Back at the Lori Grimes Memorial Prison, Hershel was getting to know the newcomers. Tyreese explained that he and his sister managed to survive because of their neighbor, Jerry, a survivalist nutjob who turned out to be a well-prepared survivalist nutjob. They lived off his emergency supplies until supplies ran out. (You got the vibe that Jerry had a bad death. But nobody dies well after the world ends.) They linked up with a big group of people. There were 25 of them at one point: Larger than the Grimes Gang has ever been, a community on the road to becoming a Woodbury-esque incorporated township. But their camp was overrun. And here we are: "I must be the first brother in history to break into prison," said Tyreese. "Makes me the first white guy to not wanna break out," said Axel. And then they laughed and gave each other a thumbs up, FREEZE FRAME! (I lay 10-1 odds that Tyreese has to hammer open Axel's skull before the end of the season.)
Tyreese asked the big question: Could they stay? "It's not up to me," said Hershel. This time last year, Hershel held all the cards on the Greene Family Farm, and he didn't want the Grimes Gang lollygagging around. Now, he's a different man. Almost all of his 37 Wacky Children have died or disappeared.
Rick and the Melee Squad were having their own internal debate: What to do with Merle? Glenn and Maggie wanted him gone. Daryl couldn't believe what he was hearing. Referring to Michonne, he said: "You're gonna cut Merle loose and bring Last Samurai with us?" Rick tried to reason with him. Daryl has become his right-hand man; Rick is a smart enough leader to know that, without Merle around, he's become Daryl's surrogate big brother. "You're part of the family. He's not," Rick explained. But Daryl Motherf---ing Dixon never turns his back on blood. "It's always Merle and I before this," he said. He asked Rick to take care of everyone: His son, his daughter, Carol. And then the Dixon brothers walked away into the forest.
I'm not sure how I feel about this development. On one hand, the prospect of seeing Daryl and Merle together in the wasteland, watching each other's back and possibly driving each other crazy, is enticing. On the other hand: Surely, in the long run, they're going to circle back around? Is this just a delaying tactic? Wouldn't it have made more sense for Rick to bring Merle to the prison and then interrogate him about the Governor's forces? Then again, one of the running subtextual jokes of The Walking Dead is that Rick might not, in fact, be a very good leader. He's good at short-term tactics; long-term planning, not so much.
In that sense, he's the opposite of the Governor, who is all long-term planning -- remember his notebooks, with the fifty-year-plan for restarting civilization? The back half of this season looks to foreground the contrast between the two men. There's a sense that The Governor is like a great Roman Emperor, capable of organizing a whole society to do his bidding. But Rome was sacked, eventually, by barbarians -- and the Grimes Gang, nomadic and violent and extremely hostile to newcomers, is essentially a crew of tactically efficient barbarians.
Rick is right to be skeptical about new people, though. Back at the prison, Tyreese and Sasha were preparing to bury dead-mama Donna. Their compatriot, the recently-widowed Allen, gave them a quick numbers game. Right now, the prison was currently being held by a wispy woman with a rifle and a little kid with a gun. They could take this prison. Tyreese made a plea for common decency; Allen pointed out that "This is survival of the fittest, plain and simple." At that moment, Axel and Beth appeared, offering a pair of shovels that were just the right size to crush a human head. Tyreese and his sister grabbed the shovels, thanked them, and glared at their friends.
NEXT: Last Exit from Woodbury