In the new and improved The Walking Dead, the writers have realised that standing still is death for the show.  So gone are the memories of nothing happen on the Green farm, replaced with an ever evolving show where characters are switching sides and splitting up, and there’s something new happening every week.

As I suggested last week, the show is now building towards what is sure to be an extremely annoying cliff-hanger of a mid-season finale (because we’ll have to wait until February for episode 9), with this week’s episode setting up a Team Rick vs. Team Governor showdown, as Michonne tells Rick’s side what happened to Maggie and Glenn, while they tell the Governor about the prison after some harsh treatment and the hands of the Governor (Maggie) and the hand of Merle (Glenn).

And it’s hard to say who gets the worst of it between Maggie and Glenn.  While Glenn is physically abused by Merle, who not only punches him repeatedly in the face, but unleashes a walker on Glenn while he’s still bound to a chair (and the way Glenn handles that is visceral and thrilling to watch), Maggie is humiliated and mentally tortured by the Governor, who acts like he’s going to rape her (after making her take off her shirt and bra), although he stops when he realises that she won’t give him the answers he wants.  So it’s not really a surprise that it’s Maggie who tells him about the prison (and you certainly can’t blame her for doing so), when she and Glenn are finally in the same room together and in real danger of being killed.

While this is happening, Michonne has made her way to the prison, where Rick lets her in instead of watching her die when she passes out after trying to fend off walkers.  Once she’s inside, and Hershel has treated her wound, she tells Rick about the Governor’s town, and how she saw Merle taking Maggie and Glenn.  So Rick leads a team out on a scouting mission, taking Daryl, Michonne and Oscar with him.  What they don’t realise is that they are heading into what the people on the Governor’s side call the Red Zone, an area swarming with walkers, and they are forced to take refuge in what at first appears to be an abandoned cabin.

When they discover the man that apparently lives there, they are forced to sacrifice him (after Michonne sticks her sword through his torso) in order to escape, a stark reminder that the world they now live in doesn’t afford them much time to reason with people.

Elsewhere, when Andrea is having a break from sexy time with the Governor, she’s been tasked with helping Milton with an experiment.  An elderly man is slowly dying, and has agreed to let Milton test a theory he’s developing.  He wants to know if freshly turned walkers have any memories, if they’ll recognise the faces of family members, or certain sounds or music.  It’s a bit too predictable when Milton thinks he sees a response from the freshly turned man, insisting that one of the straps holding him down is removed, only for Andrea to have to step in and stab him in the head when he lunges at Milton, but it is a potentially interesting direction for the show to explore.

Aside from Noah Emmerich’s season 1 character, we’ve yet to see any evidence of anyone trying to discover what is making the dead come back to life, or experiment on walkers to find out how they ‘live’.  These scenes with Milton and Andrea are similar to events in George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead (which you really must watch if you’re a Walking Dead fan), but it’s something I think the show could do more of.  While the two sides of the story currently being covered are interesting enough, I think there’s room to see Milton experimenting, or even someone else experimenting somewhere in the US, and trying to ultimately find a way of stopping, or at least controlling, the zombie apocalypse.

But maybe that’s something for future seasons to explore, because right now we’ve got a fight to look forward to, and a mid-season finale that’s sure to be action packed.  The Walking Dead continues to be a show really worth watching, and it’s going to be a long couple of months before it returns after next week’s episode.