Well, that was a lot to process. I think we can safely say that few of us probably saw “The Walking Dead” ending the way it did, and yet there was an unusual satisfaction with the ending. It was absolutely another flawed episode — in some ways, horribly so — yet there were some amazing moments to be found, and the unpredictability of it all ultimately left me feeling more positive than negative. It was also not the action-packed battle royale we’d been expecting, and I have to say, I kind of respect the decision to eschew the conventional final battle trope.
What made “Welcome To The Tombs” one of the more difficult episodes to evaluate is that so much of it hinged on The Governor, and the writing for that particular character felt, by the end, like it had failed the character, as if it had abandoned the precepts that made him so fantastic at the beginning of the season. Season Three was about the evolution of two leaders, Rick and Phillip, and both what made them who they are, as well as where their paths would lead them. They were always meant to be two slightly warped sides of the same coin — men forced into leadership, who suffered loss and tragedy, who people looked up to even when they wished otherwise. And for the first half of this season, that dichotomy was a fascinating one.
By the end however, The Governor had become more a parody, a lurid, over-the-top cartoon villain, than a character that was believable in the universe we’ve been watching. As a result, the events that centered around him, that thus drove the show forward, felt clumsy and awkward. I believe that power corrupted him. I believe that he held onto his dead daughter in the hopes that she would survive. I believe that he would be driven to a seething hatred of Michonne after what she did. I believe these things. I even believe that he would use walkers as weapons. I do not believe that he is a man who would torture his friends and slaughter his comrades, abandon his people and do all of those things without blinking, without a moment’s hesitation or remorse. I simply do not. And that’s not out of some starry-eyed sense of idealism — that’s the glaring failure of the writers. They built a world of harsh and unyielding brutality, but it was also a world based on a certain amount of humanity and logic. What The Governor evolved into defied that logic, in more ways than I can count. Yes, he was crazy, but they didn’t do enough to make me believe that he would end up that crazy.
That was the show’s greatest failure (well, that and Andrea — more on that in a bit). But there were successes, mostly in the little things. There was a beauty to the intimacy of the first scenes at the prisons, with soft, subtle music playing as we watch the group slowly assemble, each carrying their own literal and metaphorical burdens. Carol’s moment with Daryl was genuinely touching, Glenn’s concern over Carl and Rick’s pained acknowledgement. Rick telling Michonne the truth, and Michonne somehow finding it in herself to be understanding. So many of their bonds had been frayed over the course of the season, and you could almost see them being slowly, tentatively repaired.
Of course, there can never be a perfect harmony, and as such, we’re presented with the resurgence of Carl. I’m of two minds. On the one hand, he served as Rick’s Milton — a narrative device to allow us to recap all of this season’s events. And I love him for pointing out everything that Rick did wrong, and all that they lost because of it. It was simple, direct, and unflinching. Yet there was something off about the delivery, as if we were seeing the reappearance of Bratty Season Two Carl simply reading off lines that should have been given to a more mature character. I loved the idea, but the execution didn’t quite work.
Woodbury was everything that the prison was not, although I will say this — the opening moments with The Governor and poor Milton? Those were the only moments in the show that felt somewhat real as far as The Governor was concerned. It was as if they tried to lay bare all of his motivations, wanting, even as he led him to his final moments, for Milton to understand why and how he’d become this monster. It was outstanding acting by both of them, even if it was ultimately unbelievable. Yet it all turned to tragedy as Milton is effectively gutted and abandoned, leaving Andrea faced with the unthinkable.
Side note: that said, enough with the “locking someone in a room with a zombie” device. It didn’t work with Glenn, it didn’t work here. At what point does the bad guy learn that if you want someone dead, YOU JUST KILL THEM. Someone failed Evil Overlord school, is what I’m saying.
Anyway. Andrea has been a farce this season, a pathetic and aggravating shell of the character that I really came to appreciate in Seasons One and Two. What the writers did with her over the course of this season is one of my greatest frustrations, driving a once-great character into a blindly foolhardy ignoramus who sidesteps anything even resembling common sense. It was almost as if, from her very first moments in Woodbury, she was destined to die.
And yet, there was something so affecting and almost touching about her death. Perhaps it’s that she was with us for so long. Perhaps it was the weird sense of shattering loss conveyed by Michonne or Daryl’s silent glances. Perhaps it was Rick, shiny-eyed yet solemn final words, not forgiving her but not judging her either. Regardless, Andrea’s final moments, her sad pleas for understanding, all felt just so tragic. In some ways, it made me angrier at the writers for manipulating the viewers’ emotions so, yet it was such a deft manipulation, such a well-done scene, that they also deserve some praise, for salvaging a great final moment out of such a poorly rendered character. It felt as if the whole scene was almost an apology for what the character became, a mercy killing to save us from any further degradation.
Of course, what many of us were most surprised was that the ending wasn’t an ending at all. The Governor butchers his own people and disappears with his two most loyal — or most fearful — henchmen. The prison remains as their home, now with several new mouths to feed. Tyrese is brought back into the fold, thankfully, and will hopefully play a larger role in Season Four. And Rick and company have a whole new list of challenges. Yet the show ends as it must, I suppose, even if it felt unfulfilling in so many ways. Rest. Recover. Rebuild. Survive. Carry on. That’s all you can do in this violent world where even the rising dead are not always your worst enemy. In the end, we’re left with a curious and unexpected uncertainty, and a villain who plagued us all season only to be left unresolved. Thus, we’re left pondering what the future holds for this fragile, damaged little community. Again.