Well, I can’t accuse The Walking Dead of being inconsistent. The season finale perfectly encapsulated the entirety of season 3 — a lot of padding, a few great character moments, and most of all, SOME TOTAL BULLSHIT.
Let me say that season 3 is still the best season of The Walking Dead, but in no thanks to “Welcome to the Tombs,” a finale that pretty much completely squanders the whole Prison-vs.-Woodbury storyline that the show has been focusing on all season. Were you expecting an awesome showdown between the two factions? Were you perhaps expecting it to be extra awesome, since the show kept delaying shit until the finale? Well, too bad. Because you know who singlehandedly defeats the Governor’s forces? THE FUCKING GOVERNOR.
Yes, after a incredibly lengthy search of the prison — which I actually began to think Rick and crew had actually abandoned because 1) the prison sucks, 2) fighting the vastly superior, better equipped forces of the Governor is a terrible idea — it turns out Rick has funneled the Governor’s forces into a trap, which Rick transforms into a slaughterhouse, killing countless people (many of whom are not the Governor’s goons, but merely regular townsfolk who believe they’re hunting down the terrorists who keep killing their people). The Woodburians run like hell, and I don’t think any of them even manage to get a shot off at Rick or his people.
So naturally the Governor is perturbed when he finally catches up to his fleeing soldiers, hightailing it home on an armored bus; he cuts them off and asks them what the hell they’re doing. One woman, not unreasonably, points out most of the Governor’s forces are not soldiers, that the Prison people are obviously willing to kill to defend their horrible home, and maybe everybody should leave everybody the hell alone.
The Governor takes this badly, and when I say “badly” I mean he guns down 42 or so of his own people. It’s shocking, certainly, but not because the Governor is a crazy bastard, which whe knew, but because it negates the entire conflict of the whole goddamn season. Which, in all honesty, would have fine — awesome, actually — if this had been a conflict that had lasted for weeks, or been an actual war which occurred over several episodes; instead, we get 15 episodes of build-up only to have the have the Governor call the game after five minutes on account of being a psychotic bastard. It’s bullshit, is what it is. And, although season 3 is certainly stronger than season 2 (by a long shot), this season 3 finale is definitively worse than the season 2 finale. Period.
The Governor drives off with his two remaining troops, accidentally leaving one woman (the one who asked if everybody could go home, quelle coincidence) hidden under another corpse. Eventually, Rick, Michonne and Daryl, who are travelling to Woodbury to “finish the job,” come across the massacre and the woman, who tells them that Andrea had escaped and left for the prison several days ago. Rick knows she didn’t obviously make it, and they head to Woodbury to figure out what’s up.
What’s up is two things: 1) Tyreese and Sasha have bowed out of the Governor’s mission, offering to help protect the children, the elderly and the infirm while all the able-bodied people go off to war; and 2) The Governor has stabbed Milton many, many times in the gut and left him to die in the room where Andrea is tied up, effectively sentencing her to death by zombie (the Governor’s favorite). Milton did sneak her a pair of pliers before his stomach got aerated, but it becomes a race to see if Andrea will manage to free herself before Milton dies and turns.
Once at the prison, after brief exchange of fire, the Woodbury Person Rick Found manages to explain what has happened to a shaken Tyreese, who lets them into Woodbury. They all head to the Governor’s dungeon (they remember where it is, having helped rescue Glenn and Maggie from it previously) and find Andrea sitting next to Milton’s zombie corpse… but also missing a part of her neck.
Yes, Andrea is no more. She dies as she lived, having done the right thing but still being really annoying somehow. She talks about how all she wanted to do was keep anybody from being killed, even the Governor, whom she had the opportunity to murder a few times after she returned to the prison. She seems a lot more satisfied with herself than observant of how completely she failed, but since she has to blow her own brains out while being held by a sobbing Michonne, so it’s difficult to be too hard on her.
In the very beginning of the episode, Milton and the Governor have an important exchange: Milton asks the Governor what his daughter would think of him now, and he hisses, “She’d be afraid. But she’d be alive.”
It’s been a key theme this season — how, in the new zombie-filled, ex-civilized world, one has to be brutal to stay alive and to keep others safe. Andrea is clear proof; if she’d killed the Governor when she had a chance, she’d be alive, Merle would be alive, and all the Woodburians Rick and the Governor killed today would be alive. We all remember how Rick let that prisoner go, who came back to back to bite him metaphorically (and getting T-Dogg bitten more literally). And the season has shown us again and again how the Governor’s hardcore kill-anyone-who-might-possibly-be-a-threat-in-any-way policy worked out quite well for Woodbury, at least until Rick started messing with things and the Governor decided his vengeance was a lot more important than his townspeople.
It’s a lesson that Rick himself has been espousing for the entirety of the season, ever since he established his Rick-tatorship at the end of season 2. Which is why it should surprise no one, especially not Rick, that Carl finally guns down someone — a non-Walker — in cold blood tonight. We’ve joked about the tiny psychopathic angel of death Carl has become, but tonight finally gave us a consequence of The Walking Dead’s post-apocalyptic world that’s more than just being eaten by zombies.
Rick may have been keeping his group safe, but at what cost to Carl? Is his life worth more than his humanity? The Governor, having lost his daughter, clearly thinks so; but here we have the flip side of the coin. It’s the best moment from the episode, but man oh man, does it not make up for the complete non-ending to the season. At the end of the episode, Rick brings back Tyreese and all of Woodbury’s kids and old people to the prison, so it looks like he’s recovered his humanity (the absence of Ghost Lori seems to confirm this). This sets up a conflict — and a question — that could power the entirety of 4, if done right (and could have made season 3 awesome, if they had done it right this time).
• I was going to be so impressed that Rick and everybody actually left the prison, a decision that would make made so much sense. Then the killing began, and I sighed.
• Then at the end of the episode I was worried they were leaving the prison, after all the horrible bullshit they’d done to keep it, but it was just Rick bringing in a bus full of children and old people.
• One of my biggest problems of this season is how unlikable Rick has been, so I very much welcome his return to being a decent human being by accepting the Woodburians — although it does seem weird that he and his people just murdered a great many of their family members and friends earlier that day.
• The two guys who got in the truck after the Governor gunned down 42 technically innocent people on his own side are the stupidest fucking people ever.
• It’s nice to finally get Tyreese on Team Rick, although that whole business about Rick psychotically screaming at him to leave effectively throwing him, his sister and his compatriots back to the zombies isn’t addressed). Hopefully it’ll come up next year; I’m not looking for needless squabbles between the survivors, but TWD introduced the goddamn problem, so now it needs to address it.
• Speaking of, Michonne does talk to Rick about that whole “being given to the Governor as a blood sacrifice”-thing from last episode, and she doesn’t blame him for what Merle did, and she understands Rick had to consider it. I think it addresses that conflict nicely. Although her forgiveness his much more about her being human than looking out for her best interests.
• I’m actually glad the Governor’s alive — and I’m glad he’s gone completely off the reservation, which should make his next appearance as terrifying as the Governor’s first appearance in the comics.
• No one likes a tattletale, Herschel.
• Zombie Kill of the Week: I was thinking about giving it to Michonne’s double horizontal head separation, but I think I’ll award it to Carol's efficient, by-the-book machete to the head. Carol doesn’t get enough credit.
• Hey. Andrea. Glenn took out a walker while completely tied to a chair. Sure, your chair was bolted down, but both your arms were free. Just sayin’.