The Walking Dead season finale recap: Allow me to register my outrage on the Internet
Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for the season 3 finale of The Walking Dead that aired Sunday, March 31. If you have not yet seen this episode, I beg you to read this first before you waste your time. In case you can’t tell, I thought it was bloody awful. And not bloody in a good way either. Regardless, you’ve been warned.
First off, let me say this. I really like The Walking Dead, even though it frustrates me more than any show on TV that I watch, mostly because of the occasional stupidity of the characters and the writing. Let’s face it, the only reason 75% of the people in the show are ever in any peril is because of some baffling, moronic decision that the writers have them make to put them in danger instead of, you know, actually writing a coherent plot. The kids at Camp Crystal Lake look like Nobel Prize winners when compared to Lori (hey, where’s Carl?), Dale (guys, what are we DOING?), or Andrea (who is probably in hell right now deciding whether or not to take the Devil up on his offer of a sleepover). The other guaranteed way to put yourself in danger in this show, apparently, is to be a minor character who suddenly starts to do something interesting (cut to T-Dawg and Axel, nodding). In the end though, as long as America gets its fill of zombie carnage and ‘splosions, we’re good with that for the most part (and I’m normally one of them). We are talking about the highest rated show in the history of basic cable TV after all, so obviously they are doing something right.
But here’s the really frustrating part – every now and then, and with much more frequency this year, the show aspires to be something more, and occasionally pulls it off. I’ve already written about two of them (The fantastic episode Clear, which with hindsight I’m sure I’m right in saying is the best Walking Dead hour since the dynamite pilot, and Prey, the tense, dramatic hour which actually made me care about Andrea’s fate, no easy task). Another example was the terrific ending of This Sorrowful Life last week, where Darryl confronts a reanimated and newly redeemed Merle shortly after he ambushes The Governor and his Woodbury army.
With that many quality episodes and an entire season of build up to a confrontation between Rick’s group and The Governor’s Woodbury, you would have thought that we were heading for a thrilling, action packed, apocalyptic showdown during the season finale. And it certainly started off that way. After an initial cold opening that appeared to show Rick’s group vacated the prison (which I was positive was a diversion, and it was) The Governor rolls in with his army, guns and grenade launchers blazing. They enter and find the apparently abandoned prison block, and then decide to split up and search deeper into the tombs. Ok, here we go! Rick’s strategy is becoming apparent – they are luring The Governor’s army deeper into the prison where their superior numbers and firepower are negated by the darkness and unfamiliarity with their surroundings. This is such a good idea it must have been Darryl’s. The episode IS called Welcome to the Tombs, after all.
The Governor advances deeper into prison, and then it all goes down quickly: an alarm sounds, lights start flashing, shots are fired, and the zed are coming! Funny thing happened then, The Governor’s army panicked and fled the prison as fast as they could. Hmm…that’s, um, interesting. Oh, wait! When they get outside they are met with gunfire from Maggie and Glenn, decked out in body army and firing from behind perfectly sighted and fortified positions. Anyone who’s ever seen Swayze and Co. kicking commie tail in Red Dawn knows what is going to happen next: The Governor’s army is going to be cut down in a hail of bullets and the Ricktatorship-turned-Ricktocracy will prevail! Yeehaw!
Funny thing happened then (again). Maggie and Glenn somehow missed everybody. Not a single shot landed. And these are the same Maggie and Glen (as well as the rest of the prison crew) who can fire off kills shots one handed from moving vehicles most of the time. Their accuracy is UNCANNY. Only here, they miss everyone. Maybe the body armor threw them off? Or maybe they TRIED to miss everyone, just wanted to scare them off? If so, that’s the stupidest strategy in the history of television, since even Rick would know that The Governor would just try to regroup and attack again. And given all the “stand and fight” and “this ends now” bravado of previous episodes, it just doesn’t make sense. (Side note – You know who doesn’t miss from close range? Carl, that’s who. He’s an ice cold killing machine now, much to Herschel’s dismay.)
