“Welcome To The Tombs” the finale of season three’s The Walking Dead ends on an optimistic note. This is unusual for a show that revels in the harsh realities of a post-apocalyptic world, where one survival ethic is “Kill or Be Killed.” And while each narrative thread was not neatly tied up, it was still a good finale to a season that had its ups and downs.
The episode opens with the Governor beating a poor, hapless Milton. His vestige of humanity leads to his torture, much like Andrea’s predicament does. The Governor tells Milton: “You kill or you die; or you die and you kill.” The Governor’s plan to have Milton kill Andrea created the best tension of the episode, though like “Prey” employed some standard tropes.
The Governor simply leaves a mortally wounded Milton to eventually die then reanimate to attack Andrea thereby killing her. The trope is the assumption that it will all go to plan, and in this case it does, though often in horror films, the plan fails and the victim escapes. I thought she would escape. At least, I did not think the mild-mannered Milton, even in zombie form, would kill Andrea. Ah, but The Walking Dead protects few of its characters (Rick and Carl are the only safe ones I think) and so Andrea’s stupid toes fail her. In addition to stock piling food, weapons, et al. for the zombie apocalypse, one should apparently practice grasping tools with one’s toes. Andrea does not have monkey feet, and it leads to her death.
Both Andrea and Milton represent humanity’s persistent compassion and decency even in the face of the bleak and harsh reality they find themselves in. These qualities lead to direct conflict with the Governor’s more nefarious idea of killing most of the humans he encounters. The show’s characters continue to wrestle with these precepts and often pay for them with their lives. The finale offered no resolution to these warring notions.
The final scene with Andrea explains some of her behavior throughout the season. Her sentimental notion of “trying to save everyone” seems consistent and appropriate to her character. And she almost achieves her objective, for without her, Rick would not have bussed Woodbury’s too-unfit-for-combat back to the prison to join his group. (I wondered why he didn’t just take over Woodbury, though. It seems as safe as and much more comfortable than the prison.) With Michonne beside her, Andrea ends her life. It was the emotional weight of the episode and the connection to the title “Welcome To The Tombs.” Okay “tombs” is plural, so Milton and the other innocent victims also harken the title.
Finally some battle plans and excellent execution of them. The colossal and spectacular defeat of the Governor is not on par with say, Battle of Thermopylae, where the Spartans defeated a much larger Persian army, but it was still pretty damn cool. The Governor is clearly a psychopath, who likes to inflict pain and kill people (important qualities in war) but his skills as a military strategist are suspect to say the least.
The frontal assault on the prison reveals his poorly developed plan. His group easily gains entry into the prison and helps clear the yard of walkers. Exploding zombies is always fun viewing. That was nice of them. His attack could not have been more conspicuous.
As the Woodbury militia push through the prison, the tension amped up creating exciting TV. This scene along with Milton’s slow reanimation juxtaposed with Andre’s well-manicured, but clumsy little piggy toes (er, she has two left feet—bad, I know but couldn’t resist) generated some serious tension. Of course, she must drop the pliers as Milton’s hand spasms to life. Oh no, get the plies! Cutting to a view outside the door so that we do not know what happens was an interesting choice. The screams and blood spooling from under the door reveals the outcome, we later learn. Can anyone survive in the zombie apocalypse that actually is decent and caring?
The Governor’s inability to accept defeat and relent underscores his dislocation from reality. It leads to his brutal execution of his own people, underscoring his unvarnished psychopathy. The Governor simply can’t handle insubordination and unravels. A shocking scene in a series that must work hard to shock; I did not see that coming. There can be no redemption for him. Still at large, the Governor with his two terrified lieutenants is one of the narrative threads that I thought would find closure. I guess we have to cheer his death next season. I don’t think he will live long in season four, but he may take out a few of Rick’s growing group and former Woodburians before he goes.
Carl becomes a mini-Shane. His back-and-white view of the world accords well with a kid’s perception and frankly makes some sense. He guns down one of Woodbury’s members in a cold-blooded manner his father would never approve of or do himself. Not like father not like son. When Rick later confronts his son about the murder, Carl essentially chastises and dismisses his father. He accuses his father of being weak and threating the group because he fails to kill outsiders. Carl sounds like the Governor. Not a positive development. This must sting, so Rick’s decision to add members to his prison group has as much to do with Carl and his alarming worldview than it does with Rick’s charity and decency. Carl clearly is not happy with his father’s decision. But that’s what parenting is all about in the end. Father knows best. It also suggests that Andrea’s attempt to save “everyone” was not in vain and that not everyone is a cold-hearted bastard.
The season finale was good even if it left some things unresolved. In a non-traditional show, I find this expectation-defying end appropriate and effective. However, I hope next season provides more character development as show creator Robert Kirkman has suggested it would. Until then, I will practice grasping things with my feet.