG.

(If you've read the comics, you probably have a good idea who will be on the other end of the line. But then again, the writers may have changed that particular detail, so who knows. SOMEONE'S calling for Rick, and so far, it doesn't seem to be the voice of reason.)

Back in Woodbury, Andrea finally gets tipped off that maybe Michonne wasn't full of tinfoil-hat paranoia after all, when she joins the Governor for a good old-fashioned gladiator type show. The town has gathered to whoop and cheer as Merle fights some other dudes, MMA-style, in a ring filled with walkers. "This is sick!" Andrea says, and ooh, girl, you haven't even seen his WALL OF HEADS.

While tonight's episode made it clear everyone believes Carol to be dead, the teaser for next week showed them being surprised by finding Carol's knife somewhere. My guess is still that she made it out, but I have no idea where we'll see her next. Alive? Dead? Zombified? Nothing to do but tune in next week in the hopes of finding out.

What did you think of tonight's show? Do you think Carol's still alive?


Image via AMC