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…
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