Good lord, you guys, it was like the Sophie's Choice of television viewing tonight. On the one hand, we had our newly-returned season of The Walking Dead … but there was also the Downton Abbey finale. O CRUEL NETWORK-PROGRAMMING GODS, WHAT WAS A DEDICATED SUNDAY EVENING COUCH POTATO TO DO???

Aside from watching one and DVRing the other in order to be spoiled by the inevitable onslaught of web commentary, that is. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor tragic lack of restorative pizza-flavored Combos® stays this Walking Dead devotee from the laborious completion of her appointed round of sub-par recapping! Now let's get to tonight's zombie mayhem, and as always -- spoilers ahead.

We start off with Rick having the same tedious Lori-in-a-wedding-dress hallucinations he was having last episode. Lori's standing by the graves! Oh wait, Lori disappeared as soon as he approached and now she's outside the fence! Rick wanders after her, his eyes turning in little cartoon spirals, and it's impossible to call it: who is, in fact, the most annoying and morale-destroying Grimes character of this show? Eternally Irritating Alive Lori, Forever Missing and/or Stealing Guns/Accidentally Luring Walkers Carl (AKA Carl Before He Prematurely Aged and Became a Disturbed Child Soldier), Completely Fucked in the Head Rick, or STILL Irritating Dead Lori?

Back in Woodbury, the Governor tells Andrea that she should be the leader on account of that incredibly inspiring speech she gave to the citizens. She's all, "So … you're abdicating?" because now that she's a fancy speech-writer, she's going to by-god start using some ten-dollar words.

Meanwhile in the forest, Daryl seems to be regretting his decision to stay with Merle, possibly because Merle's a total piece of shit. They run into a family of Spanish-speaking survivors fighting off a pack of walkers, and Daryl heroically saves the day. Merle, on the other hand, just wants to pillage the "beaners" for their supplies, and ugh. I kind of feel like the writers aren't sure what to do with him, don't you? Sometimes he seems like a not-all-bad guy, and sometimes, like now, I'm just done with this character altogether.

Thankfully, Daryl ends the short-lived and increasingly unpleasant Dixon Brothers vs. The World storyline by heading off to the prison. "I'm going back where I belong," spits Daryl, and Merle reluctantly follows.

At the prison, Glenn's all fired up. He wants to launch a preemptive strike against the Governor, or at the very least, fortify the prison so they fight off the impending attack. Compared to the mild, helpful Glenn of season one -- or hell, even earlier this season -- this wounded, rage-filled Glenn is nearly unrecognizable. Also, he and Maggie can barely communicate, thanks to the trauma they endured at the hands of the Governor.

Hershel gimps his way across the field to try and talk to Rick, who's not completely batshit crazy as at least he knows Lori isn't really there, but he's convinced her presence has some deeper meaning. This scene is sort of funny if only for how Rick awkwardly responds to Hershel about what he's doing beyond the fence: "Um, I've got … stuff … out here." You know. STUFF. GOD, LEAVE ME ALONE, DAD.

Back in the yard, Axel is engaging in some light conversation with Carol. Remember when he creepily made the moves on Beth and told Carol he thought she was a lesbian? Ha ha, me neither. Why, it turns out that Axel's a charming guy! Maybe he'll be Carol's new love interest! And right about the time I'm thinking that this is all shaping up to be kind of a talky, non-eventful, This One Was Just Okay For Me Dawg episode, Axel suddenly takes a bullet to the head and dies right then and there.

NOW we're talking, Walking Dead.

Who's shooting? Why, it's none other than the Governor and his men, stationed in the treeline. Automatic gunfire erupts from everywhere. Carol takes cover behind Axel's corpse, which handily absorbs, like, a thousand bullets. Carl and Beth run for cover. Hershel hits the dirt. Rick starts shooting. Maggie comes racing in with an AR-15. It's all-out war, and in the midst of the chaos, a bread truck comes crashing through the prison gates, driven by a Woodbury soldier.

The truck rumbles to a stop, pauses for a moment, then drops the back of the vehicle open with a crash. Out stagger a comically large number of walkers, one after another, like clowns exiting a Volkswagen. The Governor grins sadistically and takes off, secure in the knowledge that our survivors are well and truly fucked.

Michonne starts beheading zombies left and right with her katana, and Rick's knife-stabbing as many as possible since he's out of ammo. He gets surrounded and pressed against the fence, but just before one of the closest walkers snaps its jaws into Rick's face a crossbow bolt appears in its forehead. Daryl to the rescue! And ugh, MERLE. But whew, now that Daryl's back and Rick's presumably shaken out of his Lori Fugue, everything should be totally fine!

Except mayyyyyyybe for the fact that they're stranded outside the fence, staring in at the yard filled with ravenous walkers that's between them and the prison. Yeah, this might be a problem. The good news is, stupid why-can't-you-just-be-DEAD-already Lori and her wedding dress are nowhere to be seen.

What did you think of tonight's episode? Did you like the way the show kicked into high gear towards the end?

Image via AMC