A weekly analysis of (some of) the gory details in the latest episode of “The Walking Dead.” As always, spoilers ahead.

Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), keeping his hands full. (Gene Page/AMC)

This week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” — the season-three midseason finale — began by introducing us to Tyrese (Chad Coleman, a.k.a. Cutty from “The Wire”), a favorite from the comic and an upstanding African-American male who already may have uttered more dialogue than T-Dog did during his entire two-seasons-plus on the show. (Progress!) The episode ended by finally reuniting Daryl and Merle Dixon in a setting in which the brothers probably never imagined themselves reconnecting: during a pseudo-gladiator fight emceed by a one-eyed small-town dictator.

In between those bookends in the installment called “Made to Suffer,” a lot of other stuff happened. Tons of bullets were fired during the Woodbury vs. Team Grimes showdown. Carl Grimes acted like a totally grown man who still wandered off on his own, but wandered off with purpose. Rick saw Shane but didn’t really see Shane. Glenn showed us all how to turn a zombie bone into a deadly weapon. And Axel demonstrated that he is super-smooooth with the ladies.

But the most significant moments in this last “Walking Dead” episode until February involved Andrea, the Governor and Michonne. What’s motivating these three individuals, who all, disturbingly, came in very close contact with aquariums overflowing with zombie heads? Here are a few thoughts, then it’s over to you for the final round of 2012 “Walking Dead” commenting.

The Governor

The Governor, like all political leaders who put themselves in charge during a zombie-pocalypse, wants to maintain his power. But I don’t think it’s solely because he is power-hungry, although certainly, the guy does seem to enjoy a nice, hot bowl of “I’m in Charge and I Can Do Whatever I Want.”

I think he has convinced himself that the best possible thing for everyone in Woodbury is to maintain the status quo; as he told Merle in this episode, “People love it here because it feels like what was.” He doesn’t want to do anything that might burst that illusion.

That’s why he was trying very hard to keep Andrea in the dark about her friends’ involvement in the ambush on Woodbury. The Governor needs her loyalties to remain with him because if she decides to help a group of people who are not invested in following his orders, that community status quo could disappear.

All of that makes sense, right, even if it does lead to some sinister behavior on the Governor’s part? What may have made less sense to some viewers was the fact that the Gov blamed the ambush on Merle. (Merle certainly looked pretty confused by the whole thing.)

The CEO of the Walker World equivalent of Bedford Falls needed a scapegoat. He couldn’t exactly tell his constituents that the disruption and loss of life happened because their supposedly impenetrable wall was breached. No, it was much easier to throw Merle to the wolves — or in this case, his own brother. Forcing the two to fight also served a second purpose. It gave the Governor a way to test Merle’s loyalty with a whole bunch of witnesses — otherwise known as unconvincingly blood-thirsty extras — present.

By the way, the Governor’s use of the word terrorist in connection with Rick’s group was interesting, wasn’t it? Everybody who’s willing to take lives to protect his own people can seem like a terrorist. By that definition, everyone on this show — the walkers, Rick’s group, the Woodbury masses, Carl, possibly even Axel — is a terrorist.


(Tina Rowden/AMC)

So Michonne was basically a self-centered, stabby busybody in this episode.

Sure, she was probably right to shove her samurai sword straight through the neck of the Governor’s sweet, young zombie-fied daughter, Penny. No good could come from keeping Penny alive and chained up in a cage; doing so was just an act of denial on the Governor’s part.

But Michonne’s reasons for sneaking into the Governor’s bachelor pad in the first place were purely ego-driven. She wanted to prove to herself that she was right to be suspicious of the guy. And the fish tanks of walker craniums — coupled with what initially seemed to be a prisoner of the war on terror but turned out just to be a preteen biter — proved her right. So good for you, Michonne! Your commitment to giving the Governor the unflinching side eye turned out to be totally justified. Yippee! Uh . . . so now what?

Well, the now-what is that she basically had to beg Rick to let her stick with his group even though she could have jeopardized their mission by sneaking off the way she did. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m mad at Michonne or just mad at the way her character has been written. There isn’t a lot of depth there so far, just an impressive ability to slice and dice, a tendency to be suspicious of most humans, a tough exterior and . . . yeah, that’s kind of about it. But her obvious desperation toward the end suggested we may start to see a softer side of this zombie ninja. Let’s hope we start to see it once the show returns on Feb. 10.


(Gene Page/AMC)

Give this woman points for loyalty. Even after finding out that her boyfriend is keeping all those heads in his apartment — heads that, in some cases, still house working jaws — she didn’t break up with the guy. For most women, zombie body parts in fish tanks are a relationship destroyer. At least that’s what I read recently in a headline on the cover of Cosmo. But not for Andrea.

A couple of things to consider about what’s going on in Andrea’s brain: She wants to believe that the Governor is a good guy and that Woodbury is a delightful place to live. She’s still really tired and they have some pretty sweet amenities in Woodbury, like indoor plumbing and access to decent red wine. So if there are things she needs to overlook to continue allowing herself to live in this state of blissful ignorance — like her boyfriend’s Machiavellian tendencies or the fact that he won’t let her run around shooting people, which, by the way, constantly used to make her super-mad at Dale — she will. At least for now.

Also, even if she can’t embrace the heads as a decor choice, Andrea undoubtedly empathizes with the Governor’s pain over Penny’s death. Andrea certainly knows what it’s like to grieve after seeing a loved one turn walker, then perish. That may also strengthen her bond with the man.

What’s unclear is whether she’ll still feel as loyal after watching the Governor pit Dixon brother against Dixon brother. That’s a pretty cold and heartless move. Walker-quariums she may be able to move past. But the Gov’s lack of humanity toward his fellow man? That could be another story. Of course, we won’t know for sure until “Walking Dead” returns on Feb. 10.