Glenn (Steven Yeun) is tortured at the hands of The Governor [Pic: AMC]
The Walking Dead really is a sick show, and not just because it features endless multitudes of zombies. Those shuffling insatiable cadavers certainly are nauseating to watch, but what really gets under your skin are the actions of those that are still alive. People can do the most despicable acts in depraved situations, and the show has never shied away from highlighting the ugly side of human nature. The twisted actions of the Governor spur Rick's group into storming the town, setting up a thrilling showdown for the mid-season finale.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend
The last shot of the previous episode saw a wounded Michonne clutching the prison fence whilst surrounded by hundreds of hungry zombies. Taken in by the group and tended to by Hershel, she is distrustful of the new band of people she finds in her presence. "I didn't ask for your help" she snarls, keen not to once again be trapped against her will like she was in Woodbury.
But from watching the members look out for one another, she learns that they're a world apart from the Governor's goons. Little moments, such as when Rick thanks Daryl for caring for Carl whilst he was grieving, showcase the sensitivities of the group without overplaying their kind-hearted nature. She agrees to help them to the town in order to save their kidnapped friends Glenn and Maggie.
And boy do they need saving. Tied up in separate rooms, the two can hear the wails of each other as they are tortured by Merle and the Governor. Merle is only interested in knowing the whereabouts of his brother as he says to Glenn, "You can't tell me he's alive and then hold off on where he is".
But Glenn's a tougher character than Merle remembers and refuses to crack, so the torturer conjures up a more inventive way of extracting information by unleashing a walker on him. The duel between chair-bound Glenn and the undead monster is easily the most exhilarating, preposterous and damn right terrifying moment of the series to date, as we watch a hapless Glenn somehow manage to impale the zombie at the very last moment.
Keeping up appearances
If you thought having a walker thrown at you was the worst thing that could happen, think again. Things take an even more twisted turn when The Governor coldly commands Maggie to undress, his icy blue eyes unflinching as he tells her, "Take off your shirt". She obeys, but is steadfast in her refusal to reveal her friends' whereabouts.
At the slackening of The Governor's belt, it really looked like the town's sadistic leader was going to rape Maggie. But what The Governor realised long ago is that its not what you do so much as how it looks that matters. When a half-naked Maggie is thrown into the arms of Glenn, he immediately thinks she has been abused.
A trip down memory lane
Whilst the two of them are tortured for information, Andrea participates in another abnormal interrogation. She helps strange scientist Milton in his experiment to test if the undead can remember their past life. A nod to Romero classic Day of the Dead, Mr Coleman is made to listen to music as a tool that will hopefully help him recall his consciousness when he dies. Unsurprisingly the experiment fails, and Andrea has to step in and kill the reanimated zombie to save Milton from meeting a grisly end.
Cabin in the Woods
The 50s pop music from the old-fashioned record player wafts through the artificial home Milton has created for the test, adding to the crazed and off-kilter tone of the episode. And that's not the only bonkers setting. As Rick's group flee the zombies that surround them in the forest, they seek sanctuary in a nearby cabin. The dwelling is isolated but certainly not unoccupied, as a deranged man inside points his gun at the group and begins yelling from the top of his voice.
Michonne shows her ruthless side by slaying the man on the spot, before he is fed to the horde that surrounds the house. Whilst it seemed cheap to have another survivor appear and die just to push the plot forward, it does reveal to Rick and the others Michonne's forthright pragmatism, a quality that could be just as much a liability as an asset to them.
Quiet before the storm
Still, when it comes to a duel with The Governor, you definitely want her on your side. That appears to be what's in store in next week's episode, the mid-season finale. Under cover of darkness the group approach the heavily fortified Woodbury walls, unaware of the dangerous men, and Andrea, that lie within them.
An incessant throbbing beat presides over the foreboding sequence, with the anxious Governor telling his men to scour the prison, saying, "I want to know exactly what we're dealing with". Neither Rick nor The Governor knows quite what they are up against yet, but they are going to find out awfully soon. The only question remains is who will come out on top?