It was always going to be tough to follow on from Clear, last week's mesmerisingly dark episode of The Walking Dead that focused on Rick, Carl and Michonne. But against the odds the writers craft here another slow-burning suspenseful episode full of great dialogue and grisly action.
Whilst some may be waiting for the story to heat up at the season's finale, the low-key style employed once more in Arrow on the Doorpost is far more unsettling, as we watched with fascination the exhilarating first meeting of Rick and the Governor.
I remember a lot of people decrying the death of Shane at the end of season two, saying that without his scenes with Rick the show would be devoid of dramatic tension. But David Morrissey has done a remarkable job as the Governor to bring us another character full of tortured anger and venom.
Unlike Shane, we'd never seen Rick interact with the Governor before, which is why their meeting at the start catches us by surprise. Like two boxers in the ring, they size each other up before sitting down to begin negotiations. A great contrast is shown between the Governor's pseudo-congeniality, designed to wrong-foot his enemies, and Rick's steadfast seriousness, a hardened man unwilling to drop his guard even for a second.
Caught in the middle of these two titans in Andrea, the orchestrator of the sit-down. In order to avoid further bloodshed, she hopes the two can reach some sort of agreement. But this notion is shattered instantaneously when the Governor coldly declares, "I'm here for one thing, your surrender".
Whilst Rick's showdown with the Governor is the highlight, we also get many other great scenes as the members of Woodbury and the Prison get to know one another. At first it's the macho posturing of Daryl and Martinez. Trying to outdo one another, the only major action sequence of the episode sees Martinez smash in a zombie's head with a baseball, only for Daryl to kill another walker with his knife.
But afterwards the two form a brief bond, commenting on the craziness of the situation. "You know this is a joke right, they won't work anything out," Martinez laments. Like the World War One Christmas truce, they share a moment of camaraderie whilst knowing that they will inevitably come into conflict in the future.
As the muscle matches up, so do the brains, with wise old Hershel and creepy experimenter Milton. Astounded by Hershel surviving a bite through amputation, you wonder if this could play a significant part come series end.
Whilst all the great scenes are happening at the barn, the prison sadly gets short shrift. Merle's obnoxious declarations that he'll break protocol and find his brother are signalled from the start, with his protestations clearly filling time rather than further exploring the character.
We at least see Maggie and Glenn talking again, as their sexual inhibitions return in full force once they can find a place without any zombie distractions.
Deal or No Deal?
But the strength of the episode is the recurring scenes between Rick and the Governor, as we watch the malevolent lord of Woodbury use every tactic in the book to try and outwit his opponent. From coldly threatening, to offering whiskey, to ruefully recounting how his wife died, he systematically proceeds to try and break Rick down.
The former cop seems unshaken after negotiations, but admits he harbours doubts to Hershel over what to do about the Governor's proposition - hand over Michonne and the group will be left alone. Surely Rick must know that there is no way the Governor would leave them in peace, with the likes of Glenn and Merle sure to testify to that. More importantly, after Michonne proved her worth to Rick and Carl last week, how can he turn her back on her now?
The bigger dilemma lies for Andrea. After coming close to cutting the Governor's throat in the past, she appears unsure of her lover more than ever after hearing about what he did to Maggie. It seems increasingly likely that Andrea will decide the fate of these two groups. Let's hope she makes the right choice.