Tina Rowden/AMC

The Grimes Gang loses one of its most valuable members, while the Governor gets ready for war

February 27, 2015 at 07:23 PM EST

The lovely people of Woodbury wanted blood, and lots of it. We began the second half of The Walking Dead‘s third season right where we left off a couple months ago. The Dixon brothers were back together, like in days gone by — and just like in days gone by, the good people of the community were united against them. (Everything we’ve ever heard about the Dixon Brothers’ pre-apocalypse lifestyle makes them sound like outcasts. I picture them as a grown-up backwoods Calvin & Hobbes, with Daryl as the reckless-yet-thoughtful youth and Merle as the pouncing homicidal psycho stuffed tiger.) The Governor loomed at the center of the arena. His citizens screamed, “Kill them! Kill them!” Andrea offered a pitiful defense for her old comrade: “Philip. He’s my friend.” But the Governor would not hear her plaintive cries of woe. “Brother against Brother,” he declared. “Winner goes free. Fight to the death.” And lo, for the first time in recorded history, Daryl Motherf—ing Dixon looked scared.

Merle initially wanted to get back in Woodbury’s good graces. “I’m gonna do whatever I gotta do to prove that my loyalty is to this town,” he declaimed, before punching his younger brother to the ground and kicking him a couple times for good measure. Daryl fought back; eventually, they were engaged in mutual strangulation. (According to popular folklore, the only person who can kill a Dixon brother is another Dixon brother.) But this was all just a cunning ruse by Ol’ Stabby-Hand. “Just follow my lead, little brother,” he said. The brothers rose and started gladiator-tussling with the zombies in the arena. It wasn’t the bloodsport the Woodbury Citizens wanted, but still they roared.

And then they fled. Rick had brought a small task force back to Woodbury to rescue Daryl. They shot the lights out; they threw smoke grenades; someone (Maggie?) shot The Girl With The Compound Bow, thus putting an end to all our theories that her and Daryl Motherf—ing Dixon were going to star in an archery-themed remake of Enemy at the Gates. The good people of Woodbury ran away screaming. Daryl got his crossbow back. Merle bashed a zombie to death with his arm stump. (Meanwhile, the Governor slowly walked through the smoke and shot a walker through the head, with all the nonchalance of a man swatting a fly.) The Grimes Gang and the Dixon Boys escaped through the fence, leaving it just open enough for a curious walker to come in.

Rick brought his people back to the rendezvous point, where the injured Glenn and Michonne licked their wounds and plotted vengeance. They weren’t too happy to see Merle. Merle, meanwhile, was extremely happy to see them. Really, Merle couldn’t have seemed happier about this whole situation. Truth Time: I think The Walking Dead has sort of bungled the reintroduction of Merle Dixon. It was always a stretch that Merle would just happen to find the Grimes Gang again, considering the sheer lonely expanse in the new zombie-infested world. But the show stretched that stretch even further: First, Merle found Andrea wandering through the countryside; then, he found Glenn and Maggie wandering through the countryside; meanwhile, Michonne found the Grimes Gang on her own, and at no point ever connected Rick’s Crew to her old traveling companion, Andrea.

This is all, in a word, insane. Fortunately, Merle is also insane, so this all makes sense to him. He sowed a bit of discord in the group. He told Rick that Andrea had become the Governor’s paramour. He told Rick that Michonne used to have two pet walkers. He told Rick that he was surrounded by a bunch of liars, thugs, and cowards. And then he just cackled: “All these guns, and no bullets in me!”

Merle was making a lot of good points. Rick had a concise rebuttal: He punched Merle in the face.

NEXT: Getting worse out there

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