The finale of the Walking Dead’s third season has been built up over the last several episodes and several questions had been raised that needed answering. In a show that prides itself on setting the bar pretty high for drama and suspense, last night’s season ender managed to both succeed and fail on several levels.
After torturing Milton and tormenting Andrea and leaving both for dead, the Governor and his team carried out a full frontal assault on the prison. Using what were clearly some “shock and awe” tactics of blowing up guard towers, and mowing down dozens of zombies with heavy machine gun fire, the Governor and his army tore into the prison unopposed. The lack of any of Rick’s people fighting back was clearly designed for us to think that the group had decided to run instead of stay and fight and it worked on the audience and the Governor to a pretty successful effect. Rick’s trap used a subtle reminder from season 1 when he fired a pistol inside the tank and was stunned and overcome by the sound to a well executed ambush of using flash-bang grenades in the confined tunnels under the prison. With his men clearly disoriented and overcome, the Governor is forced to retreat from the prison. There was even a little shout out to the comics by having Glen and Maggie in full riot gear from the prison. Nice touch!
Perhaps the night’s biggest shock moment when the Governor’s last bits of sanity flew away and in a fit of rage, he snaps and guns down at least a dozen of his own people for failing him. Although this was incredibly effective to show us how far off the deep end he’s really gone, the reaction of his lieutenants seemed unrealistic to me. They retreat and watch, but don’t resist or shoot back in any way. I know they’ve all done some horrible things to get where they are, but standing and watching what are presumably their friends and possibly family members murdered in front of them without so much as firing a shot in defense seemed a little forced and farfetched. And why they would continue to follow him after that is beyond me. Perhaps it was supposed to insinuate the power the Governor has over them. I’m not sure and the fact that I’m not sure is a problem.
The night’s biggest gray area was Carl. While he and Herschel are hiding and watching outside the prison, one of the Governor’s barely trained and highly inexperienced henchmen accidently stumbles across them while trying to escape the ambush. As the young man attempts to surrender and hand over his weapon, Carl shoots him mercilessly. When confronted about it later on, he offers up a fairly solid argument of how inactions in the past have come back to hurt them later. Rick sees clearly that his son is growing up in a “kill or be killed” world and the effect that has on him is as plain as the look on his face.
Which finally brings us to what was clearly intended to be the most emotional and dramatic conclusion, Andrea. Unfortunately, I don’t think emotional punch landed since most, if not all of the season she’s been in trying to fit in with the enemy. I understand what Andrea was trying to do by brokering a bridge between both worlds and perhaps some peace and understanding between the warring factions, but at the risk of sounding like a fanboy, the Andrea in the comic is a much more rounded and better utilized character. Even though the actress that portrayed her is great, TV Andrea was largely unlikeable and mostly wasted potential when compared to her comics counterpart. Her dying was supposed to be a big, dramatic moment, but it fell a little flat, especially compared to last week’s Daryl / Merle moment.
All in all it was a great episode, but only a good finale. We’re left to wonder all summer about the Governor’s very Darth Vaderish departure as he rides off into the distance to fight again next year. If Rick is done hallucinating, and how the Beatles of Zombie killing; Rick, Tyreese, Michonne and Daryl will come together and protect what’s left of Woodberry’s citizens and truly become the greater good.
Score - 3/5