The third season of The Walking Dead ended in much more somber way than last season. It was a much more reflective episode, on the mistakes made along the way by Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Andrea (Laurie Holden) and the Governor (David Morrissey). Tyreese (Chad Coleman) waited it all out and ended up safe in the end and for those expecting a fight to the finish– well, feel comfort knowing that the Governor and Carl (Chandler Riggs) agree with you.
Governor: In this life, you kill or you die… Or you die and you kill.
Like he has all season, the Governor got the ball rolling in “Welcome to the Tombs.” First, he delivered Milton (Dallas Roberts) at the welcome mat of death and opened the door to Zombieland, knowing he’ll eventually go after Andrea. The other was assembling an unexperienced army to storm the prison and kill as many in Rick’s camp as possible.
He succeeded with the first scenario (much more on that later), but the latter was a great failure on his part. The characters of Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol were more threatening, but they’ve been hinting at that all along. Merle (Michael Rooker) took out some of the Governor’s best men last week, and that gave his death meaning, which is why Phillip had to inspire the citizens of Woodbury to the front of the line of his Z-Day invasion of the prison. Rick used Michonne’s plan to not worry about defeating the Governor, just make it not worth the trouble.
After Rick, Glenn (Steve Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) drove them back, The Governor came to grips with reality. While he was softening Woodbury like Club Med, Rick and his camp have been hardened, desensitized, and training to survive the apocalypse. Rick’s group had the experience but also had nothing else to lose. Shane had a big part in getting everyone familiar with guns and kill tactics prior to Rick’s run at being a dictator. The Governor pacified his people with picnics and spa days, and by the looks of Andrea’s feet, maybe, pedicures? To make the leap from cooking barbecues to killing people was an enormous leap.
Rick’s lines became blurred, but it took losing Dale, Lori, Amy, Sophia, T-Dog and Shane to shap his camp, harden them for the hard choices they had to make later. Carl shot his mother dead. The Governor couldn’t even separate from his zombified daughter. It takes time to get to the point of desperation, look at Morgan (Lennie James) mental state after all a year and a half and that was mostly being with just his son, not a community or a camp of survivors.
Once he realized he lost control and power over his army, the Governor smoked them in cold blood–another trial and error experiment of his gone bad. He was never going to win them back, and they became useless to him. He lost any compassion for any other person since Michonne killed zombie-Penny, his main motivation, that forced him to look at the pointless desire to bring back life to what it was, instead of facing the present day where the walkers ruled the Earth. When he does return–and he will–I don’t think there will be any more dicking around. He’ll become the evil incarnate and he’ll surround himself with people who see the world how he does.
Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Bowman (Travis Love) remained loyal, but he’s just lucky they weren’t smart enough to cap him when they had the chance. We were given no satisfaction at seeing the Governor’s demise but we thought early on that he could survive into another season–a villain that psychotic who has dished up that level of grief unto others is going to have his day in punishment scheduled for another day. He’s too big of a personality to get a simple and short death. So sue me, I liked that he survived into next season. He is a giant presence in the comics so I did not expect them to tie his story in a bow, I just wished the “war” was more of a reality than a scenario played out in his head.
His survival provides a talking points in the off-season, like where did he drive off to? When is he coming back? Who’s coming back with him?
Let’s let one last thought about the Governor carry us to our next focus of the finale. While being tortured, Milton asks him, “What would your daughter think?” to which he replied, “She’d be afraid of me, but if I were like this from the start she’d be alive.”
Remember when Carl was a little afraid of Rick? He’s still alive, but something’s not quite right in the boy. Or, is he correct? Are these the new rules of survival? Kill a potential threat, before it comes back to harm you? Shane used to say similar things when he was alive. Carl made some compelling arguments for what he did. And there wasn’t much that Rick could say to tell him otherwise. He doesn’t care what Rick has to tell him and he tossed his sheriff pin on the ground.
And what makes Carl’s attitude different from the Governor, especially when the Woodbury refugees came to the prison? All of this time we’ve been comparing The Governor to Rick, when we should’ve been comparing him to Carl, who is losing his humanity quicker than he will reach puberty. In many ways Carl is correct, but they’ll have to work on curbing that in him or else find a serious problem on their hands.
That’s probably where Tyreese will come into play next season. He made an impression on Carl before before Rick drove him away. Tyreese has a way of talking situations down, but he’ll have his work cut out with Carl, because he’s not even listening to Rick anymore.
And finally there was Andrea, stuck in a room with a dying Milton and a pair of pliers. Let’s all agree that the dramatic pauses were absolutely aggravating. It took too long to get her out of there and despite having laid out all of those instruments of torture, we saw none of them put to the evil use we all imagined they would. That said, I thought her season arc, and perhaps her series arc, while not completely successful was satisfying.
It took an unexpected turn and yes, it was full of disappointments, mostly because she is a bad ass in the comics, especially with a gun. There’s this feeling that we were short-changed out of a really excellent character. But consider Andrea’s entire arc. From losing Amy, her disagreements with Dale, and then dealing with his death. One must consider the impact of Dale’s on her to understand her actions this season. Then add the year she spent connecting with Michonne. Look, Andrea was a civil rights attorney before the apocalypse. She fought for people to stand eye to eye and shoulder to shoulder with each other, she fought for the people wronged, so it made sense that she attempted to broker peace. She also hoped to bring the Governor back from cuckoo’s nest.
Now it didn’t work the exact way she had hoped but she was happy she tried, and in the end, aside from the Governor’s shooting spree, her mission was accomplished. It was a poetic tragedy though that the two people who concluded to save Woodbury and her friends without bloodshed, ended up destroying each other. It’s as if their roles as the peacemaker and the bystander were not going to survive in this world. There’s no place for it any longer. But she got to say goodbye on her terms, finish what she wanted to do in the season 1 finale, except with a greater outlook on life and with Michonne (who you could tell, regretted giving Andrea attitude back at the prison) at her side.
It was important that the camera pan out during Andrea’s suicide, knowing that Michonne was beside her but Rick, Tyreese, and Daryl stood outside. Those are important players moving forward.
The season three finale was underwhelming for many or failed to execute on those high stakes laid out, but The Walking Dead continues to take their main characters on honest paths rather than trying to appease everyone. It still not the model of consistency as we’d all wish it to be. There are moments of brilliant entertainment and staggering frustration other times, but looking back this season as a whole was a solid, if not stronger effort than the first 22 episodes. I expect the characters to be affected by what happened to Andrea, Lori and Merle and will brace for the return of the Governor.