It’s mid-season finale time on The Walking Dead and The Governor (David Morrissey) tries to overtake the prison once again. After a relatively slow season, it comes as no surprise that we lose many familiar faces in the process.
Let’s bitch it out…
An exhausting mid-season finale delivers quite the body count, but the loss of Hershel (Scott Wilson) is what’s responsible for that lump in the back of most of our throats. I can’t say that I am surprised that we lose Hershel (moral centers don’t last long on this show) but that doesn’t mean I’m not terribly sad about it. We also knew that the prison group was due for a massive shakeup after the idyllic ‘sharing peas, from the pod’ incident, but I didn’t think it would come via a S3 finale redux. In truth, ‘Too Far Gone’ is really how ‘Welcome to the Tombs‘ should have gone down – so it’s nice to see the showdown finally happen, even if we had to go through all that virus nonsense to get to it.
Arguably, the only good thing that comes out of the outbreak storyline is Scott Wilson’s performance as Hershel, and showing us the benefits of our pre-apocalypse humanity. As much as I disliked the deadly flu-virus tangent, Hershel’s death here carries additional emotional weight because of his bravery and compassion during the earlier crisis.
And what a way to go. We lose our dear prison patriarch at the hands of The Governor in a brutal – but necessary – beheading. I say necessary because the group needs to get out of the prison in order to build up some momentum and Hershel’s death prevents our beloved characters from continuing to drag their heels. We also need to get some serious background on the newbies if we’re meant to eventually care for them as much as we did for Hershel. Most importantly, Hershel’s murder gives us that much needed push to get rid of The Governor for good (apparently last season’s actions weren’t enough of a justification). But to the show’s credit, The Governor did manage to evolve past his two-dimensional archetype. I found his good-bye hug scene with Megan (Meyrick Murphy) surprisingly touching. Furthermore, there is a brief moment in the trailer when he’s talking to Hershel that I actually believed he’d put Woodbury behind him and that the survival of his new loved ones was his sole motivator for overtaking the prison. To that effect, it was a nice touch when he rejected Hershel’s address to him as ‘The Governor’. For a moment I thought that ‘Brian’ was here to stay…
Alas, it doesn’t last. I knew that ‘Brian Heriot’ could never overtake The Governor permanently. During Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) impassioned plea to the RV arsenal, we get the return of that eerie ringing that we heard just before the poor Woodbury army was gunned down in cold blood and at that point, it became clear that poor Hershel didn’t stand a chance. The Governor’s whisper before wielding that katana provides context to his two-episode arc: he mutters “liar” when Rick declares that “we can all be saved”. I don’t see that as an address to Rick, but to The Governor himself – revealing that ‘Brian’s’ motivation (which he repeats ad nauseam during the episode) to stay ‘alive’ is all a facade. The Governor is calling himself a liar. Malice and egoism are his defining traits, and they propel him to not only kill Hershel, but to further mutilate his body and claim his head (presumably for zombie fish tank number two).
The episode continues to hammer down this message when Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson) brings the newly dead Megan to him during the attack. If The Governor is so hellbent on keeping them “alive” as a justification for the prison attack, it’s a poignant slap in the face when Lilly stumbles along, corpse in arms. What follows is a satisfying one-two punch: Michonne (Danai Gurira) spears him through the heart and fatally wounds him (vindication for all the sh*tty things he’s done from S3 onward), plus there’s the added effect of Lilly ridding the world of ‘Brian Heriot’ and all his empty promises (and any chance of a second Governor resurrection).
And so, we have the deaths of two major characters, both powerfully executed in very different ways. Why can’t every episode be a mid-season finale? With the prison grounds shattered to bits and an onslaught of zombies on the way, the remaining characters have fractured into smaller groups. Let’s hope the renewed energy and faster pace remain when the latter half of the season begins in February.
- There are so many brilliant performances throughout this episode, but for me, it’s Andrew Lincoln who delivers the good (guess he’s got his S4 Emmy reel with this one). The measured way he goes through Rick’s speech at the prison gates is quite moving, conveying the journey (and struggles) Rick has endured to get there. Hershel’s final expression – a proud smile – makes it all the more touching (and his subsequent beheading all the more heartbreaking).
- We finally get the fistfight of the century between Rick and The Governor, a moment I’ve been waiting almost two seasons to see. Although Rick is clearly on the losing end, witnessing all that raw testosterone is incredibly cathartic
- The Governor is a captivating orator, but I find it extremely hard to believe that everyone in the RV gang is so darn gullible. The only voices of dissent are Lilly and Tara (Alanna Masterson), which could be attributed to the fact that they’ve been caged up in an apartment building for much of the apocalypse. Still, I find it unbelievable that more questions weren’t asked. The Governor does have a compelling argument (i.e. “we’re killing killers”) but personally, I would be grilling him about the details of prior events before suiting up for battle.
- During the negotiations at the fence, I wonder why Rick doesn’t just pack up and leave the prison. It is clear that they don’t have the numbers, and although much of the group is still ailing from the viral outbreak, the prison has surpassed its usefulness. The crops are compromised (or they should have been regarded as such) and the fences aren’t going to hold up much longer. Why not let The Governor take the prison and get wiped out by the virus as the prison gang speeds away with all the medicine?
- Considering they are severely outnumbered and ailing, it’s impressive that the prison group still manages to wipe out the whole RV army before abandoning the prison.
- As much as I’ve ragged on Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) this season, it is pretty awesome to see her come in and save the day by popping a cap in some RV army ass. Carol (Melissa McBride) was onto something in her survival methods (although I still can’t get behind her decision to prematurely torch the sick).
- Am I the only one holding out hope that someone managed to save baby Judith in the crossfire?
- We have yet to find out who’s responsible for feeding rats to the walkers, and presumably doing dissection jobs on rabbits (?!). My first guess would be Lizzie, but I don’t think she has the know-how or experience to do such intricate work. Next up is Bob (Lawrence Gillard Jr.) considering his medical background. Could the Governor’s two-episode interlude be a mirror to what Bob has already gone through? Someone has to emerge as the new baddie…
What did you think viewers? Do you think the lead-up to the mid-season finale was worth it? Are you still numb after the death of Hershel? Who do you think will comprise our new mini-survival groups? Is Rick in serious danger after a Governor beat-down, plus that shot in the leg? Do you think Judith managed to survive? Sound off in our comments below.
A gentle reminder that we adhere to a SPOILER FREE zone here, so please keep any plot points from the graphic novels to yourself.
The Walking Dead returns February 9th, 2014 at 9pm EST on AMC.