Review of “The Walking Dead” 316 – “Welcome to the Tombs”
Weeks and weeks of well-written, tension-building episodes brought us to this week’s explosive conclusion. The problem? The only explosion came from a round of unnecessary shooting and grenade launching. Emotionally the episode was a bit of a letdown. There were far too many plot lines left dangling, with no tension to carry them over into the new season. The only thing we were left to look forward to was a potential emotional downslide for Carl, of all characters. Let’s see what went down in the season three finale of “The Walking Dead.”
***Caution, there are spoilers below. If you have not watched the season finale, turn back now!***
Three weeks ago it was reported by Andrew Lincoln in an interview with Rolling Stone that the show would be killing off twenty-seven characters in the season finale. What he couldn’t say was one of the deaths would be beloved underdog and sole geek in the Zombiepocalypse, Milton. We can’t say his death came as a huge surprise. Milton did his best to do the right things in the latter half of season three, putting him at direct odds with his old friend, the sociopath Governor of Woodbury. Unfortunately, Milton’s efforts were a handful of branches trying to stop the flood of Phillip’s determination to be the biggest, scariest leader in a ten-mile radius. It takes a lot of bravery to stand up to a man like Phillip. Milton knew one miscalculation would cost him his life. In the end, he realized the only way to make an impact was to draw Phillip’s wrath and sacrifice himself in order to save the masses. By torching the walkers intended for use against the group in the prison, Milton saved a lot of lives. His death was not in vain, though his loss will be felt if/when we ever see the Governor again, this time without his glasses-wearing conscious at his side.
The person Milton wanted to save most of all wasn’t himself, or even Phillip. Somewhere along the way, Milton saw potential in Andrea to be the savior Woodbury needed in order to escape the Governor’s insanity. But their plans were constantly plagued by ill-timing and Phillip’s ability to be three steps ahead of everyone. In the end, no matter what Milton did, Andrea still paid the ultimate price. There’s a sad irony in those two being the eventual cause of each other’s deaths just when they thought they’d found the one other person left alive who understood what drove their particular brand of hero complex.
Andrea’s constant efforts to do the good and right thing only ended up costing others their lives, including Merle. Her scheming nearly landed Michonne in a torture cell. When faced with a threat like Phillip and his army of true believers, doing the right thing is suicidal. Andrea knew that in the end, but still couldn’t make herself take a human life. Her conscious (not Milton-shaped) got the best of her time and time again. How much heartache would have been spared if she did as Carol told her and stabbed Phillip after one last goodnight kiss? Possibly the hardest part of Andrea’s death wasn’t that she’d been gnawed on by a man who could have been much more to her if not for Phillip’s involvement in their lives. No, the part that truly sucked was seeing her determination to not burden anyone else with dispatching her before she turned. It brought fans back to the end of season one when a distraught Andrea wanted to stay in the CDC when it blew up and Dale emotionally blackmailed her until she gave in and made a run for it. Only now, she wasn’t taking the easy way out. Andrea faced the reality of her situation and wanted to be in control until her last breath. If given more time, she could have been a capable leader for Woodbury. Andrea just wasn’t strong enough to overthrow the Governor.
Speaking of Captain Crazypants, what the heck was up with him unloading a clip into his own people? Some people take failure poorly, but jeeze. The Governor only allowed two of his men to live, and they looked about two seconds from running into the woods to get away from him. There was nothing human left in his eyes . . . eye . . . when he gunned down the people he’d taken on the failed mission to take over the prison. How would he feel if he knew the truth? Five people total inside the prison overwhelmed and dispersed his army. Where did Phillip go to lick his wounded pride? We have no clue. It is unlikely that we’ve seen the last of him, especially if Rick and his newly expanded crew decide to stay inside the prison.
Carl is on a slippery slope to psychoville via the Shane path of surviving the Zombiepocalypse. We’ve known for a while that some vital part of Carl was broken the day he was forced to put a bullet in his mother’s head to spare her from returning as a walker. However, after he seemed to bounce back from it, he’s flipped off his emotion switch again. What happened? Was he shocked by what happened in King County when they ran into a clearly insane Morgan? Did he feel coddled when Rick told him to wait in the woods during the lack-luster battle with the Governor and his forces? It is really hard to tell what triggered this lasted spiral for Carl. What we do know is the kid is really creepy after pulling the trigger. Instantly, he rationalized a story to tell his father so he wouldn’t get in trouble. The worst part was seeing how little shock and remorse was on his face when the kid he shot crumpled to the ground. Someone needs to step in and save Carl before he becomes the next Governor. Or is this a case of too-little-too-late? Only time will tell.
