This episode was the first in a long stretch that felt like it flew by. Normally—and even with the really good episodes—I can practically count the minutes ticking by. But this one was over and done before I even realized it. Not that any of it was particularly good, but at least it was an exciting way to go out. This was yet another one of those episodes TWD is notorious for, one where characters do things simply because the writers think it looks cool or because they need a particular plot point to happen, not because it’s something the characters would actually do. Like the Governor burning Woodbury so he could stand in front of it for a promo shot. Visually arresting but signifying nothing.
The Governor kidnaps Michonne and Hershel to force Rick’s hand. He speechifies at his idiotic group and they buy the con with no hesitation or consideration. The dude doesn’t even have to convince them; he says some shiny words and they’re raring to go. Jesus. Anyway, off they pop, tank and all. The Governor forcibly reappoints Rick as the leader of the prisoners and they have a verbal showdown. Rick has until sunset to vacate the prison or the Governor’s group kills them all. What they apparently mean is surrender or we destroy the very place we plan to secure. And it all goes to shit after that. Death, death, and more death. Curse you, lazy plot devices!
These last few Governor-centric episodes have been entirely predicated on everyone around him being the dumbest people on the face of the earth. If his new group aren’t candidates for the Darwin Awards, then I don’t know who are. Not a single one of them have an ounce of sense between them. And Rick’s group isn’t much better. Why bother having a frakking fence if you don’t bother keeping it fortified or guarded? The Governor wouldn’t necessarily care about a backup plan in case the prisoners decided not to leave, but wouldn’t someone in his group have suggested one at some point? Didn’t anyone think about, oh, I dunno, maybe NOT blowing up the place they were planning on calling home?
Look, I get wanting to take the prison. But by blowing it up, ripping up the fields, and tearing down the fences, you’re really just cutting off your nose to spite your face. They’ll be nothing left of the prison worth keeping if you destroy it all before you get it. Again, it looks cool. A tank smashing the farm carries a lot of symbolism—the collapse of society, innocence destroyed by cruelty and violence, Farmer Rick is gone and only Sheriff Rick remains, yadda yadda yadda—but it’s also utterly stupid if the whole point of taking the prison is to turn it into your own private paradise. The attack works better as a suicide mission or a hate-fueled war, but you only get that if it takes place shortly after Woodbury. By easing Brian’s “redemption” in between, it makes the whole plot counter productive. He can’t take the prison without supporters, but by framing it as a way to protect their families, destroying the prison makes even less sense.
The easiest way to end the whole Governor showdown nonsense before it really began would be for Michonne to tell the group what he did to her. Or for any of the other Woodburyites, or Maggie, or Glenn, or anyone at all to talk about his pre-Brian existence. There’s no way his group stays with him after that. But no one says anything, because that would make sense and would end the battle before it began. And the writers need a battle, you see, because otherwise everyone puts down their guns and picks up plowshares and the Governor and that asshat in the tank are left sulking outside the fence.
Speaking of Michonne, apparently it took her ages to cut herself free (on the back of a truck or something?) because she vanishes for a whole swath of time before reappearing right at the perfect moment for running a Big Bad through with a sword. Even assuming the whole thing went down in a matter of minutes, say 10-15 from start to finish, that’s a long-ass time to be hanging out unnoticed. Shouldn’t she and Lily have seen each other? Given their positions and that the trucks are only covering maybe 50 feet or so of space, they should’ve been within eyesight of each other, which means the Governor should’ve seen Michonne trying to escape. Even if they somehow managed to keep out of each other’s way, at some point Lily and Michonne should’ve encountered each other. By the end it was the Governor, Rick, and the 2 women left at the cars. Which means Lily watched the Governor try to strangle Rick and let Michonne kill him. Which, no.
(Side note: Anyone know what happened to the other kids from the Governor’s new group? Some dude put them in an RV, so I’m guessing Lily watching them, but then she drove off with her dead kid in her arms, and left them there to fend for themselves? Most of the new group are (presumably) dead, so that means there’s a handful of kids just chilling out in an RV who are going to die alone and afraid. Awesome. That reminds me of the time Jason Statham was supposed to rescue 500 Chinese slaves in 2 semi trucks and instead called it a happy ending when he rescued 1 truck with about 20 people in it.)
