The TV Box: The Walking Dead, S3E16: Welcome to the Tombs

The Governor

I’m writing this review before the finale has aired on the west coast… needless to say, there are spoilers.  Don’t read this until you have seen the episode… seriously, you would regret doing so, and I would feel guilty.  You wouldn’t want to make me sad would you?

Welcome to the Tombs, the third season finale of The Walking Dead, brings home the point of exactly what this season was ultimately about… humanity, and what it means and what it takes to retain it during something as catastrophic as a zombie apocalypse.

This season we have seen one man in complete capacity of his humanity lose it for a period of time, wrestle with his responsibilities as a leader and a father, see a version of what he could become, and eventually regain that aspect of himself that made him a great, or at least a good, man to begin with.  At the same time, we’ve seen that man’s son darken and toughen up to the point that he may have lost something he never had a real opportunity to gain… he lost his childhood, has he now lost his sense of right and wrong?  Or is he the only one who understands how to live in this new life?

The Governor is another situation entirely… a little man in life before the apocalypse who found himself in a position to rise to power via charisma, manipulation,  and a modicum of intelligence.  His degradation was slow, poisoned by power and ultimately devastated by loss and attachment.  Is there much humanity in a person who abuses his power for vengeance?  His tactics were always tinged with lies and a brutal desire to take what he believed to be his, whether it be Woodbury, Andrea, or the people following this psychopath and being satiated with bread and circuses.

I must admit… I predicted nothing that happened in this episode… I was genuinely surprised by much, if not most, of what happened.  Having read the comic I had a relatively clear idea of what was going to occur… then the show took a few turns that left me stunned, and honestly, elated for how events unfolded.

The largest surprise by far for me is that The Governor has lived to fight another day.  If I had put money on who would die, The Governor was always at the top of my list… followed by Hershel, Beth, and Judith.  Wrong on all counts.  Sadly, Andrea and Milton were lost in a series of scenes that were frustrating for many reasons (come on… how long would it really have taken to get those pliers and why so many long stares when your life is in jeopardy) and finally very emotional and touching.  For all the hatred so many fans felt for Andrea through the course of this season, she finally gives her justifications for her actions, and I don’t think anyone could honestly argue with why she did what she did… or didn’t do.  They both give great performances, but oddly enough, it’s Milton’s death that touches me the most.  I was hoping to see more from Dallas Roberts and felt that his character was developing nicely.

For the record… I’m very glad those people I thought were going to die made it… specifically the Greene family and Judith.

Enough about the deaths… how did I feel about this as a finale?  I loved it.  A fantastic culmination of the focus on display during the past few episodes.  Everything was leading to this moment of Rick’s realization that they cannot survive alone, and by bringing the remaining residents of Woodbury into the prison, essentially stripping The Governor of any real power, for without people to back you, there is no power to be had.  He may still have his minor minons Bowman and Martinez, but now that they have seen exactly what he is capable of, I would not consider them to be reliable soldiers willing to fight for a man they know would kill them in a heartbeat once they become nonviable for his machinations.  His power has always been a tenuous one, but this emperor is now seen to have no clothes…

Tyreese and Sasha… we are not done with them quite yet.

Throughout the season I’ve been wondering how certain elements would eventually come together.  As a comic fan, the role Tyreese was playing was the biggest head scratcher to me.  I understood that they may have had him go to Woodbury so as not to conflict with the Rick/Daryl dynamic.  In the comic, he was Rick’s right hand man, and for lack of a better term, his best friend and confidant.  You know what they say, men that kill together stick together… and they shared some horrific moments with one another in the comic.

I certainly wondered what they were doing with Andrea, a fan favorite from the comic who diverged from the character we recognized early on in the series, and even further so after the death of Dale… but it has been abundantly clear in the last few episodes that  a secondary theme of the season was Andrea’s arc.  She did want to create a better world, a world where we could fight the dead and not continue killing the living.  Sadly, she lost in that battle… whether it be from making mistakes or for having retained too much of her humanity by not being able to kill Phillip in cold blood.  It’s easy to criticize as we watch a TV show, but the notion of murder is still murder…

And that brings us to Carl.  Tonight I think it’s fair to say that Carl committed murder.  Not self defense, not killing a walker, but out and out murder, believing that to be the right thing to do… and when called out on that act, defiantly rejecting his fathers advice and rule, and dropping the badge that Rick had given him early in the first season… a symbol of peace and order, something I don’t believe Carl has any faith in anymore.  His arc is beginning to flourish… and I don’t see it being one filled with rainbows and lollipops.  There is not childhood for Carl, he is a man, and possibly a very disturbed one at that.

There were many fantastic moments strewn throughout Welcome to the Tombs… Michonne giving two fantastic performances, first with Rick when she is thanking him for essentially bringing her into the fold, while Rick makes a point of giving Carl props for being the first to accept her (is Michonne Carl’s salvation), finally by staying with Andrea, her friend, until the final moment. Tyreese and Sasha confronting The Governor and staying behind, not interested in fighting an unjust war for a man they have little to no faith in. Plus, there was one particular zombie that took a brutal headshot as The Governor’s men were blasting away… an Emmy worthy zombie performance by Jason from The Walking Dead’Cast. Well done sir!  I’ve never been so happy to see a friend get a bullet, and a high caliber one at that, to the head.  RIP Jason Zombie.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to spot Zombie Karen, although I know she was there somewhere in the prison yard… you shambled so well Karen, you became one of the undead masses.

For as much as season three was about retaining humanity, it was also very much about the need for others… the need for community.  Rick saw what can become of a man left to his own devices in Clear when he sees what Morgan has become.  Merle eventually came to realize, granted at the last minute, what the idea of family really means… it’s not just blood, but being there for others, and doing right by them, even if it means putting their interest before your own.  Glenn and Maggie went through a devastating experience together which pulled them apart, but through love and understanding have now become family in the most significant of ways by become man and wife… until death do they part.  And the final scene of the elderly and children of Woodbury pouring into the prison as Rick looks up to see that his haunted psyche is done with him spoke volumes of what it takes to retain that humanity… people… trust… love.

I could not have been happier with this season of The Walking Dead… and the way things have been left, specifically with The Governor still living, the prison population grown manyfold, and Tyreese finally together with Rick and the Scooby gang… I am eagerly anticipating what season four and Scott Gimple, the new showrunner, has to offer.

With that said… I doff my hat and say thank you and congratulations to Glen Mazzara.  He took a struggling show in the second half of season two and brought it to heights that no one expected from a zombie show on basic cable.  Thank you sir, and good luck in the future.

Now we wait for October and the fourth season of The Walking Dead

To be continued,
Cornelius J. Blahg

8 thoughts

    1. Awwww… thanks Grace. It was fun to actually write a review immediately after seeing the show as opposed to my usual sitting on it and mulling it over. I’m curious as to how off my impression was compared to other’s opinions… but it was fun getting it out there and putting in more of an analysis of “what it all meant” instead of a basic recap. Glad you liked it.

  1. Oddly enough, I really disliked the episode. A few thoughts:

    1) My favorite parts of the episode were the Andrea/Milton scenes. I liked how the Governor set up Andrea’s demise and was actually relieved that we didn’t have to watch any Andrea torture scenes. Also a nice touch to see Milton trying to kill the Governor (something that Andrea, Rick, etc.) never tried. My only critique is that we are seeing a lot of “stand up as a moral compass, die in the next episode” character arcs (e.g., Dale, T-Dog).

    2) I really don’t buy the “Rick regains his humanity and stops seeing Lori” thread. Lori was a pragmatist/survivalist — she was not the grounding, moral compass that Dale or T-Dog were or that Tyrese is. So it didn’t make sense to me that Rick would miracuously stop seeing Lori once he rescued the Woodbury folks.

    3) I know uou have to suspend logic at times for TWD. But when the Governor starts shooting everyone in his army in cold blood and *no one* tries to shoot him, that’s when my eyes started to roll. Not Alan (?) – who had his gun drawn – tries to shoot him. Nor Martinez or the other guy, who just hop in the truck like everything’s fine. Makes no sense whatsoever.

    4) As far as where the series stands now that we are at the end of the season, I really was looking forward to them leaving the prison. I hate the idea of moving everyone left at Woodbury into the prison, which makes it more likely that they will be there in the future? Ugh. And as an aside, why move everyone out of Woodbury? Why not just stay there instead of moving back to the prison?

    5) I also really dislike the Governor lurking as a potential returning villain. I worry that he’s going to hang over the series, like the Russian in the Sopranos, until he’s killed. Resolution was really needed otherwise this feels more like a mid-season finale episode. I know bringing back Merle worked but I feel like this is a different situation.

    Looking back, now that the season is over, I feel like the Woodbury vs. the Prison story line was fairly repetitive (Rick’s gang attacks Woodbury, Governor strikes back) and that the back-and-forth battles really tired by the end. I still love the show but I would worry if this were a sign of things to come.

    Just my two cents here …

    1. Awesome… thanks for sharing. I think it’s a very cool thing that this episode is generating such divergent opinions. One of the main reasons why I liked it as much as I did was that it completely defied all of my expectations and predictions… I saw none of this coming, and that makes me happy. I suppose I’ll respond to each of your points, which are all great points btw…

      1) I liked the set-up in the beginning for the Milton/Andrea scenes, although I think setting up the whole torture idea and then dropping it was a bit odd. I’m not saying I wanted to see torture, but this is now the second time in this second half of the season that the ‘Chekov’s gun’ was employed, then not triggered. As for the ‘stand up moral compass’ thing that they do… we got a fake out with that between Rick and Michonne… and that is classic TWD from the comics. Issues #99 and #100 were chock full of that device… plus, we just got it with Merle last week. I’d agree with that critique.

      2) I don’t think what Lori was or wasn’t had anything to do with Rick’s visions. To me, it was that it was his wife and he felt guilt over her death… I don’t believe it was meant to be seen as a miraculous cure that he stopped seeing her, just showing us that he is moving on. If anything, it was a bit corny… but I see it very much as his mental state returning to whatever they would consider “normal” at this point.

      3) Certainly annoying that no one is just shooting the guy… but none of those people have seen what we have, and I like to think that murder would be difficult for a sane person. As for Martinez and Bowman? Who knows what they were thinking. Allen was by far the wienie of the night.

      4) I like that it’s not becoming “the camp/CDC season”, “the farm season”, and “the prison season”. I know many want to see them get out of there, but I like the notion of some continuity and a chance for them to actually settle a bit. This whole season only took up about two or three weeks time… so I think they have a lot to explore plot wise now that they have a more permanent situation. As for why not stay in Woodbury? The prison is much more secure and there is a whole lot of food there.

      5) I was expecting the Gov to die… I’m glad we get to see more of him, and have him have more of a real reason to want to wipe them all out. I’m a fan of the long game…

      I think it’s a good sign that there are so many different ways of looking at everything that went on. I’m also a huge fan of LOST, which was also divisive in so many ways. It keeps people talking about a show longer than it really has any right to… if I were a writer or producer of a show I would actively seek to have that back and forth.

      Thanks for writing… I can’t wait to hear what J&K have to say about it… and what other listeners thought. Seems that the overall consensus is disappointment… but my guess is that anticipation for season 4 will be sky high, regardless of how people felt about this finale.

  2. I have heard a lot of disappointment following last night’s airing but I will not wave that same flag. I loved it. We got as much of a war from the Governor’s side as we were going to because his “soldiers” were not that. First sign of trouble and they fled and it incited a rage from the Governor none of them had seen. He accepted absolute loyalty and these people gathered together were not going to follow him to Crazytown and it meant game over for all of them, save Karen.

    I went into the finale very worried we were going to lose characters we had been on this journey with for a long time. Unfortunately, we did, with the loss of Andrea. The final gunshot blast before the screen faded to black left me with a profound sense of sadness. The development of her tour de force character took many twists and turns. Andrea was a civil rights attorney in the world before the zombie apocalypse. She was a fighter for humanity from day one but she lost her way after the death of her only remaining family, Amy. She became hard and distant, ready to give in to the changing world around her. Dale died and she began, it seemed, and this is where I really agree with you, Mr. Blahg, that she changed – taking back her sense of humanity. I wish we had seen more backstory with Michonne and Andrea because it seemed there was a real kinship the two of them developed, which is why Andrea’s decision to stay in Woodbury stung Michonne so deeply.

    Andrea wanted to see the humanity in everyone. She did not want to give up on Phillip, she felt there was some way she could reach him until it was obvious he was unreachable. She did not want a war and set up a meeting with Rick and the Governor.

    In the end, I do not feel Andrea’s death was in vain. She wanted to save everyone, the prison group and the people of Woodbury. In the end, just as she said, she “tried”. She always fought for humanity.

    1. Thank you so much Stephanie… I appreciate that immensely.

      I feel exactly as you did about Andrea. I admit, I was not happy with how her character was being treated in terms of story, but that was colored by my love of her character in the comic, and sometimes it’s difficult separating that from the show. Now, in hindsight, I recognize that her arc was meant to be seen from the season as a whole, and I believe too many detractors are looking at the series from episode to episode as opposed to the complete arc. We no longer exist in a world of bottle episode sit-coms. With shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, and yes, The Walking Dead, we are watching long form stories told bit by bit and need to a little more patient in our responses. The Sopranos, which David previously mentioned, was perhaps one of the first and best in terms of the long form series.

      You are bang on with regards to his “soldiers”… these people never signed on for this, and they had no idea that they were a part of his wacked out vengeance.

      My guess is that when people watch the series as a whole on DVD and Blu-ray, her arc, as well as The Governor’s (who I am glad was not killed last night) will be more palatable. The same thing happened with the second season… it didn’t seem as slow when you can watch episode after episode without the weekly, or months long, wait in between.

      Thanks again… I’m feeling much less like an apologist 🙂 And thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks Stephanie and Mr. Blahg for the comments. I love reading everyone’s thoughtful insights regarding TWD. Losing Andrea was sad on a number of levels – she was one of the original group and we really saw her evolve over the seasons. She went from near suicidal in the first season to bad ass in the second. I do think the writers sometimes have difficulty writing for women (e.g., Lori, Andrea, Michonne), so Andrea’s character was frustrating at times, especially this season. I thought Laurie did a good job playing her and she has stated that she expressed concerns with her character this season, so I don’t think it was any fault of her own. Unfortunately, fans lashed out at her personally (which is ridiculous). I will remember her as a noble, fiery character who spoke her mind and shot like sniper. She will be missed.

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