Do you think we’ve seen the last of the Governor? What is in store for Rick and his crew at the prison next season? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Review of “The Walking Dead” 313 – “Arrow on the Doorpost”
Occasionally, the non-stop action of a show has to take a backseat in order to allow characters a chance to build toward something spectacular, like the epic clash on the horizon between Rick’s group and the people of Woodbury. Unfortunately, these “talking head” episodes are full of inaction, intrigue, and contests of wit and strength as characters measure each other for what will surely come in the next episode or two. With only three episodes left in the season, was it wise to allow an entire episode to be spent talking? We’ll see.
**Warning, there be spoilers ahead!**
It’s taken thirteen episodes for Rick and the Governor to share more than bullets flying past each other and angry words spread through third parties. Sadly, the encounter was predictable. Rick stood on his high moral ground and Phillip dug it out from under him. The Governor twisted Rick’s words around, trying to make him the bad guy, taking advantage of Rick’s fragile mental state in order to plant seeds of doubt in his opponent’s mind. Phillip used several tactics to get under Rick’s skin. He tried to play humble, saying he hadn’t appointed himself as governor, but the people chose him to lead them. In the next breath, he went from humble to sadistic. Before we could recover from his evil streak, Phillip flew into a story about how his late wife died before the zombie outbreak happened. But how much of the story is true? How much of his emotions were true? Phillip is a textbook sociopath. He mimics emotions he sees in others, but they never last long. He can charm the pants off everyone. He has absolutely no remorse for the death and destruction he’s caused. It was difficult to keep up with Phillip’s rapid-fire subject changes in his parlay with Rick—which was the point. He was feeling Rick out, getting a bead on his foe to see if he’s mentally capable of out-maneuvering him. Phillip’s power is smoke and mirrors, with a dash of pure intimidation thrown in the mix. Without his intelligence and taste for blood, he’d be just another guy trying to survive.
Rick, for all his mental shortcomings since Lori’s death, managed to keep up with Phillip’s ever-changing conversation. But whereas the Governor talked, bragged, and played his mental games, Rick brooded in silence. He did what so many people fail to do, he listened to the person he is at war with. And through listening, Rick realized one important thing—no matter what deal they strike, Phillip will never allow the people in the prison to live. When Rick did speak, he played right into Phillip’s hands. Only on one occasion did he gain the upper hand, when he told Phillip killing Michonne was beneath him—it wasn’t worth his time to kill one woman. Rick is way out of his depth. The wars he’s fought within his group and the emotional trauma he suffered from the death surrounding them every day, they’ve left him with little resources to deal with the current threat. It wasn’t until Rick returned to the prison that we caught a glimpse of how he planned to play out the war. Rick lied to his group about the Governor’s intentions. And despite what he said to Hershel later, I think he did it to keep a leash on the wildcards in the prison. How quickly would Merle turn around and try to give Michonne to the Governor in order to save his baby brother from the battle ahead? Sure, Rick wanted his people scared, honed for the war, but he also wanted to make sure he was the one holding all the aces so no one could surprise him later on.
Andrea’s part in the war is changing. What it is changing to, I have no clue. She had her chance to kill Phillip and she didn’t take it. Hershel invited her to come back to the prison, she got back in the car with the Woodbury folks. How long can she play monkey-in-the-middle before someone (Phillip) gets tired of her indecision and disposes of her for good? Playing both sides of the fence is dangerous. Mostly, it is stupid. Andrea’s little bubble of reality has burst. The man she’s been protecting wants the blood of the people who kept her alive. The only ally she has left is Milton. He knows most of what goes on in Woodbury, but Phillip has been keeping him ill-informed just to throw Andrea off. Yet despite everything, Andrea thinks she alone can prevent the clash between the two survivor groups. I’m not quite sure if she’s been hit on the head one too many times or has allowed the little bit of power Phillip gave her to go to her head. She does not want to be caught in the middle of this conflict. If Andrea were smart, she’d move on and get far away from Woodbury and the prison.
In better news, Glenn and Maggie kissed and made up. Every episode since they were rescued from Woodbury, they fought their own personal war. A war bred from the intensity of the emotions dredged up during their torture and interrogation. Sometimes, no matter how painful it is, a person needs to talk through what is plaguing them. Maggie did her talking, but Glenn was so wrapped up in his inability to protect her and the guilt it raised, he couldn’t let go of the control he’d blanketed himself in to cope. It is refreshing to see them together again. Love is rare in the world they live in. More often than not, it turns into betrayal that is more likely to kill a person than the undead at their doors. Just ask Shane. He thought he loved Lori and his betrayal to Rick morphed into the actions which caused his death.
