The third season of AMC’s The Walking Dead has now come to its conclusion. We started this season by watching as Rick and his followers fought their way into an infested prison which they promptly turned into a secure place to start a new life. The prison was a central focus in the season finale but it has turned into a very different place. We also lost a couple of characters in this last hour, though after suffering a season’s worth of emotional turmoil, it’s the survivors might actually be the worst off.
Starring Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Chandler Riggs, Melissa McBride, Laurie Holden, Danai Gurira, Michael Rooker, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Scott Wilson, Dallas Roberts, Emily Kinney, Chad Coleman and Lew Temple, AMC’s The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9. Hit the jump for my review of the season three finale, “Welcome to the Tombs.”
This episode finally got us to the conflict between Woodbury and the Prison crew, which is what we’ve been building to all season. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the character arcs that reached a stage of completion (or at least a new level) by the end of season three. Daryl lost a brother but found a family; Michonne landed in a similar boat. Glenn and Maggie went through their own emotional rollercoaster. But it’s the Grimes family members who have suffered the most incredible pains during these last 16 episodes: the death of Lori, the mental breakdown of Rick and the progressing angst of Carl. Rick finally appears to be over his Lori sightings but now has to keep a closer eye on Carl, who is becoming colder and more ruthless (ie a teenager in the apocalypse). Let’s not forget that there’s a new Grimes to take care of, Little Ass-Kicker!
Of course, we should also pay special attention to our dearly departed friends and heroes. Last week, we watched as Merle took his shot at redemption by taking out a number of the Governor’s best soldiers before dying at the hands of the Governor himself. Tonight’s episode opened up with the rarely-used first person perspective of someone who turned out to be Milton. Finding himself squarely in the Governor’s crazy sights, Milton was brutally beaten and stabbed by the Gov and left to bleed out, whereupon he would die, reanimate and kill Andrea in one hell of a mustache-twirling murder machination. Milton’s death was expected since he finally grew a spine and stood up to the Governor, but we didn’t know exactly how he’d be meeting his untimely end. The Gov using Milton as his weapon to kill Andrea was a nimble bit of writing.
Fans have been hot and cold on Andrea over the course of the show so far and not just in this past season. She had our sympathy when she had to put down her own sister, but then received some ill will at her treatment of the well-meaning Dale. Some fans shipped her hookup with Shane, but were lukewarm over her departure from the group after the battle at the barn last season. This season, it was painfully obvious to viewers that the Governor was a wretched human being, but Andrea hung in there as long as possible…a few episodes too long, by many accounts. In the end, she simply wanted to keep people from getting hurt on either side of a battle that never needed to happen. It was an unfortunate end to a character we’ve been with since the beginning, especially since her arc came to its final conclusion before she had a chance to fully achieve her own intentions.
There are some question marks that were left unanswered at the end of season three. We know that the survivors of both sides are now repopulating the prison, but what has become of the Governor? He’s clearly beyond redemption at this point, having gunned down his own people and alienated most of his followers. Where has he escaped to with his two loyal (or terrified) soldiers? When will we see him again? Will they finally go back to that meeting place to see the Governor use the gun they hinted at a few episodes ago( or is that the gun he used to shoot Merle)? Something tells me that we’ll be seeing Morrissey returning as the Governor some time in the future.
As for the group itself, how will they adjust to the newcomers? Will there be dissension among the ranks with former followers of the Governor either challenging Rick’s leadership or refusing to follow any leader after the insanity of their last one? Will Tyrese and Sasha take new places among the ranks of leadership? How about Daryl, who must be in shock after the defense of the prison so soon after the loss of his brother. I really hope we get to see an exploration of the effects that the recent events have had on the last remaining Dixon brother.
A major issue going forward will be the relationship between Rick and Carl, who has matured as a character and an actor over this last season. I’m hoping we get to see a bit more screentime for Riggs, especially after the gauntlet he threw down to Rick by dropping his sheriff’s badge in the dirt. Rick tried the hardline stance and found he didn’t possess the constitution to go through with it when he couldn’t sacrifice Michonne for a chance to save the group. Now that he’s invited dozens of townspeople, essentially strangers, into his home, Carl is certainly not going to take kindly to that. I expect a lot more contention from within the Grimes family going forward.
As a finale, “Welcome to the Tombs” kicked off with the tension that has been building up all season but fizzled out when the overwhelming forces of Woodbury got scared off by some pyrotechnics and a few well-placed sharpshooters. Woodbury’s fighters were farmers with pitchforks compared to Rick’s battle-tested group. The conclusion of season three was more about the total descent into Hell by the Governor, which reinforces my belief that we’ll see him again. “Welcome to the Tombs” actually summed up the entire season fairly well for me: a good setup with nice attention to creating complexities of character for the talented cast of actors to play with, but there are still too many occasions of poor writing that employ soft choices and easy outs, robbing the show of its potential. As a writer, Gimple has shown that he is able to grasp the strengths of The Walking Dead that makes it a fan-favorite show, so with him as the new showrunner I expect an even better output with season four.
Episode Rating: 7/10
Season Rating: 8/10
Casualties: 2 – Milton, who began to distance himself from the Governor in order to help Rick’s group, but was killed by the Governor himself. Andrea, who was then attacked by an undead Milton and ultimately chose to end her own life rather than dying and being turned.
Human/Enemy Deaths: 27 from what I’ve been told, courtesy of The Governor mowing down his own army.
Best Kill: Beth finally gets her first kill!
Best Effect: While it wasn’t the most glamorous, it might have been the most gruesome since it happened to a character we’ve been with since the beginning – Andrea’s Milton/Walker bite.
Musings and Quotes:
- The Governor: “I kept ya safe, kept ya fed.” Milton: “As long as I looked the other way.”
- The Governor: “You take the head so you don’t ever forget. You kill or you die.”
- The Governor: ” In this life now, you kill and you die…or you die and you kill.”
- It was nice to get a glimpse of Lori’s gravesite at the open and close of this episode, but it’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to see the gang pay respects to Merle.
- Good on Michonne for being the bigger person and forgiving Rick for almost turning her over to the Governor.
- Milton to Andrea: “When you get free, you are going to find something very sharp and you are going to stab me in the head.”
- Milton to Andrea: “You need to hurry.”
- Pro-tip: When a dying man tells you to hurry before he turns and eats your face, you don’t stop to have a chat. R.I.P., you guys.
- Season three featured the most booby traps ever (but few booby tarps).
- I’m happy to see that the prison crew put that riot gear to good use, but it sure made me miss T-Dog.
- Hershel is definitely the new Dale, first narking on Carl about the Woodbury kid he shot and then strong-arming Rick into realizing that Carl’s got issues. Nobody likes a know-it-all, especially when they’re right.
- Hell yeah, Poncho Daryl!
- Carl to Rick: “I did what I had to do. Now go so he doesn’t kill anymore of us.”
- Andrea: “I just didn’t want anyone to die.”
Unfortunately, the fourth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead doesn’t return for its 16 episode run until October. Be sure to join us then for more The Walking Dead episode recaps!