The Walking Dead’ season 3 brings to life its ninth episode of the season, mid-season premiere “The Suicide King,” as Rick rescues Daryl and Merle, and begins to crack under the difficult decisions posed by adding to his group, while Andrea attempts to calm a panicked Woodbury and draw the Governor out of seclusion..

Last year’s ‘The Walking Dead’ finale “Made to Suffer” saw Rick, Michonne, Daryl and Oscar mounting a deadly mission to retrieve Glenn and Maggie, while new survivor Tyreese (Chad Coleman) led his group into the prison under Carl’s guarded authority, so what will the latest episode bring?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘The Walking Dead’ season 3 episode 9, mid-season premiere “The Suicide King!”

In the Woodbury arena, Andrea pleads for the lives of Daryl and Merle, but her words fall on the Governor’s deaf ears. Merle knocks Daryl to the ground hoping to win the crowd, but covertly assigns his brother to follow his lead, while Woodbury guards introduce captive Walkers into the fight. As Merle and Daryl pair back to back, a shot rings out, sending panic into the crowd. From a distance, a returned Rick and Maggie open fire and launch a smoke grenade, ending the melee. Retrieving his crossbow, Daryl and Merle escape in the confusion while the townspeople flee in a panic and the Governor seethes. Merle leads Rick and the others outside the gates, as a lone walker slips into the town walls in their wake.

As dawn breaks, Rick leads the group back to the car, until both Glenn and Michonne draw their weapons in the presence of Merle. Slipping back into his abrasive persona, Merle reveals to the group that Andrea is in Woodbury, as Michonne has known all along, but Rick knocks him out before he can lob any more insults.

Back at the prison, Tyreese’s group is stunned by the presence of a baby, mistaking Beth for the mother at first. Tyreese explains to Hershel how their group had originally been much larger, and thanks the man for his hospitality, but Hershel reminds Tyreese they have a close knit group, and may not be so welcoming when Rick and the others return.

Daryl reminds the group that Merle will come in handy when the Governor inevitably makes his retaliation, but Rick and Glenn can’t imagine any way in which Merle’s presence at the prison would be accepted by the others. Reluctantly, Daryl refuses to leave his brother behind, and elects to leave the group to be with his brother on their own. Rick pleads with Daryl to reconsider, but the brothers leave to make their own way, leaving a bitter Rick to threaten Michonne’s exit once she heals.

Tyreese and his group carry Donna’s body outside in preparation for burial, when Allen and his son Ben suggest they have a golden opportunity to take the prison for themselves. Tyreese and Sasha protest the thought, and when Axel and Beth appear to offer tools for the burial, Sasha and Tyreese grab them to avoid any further insurrection.

On the road back, Glenn fumes about Daryl’s exit and Rick’s lack of retaliation against Merle or the Governor, while Maggie urges them to table the matter for now. Meanwhile back in Woodbury, Milton and Andrea worry about the Governor’s reclusiveness, and the panicked townspeople looking to flee the town, before a few errant walkers appear on the opposite end of the street. Andrea and Martinez take them down, but when one of the bit citizens pleads for help, the Governor appears from his solitude, guns the doomed man down, and returns to his apartment without a word.

Back at the prison, Carol and Carl see Rick’s imminent return, as Rick explains to Carol that Daryl went off with Merle, and they lost Oscar along the way. Greeting Hershel and the others, Rick explains that their new foe was sadistic enough to pit Merle and Daryl against one another, and Hershel explains in turn that the prison has had some new arrivals. Rick brushes past Tyreese and the others without a word and greets baby Judith from Beth, but seems to become distressed at the idea that Judith has Lori’s eyes.

Meanwhile in Woodbury, Andrea confronts the Governor over his brash actions, and questions the presence of Daryl, Glenn and Maggie earlier. The Governor points out that her former friends savagely attacked the town, and that she herself is still a visitor, when Milton interrupts to bring concerns of the panicking townspeople. Downstairs, Milton attempts to calm the people demanding to see the Governor, as Andrea pipes up and reminds them that history will remember Woodbury if they can find the strength to soldier on through the panic.

Carol and Beth tend to Judith, as Carol attempts to rationalize Daryl’s decision to exit with Merle. Meanwhile, Hershel tends to Glenn’s wounds, observing an obvious rift between he and Maggie. Rick watches over Michonne in a deep sleep, worrying about how soon she can leave, while Axel mourns the loss of his friend Oscar. Noting the Governor’s likely retaliation, Hershel presses that Rick’s group could use the reinforcements Tyreese’s group has brought to the prison.

Finally agreeing to meet with Tyreese and his group, Rick listens as they explain how they’d come in through the other side of the prison and would do anything to contribute to the group, but Rick denies them a permanent place within the prison. Hershel urges him to reconsider and give people a chance, but the effort is interrupted as Rick sees a ghostly vision of Lori on the balcony above, and flies into a panic! Rick screams at the apparition and draws his gun, and Tyreese leads his group out of the room to avoid causing a panic, the other survivors perturbed by Rick’s actions. Cliffhanger!

Ah, at long last, 'The Walking Dead' has returned. We'll try to avoid letting the news of show-runner Glen Mazzara's exit and the rumors surrounding the quality of the next eight episodes color our viewpoint, but fans will surely agree "The Suicide King" offers a much quieter, contemplative episode than its predecessor. We were surprised to see the situation with Daryl and Merle resolved so quickly, only to see both exit the scene for parts unknown. Hopefully Daryl won't remain out of the picture for too long, as it robs the main storyline of a good bit of drama.

It would seem "The Suicide King" functions largely as a place-holding refresher, though we're intrigued to see how Rick's increasing madness is dealt with in the coming episodes, considering the effect it has on the group. Less interesting is Andrea's relationship with the Governor and Woodbury as a whole, but things should pick up there as well once the Governor gets over his own state of shock. All in all, an adequate return for the AMC horror-drama.

Did you get your fill of thrilling zombie killing?  What did you think about the premiere? Check out all our other ‘Walking Dead’ season 3 coverage, and join us next week for an all-new episode recap of ‘The Walking Dead’ season 3.5's "Home" on AMC!