This is the first of my early episode reviews for The Walking Dead. Each week, I’ll give you my thoughts on the upcoming episode. I’m going to try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but if you haven’t finished the first half of season 2, this article is definitely not for you. For those that only want my quick impressions, this is one of the better season 2 episodes and will please any fan of The Walking Dead TV series.

**Mild Spoiler Warning** Nebraska marks the return of The Walking Dead Season 2 after a 2+ month mid-season break. Episode 7 brought a conclusion to the “missing Sophia” story and episode 8 picks up literally moments after. The Sophia reveal was obviously a surprise to the group and Nebraska shows that the barn incident is affecting everyone differently. Of course, many fans have been wondering whether or not Hershel knew that Sophia was in the barn the whole time. You’ll get Hershel’s answer to that in the beginning of this episode.

Splintering of the group continues and we get the sense that people may be forced to take a side very soon. Shane continues to fight separately with Rick and Dale, but we also see how characters like Daryl and Carol change after the realization that the search for Sophia was a waste of time. A brief amount of time is dedicated to T-dog, Andrea, Maggie, and Glenn. It isn't to say that they are absent from the episode, but they aren't the focus. Lori may not be the source of all the drama on the farm, but she's still involved in it. A talk she has with Dale is sure to pop up again later and something happens to her in this episode that may have an effect on the group’s immediate plans.

Let's not forget about Hershel and his family, who watched their zombified family members getting shot. In this episode, we get a different Hershel from the man we've seen in the past. Scott Wilson continues to give a strong performance and the season could have really slipped if a less experienced actor had taken on the role. You may not always be on Hershel's side, but like Shane, you understand the reason behind his actions and beliefs.

Up until the shooting of Sophia, it really seemed like Shane was the driving force on the show. It’s very apparent that Shane is reaching a boiling point, but Nebraska sets out to further establish Rick as a leader and someone who can handle tough decisions. We're headed toward a standoff between Rick and Shane, and the Rick we saw at the beginning of the season wasn't a match. The best part of the episode is the last 10 minutes, which involves Rick and the introduction of two new characters played by Aaron Muñoz and Michael Raymond-James. True Blood fans will remember Michael Raymond-James, and his performance with Muñoz in this episode makes this one of my favorite scenes of season 2.

We can’t talk about The Walking Dead without dedicating a little time to the walkers. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot here in terms of featured walkers. The group needs to dispose of those from the barn that were killed. Besides a small scene or two, this episode is light on gore and walkers. If you've seen any of the new teasers for the second half of season 2, you know that it won't stay that way for long.

Some fans thought the series might have a different feel in the second part of the season, with Glen Mazzara taking over for Frank Darabont as showrunner. Keep in mind that Mazzara has been around since season 1, so you shouldn't expect a completely different feel to this episode. In terms of advancing the story, this episode doesn't move much faster than earlier episodes in the season. While this isn't a bad thing in this particular episode, if you haven’t liked season 2, Nebraska probably won’t win you over. Keep in mind, however, that we've been told to expect more action and more deaths. There are only 5 more episodes to go after Nebraska, so problems facing the group should intensify quickly.

If you’ve enjoyed season 2 so far, you’ll have no problem getting right back into The Walking Dead with this episode. Nebraska keeps you wanting more and is one of the few standout episodes of the season. As far as I’m concerned, the second half of The Walking Dead Season 2 is off to a great start.

Episode Score: 4/5

*Scoring: In terms of scoring, I’m not rating The Walking Dead against other TV shows. The score is based on how I rate this against other episodes in this season.

The Walking Dead returns from its mid-season break on February 12th. Catch up on our recent coverage of The Walking Dead Season 2: