Piers McCarthy reviews the season 3 finale of The Walking Dead…
Season 2 of The Walking Dead was saved by its finale, and the expectations for the third season are expectedly high.
Major spoilers follow…
We know the anger swelling up inside the Governor and our first shot of “Welcome to the Tombs” is his one good eye, looking squarely at us. We are taking on the POV perspective of Milton, being beaten furiously by his old friend. There’s nothing but rage in the one good eye, with no indication of remorse for throwing a round of punches at his sidekick. Milton asks whether he killed Andrea and we cut to Governor tossing the injured scientist at Andrea’s feet. The two are now together in this, and about to get even closer.
David Morrisey in this opening is superb, with a lack of guilt and a growl so intimidating it sets up the end episode perfectly. He orders Milton to kill Andrea but the soft, innocent man can do no such thing and tries to attack the Governor. It’s a battle of strength and Milton understandably overpowered by the Governor, stabbed and left to die. “Now you’re gonna die and you’re gonna turn; and you’re gonna tear the flesh from her bones…In this life now, you kill or you die. Or you die and you kill.” We are all waiting on the war but this side-plot is certainly one of the most interesting dilemmas in the series so far – much like Glenn being tied up with a walker in the room, Andrea has to wait to death to come her way. A great prologue, with definite pressure mounting.
There’s a fair bit of montage editing as the prison group get ready, and a soft music playing over as each discuss the possible outcome. As Rick and Michonne have a tender moment discussing loyalty and togetherness, we quickly cut to the Governor, barking to his soldiers about the death and destruction the others caused. It’s another biting contrast between each side – the pensive and the petulant.
Whilst the Governor and his crew rush in, guns blazing, Rick et al are seemingly absent. We then see our heroes emerge from cover, firing precisely as they can at the villains of the show. The action in episode 10 was the best I have seen in recent television, and it would be extremely difficult to top it. Episode 16 is unable to do so, but high-octane explosions and some all-too-real bullet fractures (one zombie’s head coming clean-off is a pause and rewind type of moment) still advertise the show’s capabilities with warfare scenes.
As thrilling as the prison raid is, it’s the close-quarter tension of Andrea and a dying Milton that makes this episode memorable. Drama builds with every one of Milton’s fading breaths. He explains how he left a tool by her foot and if she can reach it she can cut herself free and “stab me in the head”. A simple yet nail-biting sequence of Andrea trying to pick the tool up with her feet achieves such dread because of the brilliance of direction and editing (the drop of the tool to shot of Milton rasping).
As the prison and Woodbury groups fire on one another, it’s the surprise attack from our protagonists that earns a victory. The Governor and his troop fall back, leaving some to dash off into the woods. Hershel and Carl await anyone and one lost soul from Woodbury stumbles into their company. Carl holds him up with his silenced pistol, warning him to drop his weapon. As the shotgun is lowered, Carl shoots. Carl’s later part in the episode is the figure of ethical debate, though I would agree with his decision, especially as the shotgun barrel was not facing the floor as it was being lowered. Carl talks about all the people who were let go or ignored and later came back to wreak havoc and death – there’s definite reason in his thinking and he’s as convincing and confident as his old man.
Other ethical issues include the Governor going ape-shit on his team. One soldier proposing defeat is shot dead, and then more follow; the Governor eradicates the lot (leaving only a trio, and a woman who escapes lying under another dead man’s body). Said woman is found by Daryl, Rick and Michonne and becomes a great bargaining chip to inform the Woodburians (?) of the Governor’s maniacal nature. As she’s been one in Tyreese’s band, our team is able to get into Woodbury with her help and Tyreese and Sasha’s past relations.
Inside they find Andrea, dying after a skirmish with the undead Milton. It’s a sad but strangely bland scene that does not garner that much emotion. Andrea is a loss, but not a severe one, after becoming too close to the Governor and too distant from the prison group.
We end with a busload of the Woodbury folk being brought to the prison. The “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” comparison is there, and it’s a patriotic moment of the show; these are American heroes – the survivors, the leaders. As Rick looks up for the ghost of Lori he sees nothing but the shining sun – a nod to his new health and happiness. Still, the Governor is at large somewhere in the area and it’s not all that ends well.
We still have conflict unresolved and whilst I was immediately disappointed in the lack of resolution, knowing Season 3 already has a backbone is comforting and exciting. The wait will be long but Season 3 has been tremendous, and leaves Season 4 with an eminence to reach and exceed.
Piers McCarthy – Follow me on Twitter.