When AMC said major characters would die, I knew they’d cop out. And sure enough, they took out the 2 “major” characters (and a few unnamed prison extras) who had the least agency and who could be excised without damaging the group as a whole. Hershel and Judith (the latter of whom I’m not 100% certain she died—if they didn’t die on screen, they didn’t really die, as the old adage goes) occupied important emotional and psychological roles within the group, but didn’t possess any particular skills or other attributes that, if lost, would be to its detriment. Their deaths provide the necessary dramatic reactions a writer needs to fuel the final battle moments, but that’s about it.
And if Judith is really dead, then I wish they had found a better way to do it. I’m sure her death happened the way it did—off screen—because you can’t show a baby getting eaten by zombies on basic cable, no matter how many times you watch adults get KO’d. The circumstances surrounding her death are what I take umbrage with. She dies because a handful of stupid kids decide to do something stupid? Why weren’t any of the adults watching them? Why would anyone in their right minds leave a pack of untrained kids alone in the battle to end all battles? And since when did they all become crack shots? And if they were going to ditch Judith, why wouldn’t they put her someone hidden? Why leave her in the middle of a busy thoroughfare? The answer to all of these questions, to all the questions I’ve asked throughout this review, is “Because the writers wanted it to look cool.” Taking what should be the emotional punch to the gut and reducing it to shock value would be infuriating it it wasn’t par for the course for TWD.
I still maintain there was absolutely no reason at all—AT ALL—to waste those last 2 eps on the Governor’s failed redemption arc. Frankly, the finale would’ve been a helluva lot more entertaining if the Governor just randomly showed up with a new crew and a thirst for vengeance. None of what happened was thematically important, even if some of you happened to enjoy watching his story unfold. If he had at least held on to a little bit of Brian at the end, maybe I could see some excuse for it. But to have him go full on psychopath and hack Hershel’s head off with Michonne’s katana is about as Governor as it gets…which makes his whole storyline pointless wheel-spinning. Or, better yet, all of this should have had happened last season. What a great end to that roller coaster of insanity from last season. It’s times like these that I wish the show would break completely from the comics rather than continually circling back to Kirkman.
Perhaps Gimple and the writers will rally once more next half season. The prison had turned into Hershel’s Farm 2.0, and the plague was a timesuck of a plot that never managed to be nearly as interesting as it should’ve been. Splitting the prisoners up—and mixing in the survivors from the Governor’s team—comes with built in drama. Who knows how it’ll end up. The episodes with strong stories, solid character development, and intriguing world building were also some of the least dramatic and active, while the ones that went full throttle were the ones that abandoned logic and consistency for hollow shock value. That’s fairly typical of The Walking Dead, but at first Gimple seemed to have a better handle on it. He seemed to understand how to make the show about something more than zombies and “looks cool.” I still have faith that Gimple won’t screw it up in the back half, but my belief is a lot weaker than it was in the beginning of the season.
And on that cheery note, I bid you adieu until February 2014.
- “If you understand what it’s like to have a daughter, how can you kill someone else’s?” “Because they aren’t mine.”
- Every time Maggie and Glenn have a scene together, I feel like they’re working off a script for a different show. Like, they’re trapped in some romance story while the world burns around them.
- Daryl takes Rick’s (ill-conceived) decision to kick out Carol about as well as I did. He may have dropped it momentarily, but I don’t doubt for a second that it’s over for him.
- So, I guess the plague is over then? That was anticlimactic.
- The trampled chess, Lily shooting the Governor, the zombies marching into the prison, and Rick’s last line were heavy-handed enough to just about ruin the whole episode for me.
- Oh, and Megan died. Bitten by a mud zombie. I suppose I should feel bad or something, but the only reason she kicked it was so the writers could have the Governor brain her and get brained in turn by Lily.
- This episode is ripe comics talk, so please preface your spoilers! Don’t be that guy who ruins it for everyone.
Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.