The Walking Dead Watch: Humanity Prevails?

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Gene Page / AMC

It wasn’t all that long ago, a little over a year actually, when we cheered TWD’s season 2 finale for getting us the hell off the farm. We praised that episode for, among other things, wrapping up several important story lines but still leaving us wanting more. The final shot of the prison, just over the horizon, sent the blogosphere abuzz.

Last night’s season 3 finale didn’t pack a similar punch. In fact, the ending was a bit slow, if decently dramatic. Forgoing the (literal) fiery finish of last year’s season, the producers chose to tie up some loose ends, focus on character development, and cruise into blackout. What the episode didn’t do is end the Woodbury saga. That chapter is by no means closed, but we find ourselves in a very different place today than we did one week ago.

For most of season three we have been in a standoff between the Woodbury camp and the prison. After taking a few episodes to set up the situation, the plot moved back and forth as the leaders tap-danced around each other, leaving us to wonder when one side might attack the other. It was easy to expect a massive, pitched battle to take us into the off-season, and we did get a fight, but not a decisive one. Instead, we saw the Governor reach his breaking point, finally revealing him to be the psychopath we all suspected him to be.

The hints began almost immediately, when the Governor takes a short break from abusing Milton to channel his inner Lt. Colonel Kilgore (“You smell the smoke, and you smell the blood…”) Given what we’ve seen the Governor do behind closed doors, it wasn’t exactly a shock that he would kill several people from the town. But the brazen way he gunned down those who didn’t agree with him, proved he is something much worse than a benevolent dictator. But first, we would have to deal with some of the consequences of his earlier deeds.

During TWD’s first season, when we were learning the rules of this particular zombie universe, it was almost too easy to create action—all that was needed were a few walkers. As the band of survivors honed their walker-killing skills, the zombies became much less frightening, to the point that the characters barely cared when zombies were around. So the challenge for the show producers became creating set-pieces that put the characters into scrapes from which they would have to escape. Andrea and Milton’s last few hours was one of the best we’ve seen all year. Milton, knowing he’ll turn when he dies, calmly explains to Andrea, “You’re going to find something sharp and put in through my head.”

In the end, she just wasn’t fast enough. When Rick and company found Andrea lying on the floor, it reminded me of when Andrea had to shoot her sister Amy way back in the first season. Even for a total stranger it would be a tough way to go out. But Andrea’s a character we’ve known for a long time, and having her come so close to surviving one last scrape compounds the tragedy.

Perhaps Andrea’s death was the final straw that brought Rick around. Midway through this season he was adamant that they wouldn’t take on new people. He didn’t trust anyone, turning away Tyrese and his crew even though he could tell they were tough, resourceful people. Now Rick has done a 180, not only bringing in Tyrese and his sister, but a whole busload of refugees from Woodbury. It’s a dramatic shift in thinking, a sense that a collective based on respect for humanity has the best chance of survival. He’ll have a hard time convincing Carl, who now believes in a kill-first approach, but the rest of the group appears to be on board.

Even without a blazing battle to take us into the off-season, the stage is set for a whole new chapter. Here’s looking forward to October.

Zombie Kill Report: Multiple dozens, by every possible means and mechanism: guns, knives, Michonne’s katana. We were only privy to the aftermath of Andrea taking out zombie Milton, but we have to assume she followed through with his request to stick “something sharp” and stick it through his head. (Even if she wasn’t fast enough.) During the invasion scene, when the Governor and his small army invade the prison, his henchmen come with some firepower, including an M2 .50 caliber machine gun (which, true to real-life, jammed). But when the high-powered weapon does fire (see the 4:10 mark here), it cuts several zombies in half. We know that won’t necessarily kill them, so I suspect Rick and his new guests had some cleaning to do.

March Madness: It was fitting that last night’s episode aired on the final day of March, a month consumed by bets and predictions. Last week, I made several forecasts for what would go down in the season finale—and like my NCAA bracket, my Walking Dead predictions were pretty off the mark. Let’s start with what I got right. I said we’d probably lose Milton (we did, though it was a much more interesting death than I imagined). That’s about it for the correct calls. I also said that Daryl would kill the Governor, thinking that his story had run its course. It appears (and I’m glad) that we have more dueling with the Governor in the future. But my prediction that was widest from the mark was Hershel dying. My reasoning: now that Rick was back in some productive frame of mind, he no longer needed Hershel’s wise counsel. It turns out the character whose plot expired was Andrea. She tried he best to broker peace between the two camps, which wasn’t to be. Laurie Holden did well with the character. Andrea will be missed.

Yet the speculation continues. It’s been less than 24 hours, but we absolutely need to start thinking about where next season will take us. Rick now has another few dozen mouths to feed, the prison’s defenses are damaged and the Governor is loose in the countryside with his two best soldiers. Oh, and his kid may be on a fast track to becoming a sociopath. We can probably expect things to get a little cramped and testy in the prison, forcing them to seek more space. Will there be a reinvasion of Woodbury? Will the Governor attack and seek revenge? Let us know what you think in the comments.