There was a lot of build up to the recent Walking Dead season three finale. We’ve been waiting for this showdown since the show returned for the second half. I’m sure the ratings remained, as they have all year, gargantuan for AMC. I assumed the body count would be equally large and the misery would be piled high. In the end, I felt unsatisfied; like I had just watched a disappointing mid-season finale.
I should have seen this coming. The episodes leading up to “Welcome to the Tombs” were starting to lose me, focusing on individual characters instead of the whole group. Perhaps from a production standpoint this makes sense, but narratively it makes me lose track of some major characters and lose focus as Andrea and Merle each attempt to redeem themselves.
I was wrong about Milton’s revolution. It never really got off the ground. Instead, he was able to pull off one act of defiance while the Governor was off chasing Andrea around in his American made super-truck. This led to the Governor blaming Milton for his ambush going south, and leaving a zombifying Milton corpse with Andrea fastened to the Governor’s homemade torture chair. This only reinforces the point I made earlier about the Governor and the death of Merle. Shooting Merle was too straightforward. This is the kind of next level psychotic torture we’ve come to expect from a madman. He’s really elevated himself to James Bondian villainy, with overly elaborate setups and no real need to stick around and see the end result. Well done, Phillip.
Instead, the Woodbury group packs up for war and prepares to wipeout the prison menace. They enter with gusto, bravado, and some third word likely ending in ‘o.’ Apparently they’ve subscribed to the ‘shock and awe’ strategy of making a lot of noise and blowing up things of random importance. They seem a bit shocked to see that no one is in the prison. Rick and his gang appear to have left, but just to be certain the Governor and few other trigger happy idiots head down into the dark narrow quarters affectionately known as ‘the tombs.’ They are beset by smoke bombs and an alarm and the group quickly begins to panic. As they flee the prison, Maggie and Glenn fire at them from above to keep the intensity going. Eventually, they all retreat from the prison, and Rick and his group emerge victorious.
Victory has a cost, of course. In a tense standoff with one wandering Woodburian, Carl pulls the trigger and bags himself another kill. On the one hand, the man was essentially giving up and trying to hand his weapon over. On the other side of things, Carl felt threatened and didn’t seem to fully believe the man’s intentions. He saw no other choice but to shoot the man. This doesn’t sit well with Herschel, and he tells Rick as much. This could be the beginning of a very dark path for Carl, or just the cruel reality of the world they inhabit.
The Governor attempts to rally his forces, to re-energize them and convince them to return to the prison and finish the job. There’s a bit of resistance to that, so the Governor voices his frustration by gunning down the majority of his group. Then there’s this moment. Martinez sees the Governor killing everyone and seems to struggle, very briefly, with the notion of shooting him dead. He resists the urge and the three remaining group members hop in a jeep and head out, never to return to this episode.
Rick and company make it to Woodbury in time to see Andrea, lying on the floor bitten by Milton the zombie. Andrea and Michonne get to share a tender moment. In the Walking Dead, almost every tender moment is followed by a gunshot. That’s because most of the tenderness in the show comes right around the time someone’s friend/loved one is changing over to a walking corpse. Andrea insists on doing it herself, something she contemplated way back at the CDC. Michonne remains with her and the shot is fired behind a closed door.
In the end, Rick and company bring a busload of people back to the prison. These are likely innocents from Woodbury; primarily non-combatants. Carl seems a little annoyed by this action, but maybe Rick thinks this will help keep his son from walking on the dark side. It seems like Woodbury would be the better of the two options, but perhaps with enough people, the prison can serve as the safer haven. Rick may feel an obligation to keep free from the possibility of a rampaging Governor. He’s more familiar with how to do that at the prison.
Narratively, it feels like the prison and the Governor have run their course. I thought by season’s end, both would be exhausted and Rick and company would be on to a new adventure. Instead, the prison still stands and the Governor is still roaming the countryside. Maybe season four will lead off with a quick end to both issues. If not, I suppose we have plenty of new characters to meet, side with, and eventually watch turn into walkers. That is, unless Carl guns them all down in the offseason. See you next October, Walking Dead.