Alas, we have reached the end of not just a tiresome mid-season, but a long season of exploring the new depths of human drama and testing the moral boundaries of the post-apocalyptic world. The mid-season was especially a stretch because we stretched a lot of character development and drama over the course of what really took about a week’s worth of time in the lives of the Grimes camp and Woodbury, after swiftly passing through maybe a month’s worth of action in the first part of this third season. What are we left with now that this season is over? A new understanding of the scope of human morality.
We can pretty much break down the major developments in the finale, just as I did with the mid-season premiere, by discussing particular characters: the Governor, Andrea, Rick, Carl, and Tyrese.
The long and short of The Governor in this episode is he’s truly crossed the line of sanity into this crazed, yet-to-be-explored realm of evil. I mean, we pretty much were able to tell since the advent of the eyepatch, and the perverted toolkit he prepared in the hopes of exacting his revenge on Michonne. The striking thing about him here is that his motivation to just get Michonne seemed lost in some larger tsunami of evil that has taken over him. His little mantra he announced to Milton and Andrea as he left them in each other’s hands echoed in my brain as I watched the epispode: “Kill or die, or die and kill.” This very simply states the complete opposite side of the spectrum of good vs. evil that the Governor now embodies. His vision of survival under this light is bleak and merciless – he’s past the point of reason, no matter how much Milton tries to access the Governor’s former self. It’s also very telling how the Governor spits out that if he were the way he is now the entire time since the zombie apocalypse came about, his daughter could still be alive. Of course, this is the ranting and raving of a mad man, but it shows how far gone he is.
One of the most defining scenes the Governor has is when he drives insanely past his own army, running away from the prison after they smartly ambushed them. As they argue how to approach, the thoughts of people objecting the Governor’s hunger for war are blocked out by the ringing in his ears – excellent sound editing here. If you didn’t think he was able to cross the line further to insanity, well, you were wrong – he madly guns down the innocent people in his army until 99.9% of them lay dead on the street. Martinez, his number two, even gets this worried look in his eye, his gun at ready just in case he has to defend himself against the now unpredictable Governor. The last we see of the Governor after his well orchestrated attack (good scoring here too, as they make their slow approach inside the prison) is him driving away, panting from his cathartic machine gun rage. We know this isn’t the last we see of the Governor, but we’re left wondering what his remaining plans are, now that he’s lost the trust of his people (one of whom played dead well enough to survive the mass shooting)
The antithesis to the Governor’s “kill or die” mantra is Andrea’s repeated testimony of “I didn’t want anyone to die.” In her last moments on the show, she is set in front of us as a sort of martyr for the cause, albeit a troubled one. There’s still that last shred of optimism, as she watches Milton die before her, grateful for the company of a sane man in her torture chair, grateful for his last good deed to her to leave her a set of pliers to juggle with her toes (ugh, these shots were too Tarantino-esque for me, but then again I’m not a fan of feet) She explains to Milton and later again to Rick why she didn’t just kill the Governor herself the moment she realized he was a little off. The most bittersweet part of Andrea’s whole ending is Michonne, whose emotions finally flow out in the tears in her eyes as she watches her one friend between seasons die. These last moments between them finally establish their sense of closeness that we were only asked to understand but never truly see since the minute we see them waltz into Woodbury their relationship began to strain. Noble effort from Andrea, but it seems that there are no guarantees for those who want for good in The Walking Dead, much like the world of Westeros and Game of Thrones.
Last we checked in with Tyrese and Sasha, they were, after much skepticism, still buying into whatever the Governor ordered the Woodburyans. So it was a cool surprise and defining moment for them to stand up to the Governor as he sounds the drums of war, telling them they won’t use their bullets to kill people but only zombies, so they’ll protect the women and children. A great subtlety here is when the Governor grabs a gun for them to take, we see Sasha’s nerves as her jaw rattles with bated breaths. My main disappointment here is that we’ve learned not much about Tyrese and Sasha, as they were mainly used as devices to test the moral compass of the two camps. (Remember: other than Andrea, they’re the only people who have had experience with both Woodbury and the prison) Now that he gets a chance to see the Governor’s torture chamber, the move to join Rick and the prison becomes solidified as they roll in at the end with a bus full of innocent Woodbury survivors. My hope for next season is now that he’s established himself in some sort of leadership position with the Woodburyans, he becomes more integral next season and we actually get more character exploration with him and Sasha.
After the whole excursion to get that photo of his former family, we haven’t seen too much more true development from Carl. The whole “hey, I can take care of myself and the group” attitude comes in an out from him through the whole episode. We also start to see the beginnings of his struggle to properly handle his inner rage/anger/what have you. We see him upset about packing up in preparation to leave the prison, and we also see him upset about being kept out of the action. The result? He shoots another kid in cold blood, justifying it as “I did what I had to do.” His morals are now starting to go out of whack. We know where his skepticism comes from – like father, like son – but the difference between Rick and Carl is experience, which seems simple to say, but the only sense of the real world Carl knows is that of the zombie apocalypse. He never had a real chance to truly participate in the formerly controlled, properly governed world of times before. So now his only view of justice and right and wrong is based on how Rick and everyone around him deal with outsiders. It is of course starting to be a scary notion to accept – Rick has a hard time accepting it too. Rick’s attempts to discipline are left hanging a little – Carl is still pissed by the end of the episode, and he’s pretty non-plussed about expanding the prison camp. He’s angry that his father didn’t “do anything” to the Governor when he had the chance. Will he be more unfettered and uncontrollable in the next season is the big question now.
Rick takes a couple big steps here. One is leading the group into a well-thought out attack against the Governor’s army – knowing they’d be outnumbered, the ruse of abandoning the camp worked well in their favor for a sneak attack. He finally accepts the idea, once the initial attack finishes, that they should just finish the job. Of course, this leads him to meet Karen, the lone soldier from the Governor’s army who survives his crazed attack, and understand the depth of the Governor’s evil. It seems by the time he sees Andrea for the last time, she sees it her way, where there’s no need to create this evil an chaos for the purposes of survival among the human race. His distrust of outsiders thaws a little, as he does a fairly righteous thing by inviting the scared Woodbury citizens to join them in the prison and protect them against the Governor. And lastly, the big change here is the end of Lori haunting him. If you really look at the timeline, it might be too soon to just stop being haunted by the death of and troubled relationship with your wife. But then again, The Walking Dead universe leaves no real time to mourn like you would before. He sees her one last time, behind the gates on that walkway, as they prepare the final battle of the season. It almost reads, at this point of the episode because they didn’t attack yet, that they’re walking away from the prison, bags all packed, ready to move onto fresh ground and start over again. It also almost seems like a grand idea, to walk away from a place and space that seems to mess with Rick’s head, especially considering it’s the place his wife died in. But by the end, when he’s left to deal with Carl and as he shepherds in the Woodburyans, he looks for her one last time and the vision is no longer there. Hopefully, this means he’s ready to be an actual leader again.
Overall, lots of ups and downs, certain things happened I laughed out loud about – and not in a good way. The episode leaves enough to think about, if it didn’t satisfy any other end for REAL action or change. We have a bleak end to what looks to be an even more bleak start to the coming season, with people who have been changed by the path of war in an unruly world.