The biggest improvement in season 3 of The Walking Dead is that it’s now always interesting.  So often in season 2 that was not the case, as things dragged on at Hershel’s farm, and nothing ever really happened.  Now there’s always something happening, even if that something happens to be Rick talking to dead people on a telephone.

And while Rick’s hotline to RIPsville is a significant part of the episode, there’s an awful lot going on elsewhere, and the show is building towards what will inevitably be an extremely annoying (because I’m certain there will be a cliff-hanger to tease viewers until it returns next year) mid-season break with both sides of the story colliding in another strong episode.

But let’s start with Rick.  After getting stab happy in last week’s episode, he’s at least calm enough to talk to the rest of the group, although on his own in the boiler room, he’s also talking to an apparently safe group on the other end of a phone.  He wants to join them, but he has to prove the he and his group are trustworthy.  So he has to confess about killing Shane and the prisoners, and tell them about Lori, Carl and his new baby.  But it soon becomes clear that there’s something not quite right about whoever is calling him; they know his name and wonder how his wife died, and he eventually realises that he’s talking to Lori.  It’s a weird section of the episode (although I believe it’s lifted from the comics) but it stays, just about, on the right side of believable.  Not in the sense that this could actually happen, just that Rick is obviously in a very dark place and you can believe that he would at least temporarily got a bit nutso.

Out in the wild, we’re treated to some more awesome Michonne badass-ery, as she gives two of the Governor’s men (accompanying Merle to hunt her down) a right good seeing to with her sword.  The Governor wants her head to add to his aquarium, but although Merle manages to injure her by shooting her in the leg, he has no desire to chase her into the ‘red zone’ (an area full of walkers) and kills a third man when he threatens to tell the Governor that Merle let her go.  But Merle manages to find something the Governor may be even more interested in; he stumbles across Maggie and Glenn (who are out looking for supplies) and manages to take both of them hostage.  It’s a big moment for the show, and something that will inevitably lead some kind of confrontation between Rick’s side and the Governor’s side, especially as Michonne witnesses Merle taking Glenn and Maggie, before making her way to the prison (she’s able to do this without swinging her sword, as a previous altercation with a walker has left her covered in viscera, which makes other walkers ignore her).The one part of the episode that I’m not particularly keen on (although I have a sense of where it might be going) is the further development of the relationship between Andrea and the Governor (or Philip to his lady friends).  It’s been clear that the Governor certainly has an attraction to Andrea; he wants her to stay while trying to get rid of Michonne, and has trusted her enough to show her some of the more unusual things that happen in his town.  She admits that she did actually enjoy the late night fight club, and wants to help more around the place, hoping he’ll let her work on the wall and keep walkers at bay.

She breaks the rules by jumping over the wall to kill a walker, and the Governor tells her that he’ll find something else for her to do.  While they are drinking alone, he makes some very unsubtle comments about getting her into bed, and that’s where they end up.  It’s a relationship I don’t think is necessary, but it seems likely that it will lead to Andrea having to choose sides when everyone on Rick’s side comes looking for Maggie and Glenn.

So as I said earlier, the best thing about The Walking Dead now is that it’s always interesting, and this episode is a good example of that.  Rick has managed to rescue himself from madness ahead of what looks like a new challenge, and the capture of Glenn and Maggie looks likely to lead to a big confrontation that will dominate the second half of the season.

The Walking Dead is finally a show in which things happen, and it’s all the better for it.