Review of The Walking Dead 408 – Too Far Gone
Goodness, the mid-season finale for “The Walking Dead” proved to be a difficult episode to watch. No surprise in the nail-biting, worrying, and yelling at the TV—TWD always provides plenty of that for its finales. The surprises came in the bloodshed witnessed by 12.1 million viewers Sunday night. Some of it may have been expected, the writers are known for dropping clues throughout the season before a major event. The rest left fans wailing and venting their frustrations on Twitter and Facebook. We can totally see the fan angst delighting the show’s writers and producers. After all, they live to make viewers suffer—as Robert Kirkman disclosed on “Talking Dead” after the mid-season finale—by making each major loss on the show unbelievably graphic, fitting the amount of violence to a character’s importance in the show. Talk about a harsh way to show you love someone.
Warning: There’s spoilers a plenty below. Do not venture further until you’ve watched the mid-season finale.
It is no secret that Phillip—a.k.a. The Governor, a.k.a. Brian—is a master manipulator. In the scene before the main credits, he manages to simultaneously scare the pee out of the people in his new camp and turn them into a ragtag militia team willing to do whatever necessary in order to take over the prison. When he arrived, when the camp was still working under Martinez, the group were timid, barely keeping one step ahead of the walkers. It took Phillip no time at all to corrupt them. He knew exactly what to say, what buttons to push and lies to feed them. Well, the lies weren’t so much lies as exaggerations of the truth. Yes, Rick’s people murder and steal, but only when backed into a corner and forced to. Yes, Michonne mutilated Phillip and killed Penny, his daughter . . . in self-defense. He uses the truth to frighten his new army. Only Lilly sees through the manipulation. She calls Phillip out, asking if he’s one of the bad people he’s rallying the others to kill. Unfortunately, Lilly doesn’t have the backbone to stop him, to stop any of them before they charge into the prison with Hershel and Michonne as prisoners. If she did, the episode would’ve had a much kinder ending.
Hershel always finds a way to make peace. It’s the way he’s lived since day one on the show, back when he couldn’t bring himself to kill the walkers because he saw them as sick humans who just need to stick it out until someone finds a miracle cure. Hershel’s faith taught him to find the kinder, gentler path. He’s no push-over, stand up for what he thinks is right no matter what. But Hershel is a man of words, not action. He tries so hard to talk sense into Rick throughout his time with the group, and uses the same tactics with Phillip when taken prisoner.
“You say you want to take this prison as peacefully as possible, that means you’d be willing to hurt people to get it. My daughters would be there. That’s who you’d be hurtin’. If you understand what it’s like to have a daughter, then how can you threaten to kill someone else’s?”
“Because they aren’t mine.”
Phillip makes it clear that Hershel’s attempt to find the humanity buried deep in his mind won’t work. He killed that portion of himself and buried it alongside Penny after the Woodbury attack. It gives Hershel nothing to work with. He’s left to rely on the good he’s found in Rick since the first prison attack to safe his bacon. It doesn’t work.
The prison attack echoes the first attempt made by the Governor to capture the coveted safe haven, with one large exception: this time Phillip rolls in with a tank. He also has a serious advantage in the number of soldiers at his disposal. After the walker attack inside cellblock D and the flu which wiped out a good number of the prison population, there’s a handful of people able to fire a gun without falling over from the recoil. Glenn and Sasha are barely mobile, therefore virtually useless in a fight. It came down to the council, plus a couple spare people, in order to hold the line against a tank and well-armed, motivated insurgents. The prison group was doomed from the start. And further doomed by the emotional blow dealt by Phillip moments before he called on his army to charge the fences.
Hershel’s death is a brilliant tactic for Phillip’s campaign. He knew Hershel was the steel rod holding the prison group upright. All it took was one conversation with the man to figure it out. Rick’s eagerness to agree with Hershel during the ultimately ill-fated parlay before the shooting begins sealed the deal. Take out the peacemaker and the morale of the group falls to ruin. Phillip makes no effort to hide his true self in that moment. He has no more time for games to manipulate his people into action. The price of his ego is the death of a beloved character. We’ll truly miss Scott Wilson’s portrayal of Hershel Greene. He went out in style, with a smile on his face.
Too bad for Phillip, Hershel’s death didn’t automatically translate to Phillip’s victory.
The Governor’s demise was written perfectly. He didn’t go down easily. It took three people, three of the people hurt the most by his actions throughout his time on the show, to bring about his final death. Rick laid into him in the fist fight fans have been waiting for since the original prison attack against the Woodbury militia. There was ample amounts of cheering in the ZSC command center when the first punches were thrown. Rick nearly didn’t survive the encounter. In the end, Michonne dealt the blow to seal Phillip’s fate. Her sword—the same sword used to decapitate Hershel—cut through Phillip’s chest like butter and saves Rick’s bacon. But Lilly is the one to make sure Phillip didn’t come back as a walker to further destroy lives. As is fitting since his behavior cost her the focus she needed to keep her daughter, Meghan, alive. Phillip was never going to die at the hands of just one person. The horrors he wrought on the prison population needed to be avenged somehow. An eye for an eye, so to speak. As much as we loathed Phillip as a character, we’ll miss the brilliance of David Morrissey’s performance. He brought a depth to the character few actors could’ve achieved. There’s a fine line to walk with a character as reprehensible as The Governor. It’s far too easy to make him a mustache-twirling bad guy. Morrissey didn’t. He made Phillip into a character with so many layers, sometimes it was hard to hate the guy. It takes talent to make fans feel sympathy for the villain.
We lost two main characters in the season four mid-season finale, with the fates of many others hanging in the balance. The prison population is scattered to the winds, with little to no supplies, without shelter. They’ve lost their home, their loved ones, and the support of the community they’d built inside the prison. How long can any of them hope to survive? We’ll find out on Sunday, February 9th, 2014 at 9:00 PM.
Have some theories about what lies ahead for the survivors of the prison attack? Let us hear them in the comments below.