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.
Last week “The Walking Dead” took a deep look into what makes Rick tick and how his crew at the prison are preparing for the looming conflict with the Governor and his Woodbury army. So this week, we got a look at what is making the Governor tick and where Andrea’s loyalties will put her during the war. We spent the entire episode with Andrea. Yes, the angst of many fans were heard. However, it was necessary to take the time to truly see where Phillip’s head is at before he launches another attack on our favorite survivors.
***Warning, this review contains spoilers***
An unsung hero in the tension between Woodbury and Rick’s crew is Milton. He lurks in the background, whispers advice in Phillip’s ear, and helps Andrea when she has the driving urge to do something right (which inevitably goes wrong). Milton has been able to keep Phillip’s antisocial behavior under wraps for the most part. He offered himself up as a touchstone for the Governor to lean on in order to see how far from the façade of normalcy he’s put on in order to lead the town successfully. He tries to be Phillip’s Jiminy Cricket, but how can he be a conscious for a man who forfeited his soul to get revenge and power? Unfortunately, Milton isn’t a fighter. Over and over again, he’s run to Andrea for help, sensing her desire to be where Phillip is in the power structure. All so he doesn’t have to grow a pair. He doesn’t think like a warrior and is easily cowed by people in power. Or at least he was before this episode. At least we’re seeing Milton put his foot down and stand up, albeit indirectly, to the powerbase driving the war to yet another senseless battle. He’s working from inside Woodbury to even the playing field. It’d be better if he finished finding his courage and kill Phillip. There’s a history between the two of them. Does Milton recognize his friend in the monster the apocalypse unleashed?
Over the course of this season, we’ve seen the humanity bleed out of the Governor. Sometimes literally, thanks to Michonne. There is a sense of joy in the way he goes about prepping and stocking his little “fun” room, the torture chamber he’s set up in preparation for Michonne’s arrival. There is no doubt in his mind. He will win. Michonne will come back to Woodbury with him. Over the course of weeks, he will be free to torture her. One of the most telling objects in the room wasn’t the bone saws, scalpels, and needles. It was the spool of thread and hooked needle. Several possibilities came to mind, but the one that stuck out the most was, he doesn’t want his victim to have the opportunity to bleed out and die ahead of his schedule. He must have complete control of every aspect of his life. Death is a tool he means to bend to his will. Phillip’s arrogance stems from the complete lack of people questioning his actions. Since day one of Woodbury’s foundation, he’s been the one taking charge. The only people to stand up to him are outsiders, not part of his little herd. He can’t control the new people, so he must eliminate them. And if he just so happens to enjoy himself on an almost sensual level while chasing his prey, well, even sociopaths need a little fun.
Tension is brewing between Tyreese and Phillip. Tyreese is a trusting soul, despite what he’s seen of human nature while battling the undead. Unfortunately, it made him a prime victim for the Governor’s scheming. Thankfully, Tyreese didn’t drink the Flavor-Aid like Andrea did when she first arrived in Woodbury. His instincts may very well keep him and his sister alive. Can’t say as much for their two traveling companions. Allen and his son overcompensate for their lack of power in the apocalypse by being the manliest men Woodbury has ever seen. Allen in particular continuously butts heads with Tyreese, trying to prove he can be an alpha male in order to not appear weak in front of his son. But Tyreese won’t give him the satisfaction of “winning” their arguments. He has a good set of morals that have kept him and his sister relatively safe. If he continues down the path he’s on, questions people who seem . . . off, he may just prove to be the savior Andrea wishes she could be.
Oh, Andrea . . . Sometimes I think we are too hard on her. Then she goes and does something so utterly ridiculous, it is impossible to see the good things she has done. Fans all over loathe Andrea. In part, this may stem from fans wanting to see one of the women step up and take control, without bungling it so badly a man is forced to step in and save her hide. Maggie’s appearance was a breath of fresh air after dealing with Andrea’s attempts to be “one of the boys” as far as work in camp goes. However, whereas Maggie does what is needed to survive, Andrea does what is needed to garner attention and praise. She is a puppy learning new tricks and expects a reward every time she doesn’t piddle on the carpet. Somewhere along the way, Andrea began to equate her happiness with that of the people she’s determined to be hers to save. This way of living left her vulnerable and pliable to the will of someone stronger than her. Phillip took full advantage of her hero complex. All it got her was a very uncomfortable seat. If she’d stuck to running under cover instead of through a huge, open field, maybe she’d be safe with the people in the prison. As it is, well, Andrea won’t be finding any rewards in her new “home.”
