And he means business, a fact made abundantly clear in a gripping and violent opening sequence involving an under siege helicopter. When Michonne and a sickly Andrea (Laurie Holden) stumble across the craft's wreckage, we get our first glimpse of the Governor and his cronies, who take out the chopper's now zombified crew with brutal efficiency.
Though they maintain their cover at first, the two ladies are eventually discovered by Merle, who's very much alive and sporting a nasty blade in place of his severed hand. It's been too long since the fantastic Michael Rooker last appeared on The Walking Dead and, in case you'd forgotten, he reminds us all what a superb performer he is here.
Believe it or not, 'Walk with Me' briefly shows a softer side to the racist brute, as he offers his condolences to Andrea over the loss of her sister - it's credit to Rooker that he can make Merle utterly repulsive one moment and genuinely sympathetic the next. His return has us itching for Merle's ultimate reunion with Daryl - the first time we'll have seen Rooker and his on-screen sibling Norman Reedus on-screen together.
Soon afterward, we get a proper introduction to the Governor - who, like Merle, displays unexpected shades of light amidst all the dark. With hints of a lost family and a tragic past, he's not the wild, vicious b**tard we know from the comics - not yet. Right now, his role is that of benevolent dictator - at first glance, a character not that far removed from Rick Grimes.
In fact, the Governor's haven of Woodbury seems as close to paradise as one can get in a zombie dystopia. Sure, it might have Merle as one of the townsfolk, but the Governor even seems to have him on something of a leash. And you can buy it too - David Morrissey is an imposing and magnetic presence, a fine addition to the show.
Of course, there's more to the Governor's reign than just good leadership and charisma - his slaughtering of a rag-tag military troupe proves that he'll ruthlessly stamp out anyone who might stand in his way, even if they're posing no immediate threat. Oh, and that *psychotic* final scene, with the pickled zombie heads? Creepy as hell.
In terms of our 'heroes', we get more Michonne than before but still learn relatively little about the katana-wielding warrior - she remains mute for much of the episode, leaving the viewer in the dark as to her true motivations.
Early on, she's forced to behead her two pet zombies to keep her and Andrea safe and despite inquisitions from both the creepy Milton (Dallas Roberts) and Andrea, we still don't know what they might have meant to her - doubtless there's more to come on that front.
Following the opening two episodes, it does feel a little jarring for 'Walk with Me' to depart from the prison storyline entirely. But having said that, dividing attention between two settings might've diluted the storytelling, so perhaps it's for the best that Rick and company were given the week off in order for us to properly invest in the Woodbury plot.
Engaging character drama, a healthy dose of visceral gore and even some dark humour - 'Walk with Me' employs the winning Walking Dead formula to great effect. That said, let's not keep Andrea from her old gang too much longer - there's something to be said for delayed gratification, but the thought of Rick butting heads with the Governor is surely too exciting an idea to resist for long?
The Walking Dead continues on Fridays at 10pm on FX.