A review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as we take a bunch of women to play at Augusta...

Carl Grimes is a kid who spent most of the second season of "The Walking Dead" as the butt of jokes (including an always-funny Tumblr) about how he was always wandering off and winding up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lori Grimes is a woman who spent the show's first two seasons making a series of choices that couldn't help but make her seem unsympathetic.

Yet for all of the series' prior missteps with these characters and others, Glen Mazzara and company (this time including writer Sang Kyu Kim and director Guy Ferland) understand that there are certain truths that are going to hit on a brutal, visceral level if they execute them properly, and Lori and Carl's goodbye scene was the most emotionally devastating moment "The Walking Dead" has given us since Shane started shooting all the zombies in Hershel's barn.

Whether or not I care about Lori — and I do think the early episodes this season made her self-aware enough that I did feel bad for her and the end of her marriage — the idea of any mother opting to sacrifice her life for the sake of her unborn baby (and the hope for the future that he or she would represent), and having to say goodbye to the son who had to grow up much too quickly is an incredibly powerful one, and a choice that Sarah Wayne Callies absolutely sold in her farewell episode. And however annoying Carl has been at times in the past, when he tells Maggie that he has to be the one to put his mother down — particularly with the way that Chandler Riggs says, "She's my mom" — is devastating.

The world of "The Walking Dead" is a savage place where people have to make horrible decisions all the time, but there are some choices that shouldn't have to be made, even in this environment, and the reactions of Lori, Carl, Maggie and then especially Rick (Andrew Lincoln always at his best when Rick is at his most broken) drove home how unfair all of this is. An incredible sequence that, like the barn massacre, left me shaking by the end of it.

The scenes leading up to Lori's sacrifice were a bit more wobbly, though, both at the prison and over in Woodbury.

The Woodbury scenes continue to demonstrate the pull a man like the Governor would have over Merle or Andrea, but because we know more than Andrea does, it's hard not to view her as somewhat gullible, even in these clean and cozy environs, and even with some good liquor. And because the show is still expecting us to fill in so many blanks about Michonne, and about Michonne and Andrea's months together between seasons, it's harder to invest in the idea that she wouldn't just walk away from this place, with or without Andrea.

As for the prison group running into a whole lot of trouble courtesy of the prisoner Rick locked in the yard, on the one hand, it helps justify Rick's decision to chase after the little guy in the first place. On the other, it seemed like an overly-elaborate plan from someone who probably would have been better off just leaving once he managed to get the gate open. And T-Dog's sacrifice for Carol (who appears to be MIA at episode's end) didn't remotely have the same resonance as Lori's for the baby, because T-Dog has never been a character the writers have even pretended they wanted us to care about. When he started objecting to Rick's plans about the two remaining prisoners, it was shocking to simply hear him expressing an opinion of any kind.

But like I've said, "The Walking Dead" is iffy on middles, but great at beginnings and endings, and that was a pretty incredible ending this week, and one that sets up a whole lot of interesting story possibilities, starting with how Rick and the other survivors will keep a baby alive and safe in this environment.

Once again, let me remind you again of this blog's No Spoiler rule and how it applies to this show, as I've had to delete a bunch of comments the last few weeks that violated it. Basic things to remember before commenting:

1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.

2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources — and, yes, that includes anything Mazzara and Kirkman have said in interviews.

3. No talking about anything that's happened in the comic that hasn't happened in the TV show yet. As with "Game of Thrones," the goal is to treat "The Walking Dead" TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.

With that in mind, what did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com