Is one life worth more than many? Will Rick play the ace up his sleeve and give Michonne over to the Governor in order to save his people? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
They are hardy, wholesome folk. Hershel and Maggie Greene can keep a farm running, ride any steed in true cowboy style and wrangle zombies when the need calls for it. Their faith in God sustains them, but their isolation leaves them susceptible to grand—and potentially deadly—illusions about the realities of the world they live in.
Who are Hershel and Maggie Greene? They are characters from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew. They have created cast of characters I have expressed a great deal of love for:
Faith in the Almighty is rule # 1 on the Greene farm. Rule # 2 is that Hershel’s word is law, only below that of God. He runs his family with a firm hand and there’s little doubt that even before the walkers started appearing on their property, he possessed full and total control over every aspect of their lives. Maggie has been content to follow her father’s righteous lead but has a more worldly strength to her than her father possesses. When the main survivor group finds the Greene farm, Hershel and Maggie are easily cast as saviors—but the zombie-infested world in which they live may ultimately rip both the group, and the family, apart.
[***WARNING: Spoilers ahead***]
The Greene family provides a nice little twist to the environments most commonly associated with the zombie genre—large cities run down, blown halfway to hell, and overrun by the walking dead. Hershel and Maggie have managed, despite all odds, to not only survive but to do it in their own home with their own resources (for the most part) and create a sanctuary for others in need.
Hershel is a man of principle, a spiritual rock guided by his faith in God and a firm belief in right vs. wrong. There is little grey in Hershel’s world, something is one or the other, and cannot be both. It is upon this basis that Hershel views the zombiepocalypse. He is a giving man, in his own way, but will draw the line when generosity poses a danger to his beliefs or his family. And the rigidity of the faith he presents poses dangers—both physical and spiritual—for himself and those around him.
Hershel – played by Scott Wilson – believes that worldwide zombification is akin to the evolution of HIV/AIDS. Everyone goes into hysterics. A lot of people die. And then one day a miracle cure comes along, sent by God’s own hand to save the faithful who managed to survive. In Hershel’s mind, this is a cleansing.
But on the few occasions where Hershel does speak of such things it feels more as though he is a man desperate to fit the unthinkable into an existing belief system. He has lost family members. The world has, largely, ended. He knows this, yet Hershel really isn’t prepared to meet the challenge head on. He is clinging to his faith as a way to continue the ‘old way’ of doing things, rationalizing away the realities of the zombie world.
Maggie, despite the ‘grief’ she causes Hershel because of her budding relationship with the “Asian boy,” is a source or pride for Hershel—a younger, more worldly version of himself. Maggie’s belief system is not so rigid, so much a part of her being, that she is unable to consider alternatives without shaking her own core. Maggie – played by Lauren Cohan – quickly finds herself questioning events around her after the main survivor group arrives: Maybe her father is wrong. But if he is, then is she equally wrong for following him? Where does that leave God in the new world order? And most importantly, how do they survive?
At this point it is Maggie, not Hershel, who appears most likely to survive the zombiepocalypse longest of the Greene clan. It’s not unlikely that Maggie may soon find herself in the not-unusual situation of having to manage role reversal—where the child becomes the parent and the aging parent becomes the child—in order to save what is left of her family.
And then there was the barn.
When Glenn stumbled across the barn and its’ unfortunate occupants, I nearly broke my roommates fingers I grabbed his hand so hard (an action I would repeat when Shane ripped open the barn doors shortly thereafter). This was going to be it. The place where faith and realism collide, where right and wrong are so hopelessly intertwined that even the most the righteous man would struggle…where we discover what humanity really means in a zombified world.
Anyone with a heart, felt bad for Hershel. And yet, even though in some rose-colored way we wanted him to be right, viewers knew he was wrong. The tragedy was that it took a rather inhumane approach by a very unstable man, Shane Walsh, to rip off the blinders and force Hershel, and Maggie, to finally confront the reality of the world they now live in.
Weeks after the mid-season finale aired, viewers are still struggling with that last sequence and what it means for a very brave, very soul-weary group of survivors: Can Hershel move beyond the shock and accept the new reality? Can he become the spiritual ground-zero that the main survivor group needs so badly? Or will he retreat, cloak himself in cracked-faith and leave the others to fend for themselves? And what future will Maggie choose? Will she evolve into the zombie-slayin’ farm girl I see within? Or will she be unable to forgive Shane and the others for the ‘damage’ they have wrought on the Greene home?
Whatever choices Hershel and Maggie make are sure to be right—and heartbreaking.