The Walking Dead closes out its third season (and the Mazzara run) with the highly anticipated ‘war’ between Team Woodbury and Team Grimes. Did the finale deliver the explosive results it was building up to?
Let’s bitch it out.
‘Welcome to the Tombs’ will likely be a very polarizing episode, leaving fans with a very open-ended and surprisingly optimistic ending. I must say I was disappointed with the finale overall, but again (and this seems consistent through the third season), even throughout an episode that feels largely uneven and unsatisfying there are pockets of greatness sprinkled therewithin.
The episode starts off strongly with a very effective POV shot of the Governor (David Morrissey) beating and torturing someone we assume to be Andrea (Laurie Holden). Then the surprise reveal: it’s Milton (Dallas Roberts) who is now reaping what he sowed when he torched the group of biters last episode.
The Governor clearly doesn’t take well to betrayal. Adamantly insisting that in this world, one must “kill or die”, the Gov insists Milton will kill Andrea one way or another. When Milton instead lunges at the Governor, he stabs Milton and locks him in the room with a shackled Andrea, waiting for him to turn into a walker and rip the flesh off her bones. What follows is an effective exchange as Andrea desperately tries to free herself before Milton turns, while he valiantly tries to stay alive to buy her enough time.
Both Roberts and Holden deliver some superb acting despite the fact that the scene falls into the same horror tropes that we’ve seen again and again. There’s an adequate amount of tension balanced nicely with the sadness of Milton’s untimely end. On the other hand, I can’t say that Milton’s death is as satisfying and purposeful as it could be. Instead, his death feels perfunctory, merely a plot point to enhance the heartache surrounding Andrea’s death at episode’s end. Unable to fight off Walker-Milton in time, Andrea gets a big ol’ bite mark to the jugular before putting Milton down. The Grimes Gang then storms in to try and save her, but alas, it’s too late as Andrea sits despondently in the corner waiting to die. She’s finally able to exercise some agency as she takes Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) gun to do the deed before the zombie fever takes her.
I was surprised (and delighted!) that Andrea dies, but due to the infuriating naivety/stupidity she exhibited throughout the season, I felt little to no effect as a result of her death despite the poignancy conveyed in the scene’s direction. And this is the biggest problem with ‘Welcome To The Tombs’: it feels too rushed. There’s no time to let our emotions sit, nor is there any nuance. We’re meant to sympathize with Andrea before she dies because of her altruistic plight to ‘save everyone’ (no matter how idiotic she’s been in the process). Ultimately, it feels slightly manipulative and too straightforward for my liking. The series is far more interesting when it presents morally ambiguous scenarios for us to latch onto and wrestle with.
Consider, for instance, the Governor’s massacre of his own army when they start protesting the futility of the ‘war’. They’re not soldiers and aren’t willing to risk their lives in a battle they can’t possible win. The Governor’s response? Shoot them all to stop their chattering. At this point there, it’s pretty clear there’s nothing redeeming left about the Governor, but this decision doesn’t make any tactical sense. The action is meant to convey a single thing – that the Governor is the epitome of pure evil. Again, there are no shades of grey here. Considering how we were introduced to the Governor at the beginning of the season, it’s a huge let down. A 100% psycho isn’t nearly as interesting as a layered and complex villain. When the Governor shows up again later in the series (and he inevitably will), he’ll merely serve as a nuisance as he continues to terrorize for the sole reason that he’s cuckoo for cocopuffs. Compare him to last season’s ‘villain’ Shane (Jon Bernthal) who brought with him all kinds of baggage that continues resonate long after his character has gone.
Arguably (and again, surprisingly!) what’s going on with Carl (Chandler Riggs) is the finale’s most interesting aspect. We’re finally seeing the effect of everything Carl has had to do this past season, wonderful encapsulated in the smackdown he gives to Rick just before they trot off to Woodbury to finish the battle. Carl feels no remorse about killing a young Woodbury ‘solider’ mid-surrender, and scolds Rick, stoned-faced, about his lack of spine for killing their enemies when necessary. He squarely places all the blame on Rick’s shoulders as Rick’s decisions have resulted in the continually rising Team Grimes body count. Carl is completely right, yet there’s something profoundly disturbing about living under this kind of moral code. It’s mentioned on the accompanying installment of Talking Dead that Carl is essentially a little Governor in training.
Perhaps adhering to “kill everyone because they’re all threats” mentality would have kept Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and T-Dogg (IronE Singleton) alive, but at what cost? Carl has demonstrated that he can do what needs to be done, making the hard decisions without hesitation, but does it mean that they’re the right ones? Because we’ve seen Carl evolve from a snot-nosed kid to a viable leader of the group, the answers simply aren’t as black and white when it comes to ‘what to do with Carl’, and that’s infinitely more rich and interesting going forward.
S3 closes with the Governor’s fate unknown, what’s left of Woodbury now at the prison, and Team Grimes becoming a much larger egalitarian colony. Left completely open-ended, it isn’t the most satisfying of the three The Walking Dead finales, but there is evidence of narratively fertile ground. Now that Mazzara has left the helm as showrunner, perhaps this open-endness is a fitting way to begin the Gimple era of S4.
- Many viewers have wondered why Rick decides to bring back the Woodbury peeps to the prison instead of moving what’s left of the Grimes Gang back to the perfectly functioning town. Personally, I think it’s important that Woodbury be abandoned, not only to leave the bad memories of torture and zombie cage match fights behind, but also the inject new life and exuberance into the prison. Considering all that was lost in the prison, it’s important that it’s revitalized in a way. In a more practical sense, it’s also easier to secure the prison than Woodbury as you wouldn’t necessarily need people to keep constant watch for the threat of walkers if you’re securely locked in cellblock C.
- The battle scene, although brief, is extremely awesome. With such amazing artillery, it’s a wonder why Team Woodbury took so long to attack the prison in the first place.
- AMC has conveniently undergone a rebranding, with the new tagline ‘Something More’. Based on this episode, it’s seems fitting that they’ve abandoned their previous slogan ‘Story Matters Here’.
- Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) devotion to Andrea at the time of her death is quite touching. She doesn’t say much, but the emotion conveyed gives us a further glimpse into her character, which has been significantly underdeveloped considering all the screen time she’s had this season.
- Carl drops the sheriff’s badge after berating Rick like it’s nobody’s business. Too bad he didn’t rip off that stupid hat while he was at it.
- I’m sure everyone was thinking it – but why the hell did Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Lenny Kravitz (Travis Love) decide to ride off in the sunset with the Governor after the massacre?
What did you think of the finale viewers? Are you happy that we won’t see Andrea anymore? How do you think the new Woodbury people will integrate? Do you think the Governor will return immediately next season, or does he need some more time in the woods before he returns? Have we finally seen the last of ghost Lori? Sound off in the comment section below.
A gentle reminder that we adhere to a SPOILER FREE zone here, so please keep any plot points from the graphic novels or online tidbits to yourself.
The Walking Dead returns on Sundays in October 2013 on AMC