So, The Governor’s Army flees (still intact) and drives off a few miles down the road when The Gov (getting tired of typing his name in full) stops them all and tries to rally the troops. Only, here’s where Meryl’s little ambush job is telling – he took out most of the fellas in The Gov’s army with evil combat experience (you know, the ones who got the jump on and massacred the National Guard unit at the beginning of the season) and what’s left are the men and woman who “stand on the wall” and take target practice on the occasional walker. They apparently don’t share the The Gov’s blood lust nor do they have the stomach to attack the prison again, despite the fact that they still heavily outgun and outnumber the Ricktocracy by a lot and took the best shot they had WITHOUT SUFFERING A SINGLE CASUALTY (one or two of them may have gotten attacked by the walkers in the prison, it was hard to tell, we weren’t there very long).
So The Gov, the compassionate leader of men and women that he is, does what any rational person would do, he pulls out his machine gun and mows them all down on the side of the road. Even the guy (Allen? I think) who drew his rifle on him and, instead of shooting the maniac who just gunned down a couple of dozen people, allows him to calmly draw a pistol, raise it, aim it, smirk at him, and shoot him between the eyes without so much as squeezing off a shot. Way to go, Allen. Carl wouldn’t have hesitated. When all was done, The Gov and his two remaining henchmen pile into the truck and drive off into the woods, never to be seen again (this episode), leaving behind only one survivor, who sagely hid under a dead body, which is always a wise choice in a world where dead bodies reanimate and attack the living.
Meanwhile, back the prison, Rick, Darryl, and Michonne saddle up and decide to chase down the fleeing army. Yes, THREE people, though two of them ARE Darryl and Michonne so that’s really like 12 normal people total. Dead eyes Maggie and Glenn volunteer to stay behind and keep an eye on the folks remaining at the prison (more likely to sneak off and reprise their late night Cinemax escapades), which Rick gladly agrees to, probably because he just saw their latest marksmanship exhibition. Carl has his full on blood lust now, and has to be physically restrained from tagging along. A short ways from the prison, the group stumbles upon the remains of the Woodbury army, several of whom are snacking on their former townspeople, and finds the lone survivor, whose name I cannot remember nor do I care to, hiding in one of the trucks. She regales the group with the story of The Gov’s misdeeds and leads them back to Woodbury.
After a brief skirmish at the wall, Tyreese and Sasha, two African-Americans who have also defied the odds and survived (the other best way to get killed on The Walking Dead, be black) listen to reason and let Rick’s group in (Darryl’s look when Rick first lays down his gun, throws his hands, walks out into the open is priceless and should earn Norman Reedus an Emmy – “Wait, we’re doing what?!?”). Woodbury’s poor, tired, huddled masses hear the story of The Gov and then pile in a school bus, where Rick welcomes them into the prison. You know, instead of just occupying the well fortified town with plenty of room, running water, and a semblance of civilization, he leads them back to the walker infested, dank prison, which oh btw, no longer has guard towers or gates or anything that used to make it secure. Makes total sense. Must be all of the happy memories he has there that keep him from leaving.
And so endeth the “battle.” And yeah there was the other plot that WAS relatively interesting I thought, Andrea’s being locked in a room with a dying Milton, knowing that if she can’t get free of The Gov’s restraints then she’s going to be the nerdy man of science’s first snack when he reanimates. Even though this sequence had more then a hint of comical Bond villain about it (“I want walkers with freakin’ lasers on their heads!”), I thought it was pretty well done even though again most of the actual suspense was created from Andrea’s hesitating and deciding to engage Milton in a friendly chat instead of, you know, escaping first before he turned all zed on her. And, just checking, can you really escape from handcuffs with just a pair of pliers? Anyway, RIP Andrea, you horrible, horrible character. I suspect your last moments were made more palatable to viewers by the miserable television unfolding around you, but you did give us a couple of isolated, great TV moments in the midst of your horribleness (the scene after her sister was bitten in season 1 and the aforementioned Prey episode), as well as the most stylish underwear choices post zed apocalypse.
So there you have it. Just a massive letdown I thought for what could have (and should have been) some really exciting television. For all of the its faults, The Walking Dead has always excelled in the “big moments,” namely the season premiers, finales, and major character deaths. Unlike previous seasons, there was no sense of closure here, no exploding CDC, no burning farm, no tease of a greater threat or challenge to come. Instead, the final image we’re left with is everyone shuffling back into the prison having lived another day, which is a pretty good metaphor for this season as a whole – we lived through another season, but we didn’t really get anywhere.