Pet peeve time! This is a bonus ranty bit for readers. I will start off by saying, I do not fault the actors at all for this. The final call came from the director and writers, all of whom should know better than to dig up outplayed horror movie tropes. A character can be creepy, downright nightmare-inducing while chasing a victim without: A) Dragging a weapon behind them, raking it across a fence, etc., and B) Whistling a cheery tune. Just . . . stop. The entire chase at the end of the episode lost its power because of these two jarring actions from the Governor. Such a shame, I was looking forward to seeing David Morrissey let loose with his incredible acting skills.
Does the group in the prison have any chance at all of surviving the war with Woodbury? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Review of “The Walking Dead” 311 “I Ain’t a Judas”
Reviewer: R.C. Murphy
Season three of “The Walking Dead” so far has caused ample amounts of yelling, throwing things at the TV, and sobbing. Even though episode 311 wasn’t as explosive as the previous episode, there was plenty to yell about as the dynamics between Team Prison and Team Woodbury shifted. It is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out where loyalties lie within the groups and the characters who crossover from one to the other. Only one thing is clear, war isn’t coming—it is already here.
Warning: Spoilers below!
How much of Merle’s attitude adjustment can Rick’s group trust? Sure, he’s still outspoken and laying bits and pieces of doubt for the others to trip over, but he’s also taken up arms to help defend those calling the prison home—twice. He’s offered up insight into how the Governor thinks and runs his city, all of which we know is true. Merle has a depth of soul previously unseen on screen. We met him when he was doped up, talking crazy, and hating the world. When we reconnected with Merle, he was firmly in the Governor’s camp, driven by a sense of loyalty for the man who gave him a safe place to live and enough weaponry to scratch his itch for violence. In Woodbury, Merle’s darker instincts weren’t shunned or contained. He was allowed to run wild and do anything necessary to protect the town. That won’t fly with Rick, though. We already know this. Surprisingly, Merle has a connection of sorts with Hershel. Maybe we’ve found the one person—other than his brother—who can truly reach Merle on a level not based on hate and violence. Only time will tell if he will mesh into the group or continue to try and rip them apart emotionally from within. Merle only knows how to defend himself—with words and weapons.
Daryl is caught in the middle of everyone’s warring emotions. Merle wants his submissive little brother back to do his bidding without question. Rick needs a strong second in command to hold him up while he continues to suffer a mental breakdown. And Carol is determined to see him free himself of his brother’s scheming and mental abuse. Carol is possibly the best thing to happen to Daryl since he was a child. She believes in him. Not what he can do for her or how she can use him. Carol wants to empower Daryl, the same way she has herself since her husband became zombie chow. Most of all, she wants to see him whole so they can finally have a meaningful connection, which is denied to so many during crisis situations. Daryl is hesitant to follow her lead, though. It is understandable. Numerous people have used him and tossed him aside when someone or something better comes along. He doesn’t see his self-worth beyond what he can do with a knife and crossbow. With time Carol can make him understand, but not if Merle is going to trail along behind her, whispering doubt into Daryl’s ear.
Oh Rick . . . bats are still winging around in your belfry, aren’t they? You know it has to be bad when Carl of all people steps up and questions Rick’s ability to be the leader they need in order to survive the war with the Governor. But can Rick step down? Leading his group, keeping them safe, may be the final thing keeping him grounded. His wife is dead. He has no connection with his newborn daughter and his son is turning into a young man he doesn’t recognize because of the rough life they lead. Rick is drifting. Lost. The only time he is coherent is when danger and death knock on the front gates of the prison. He won’t find an easy out, though. Hershel and Glenn will hold him accountable for everything that has happened since Lori’s death—crazy or not.
Between Andrea and the Governor, it is difficult to figure out who fans hate the most. Andrea keeps making bad decision after awful decision and tops it off with a slice of, “What the heck were you thinking?” Phillip is evil. He makes no effort to hide it now, even when faced with Andrea’s endless questions about his intentions. Sure, he’ll say the right things, the kind things, but his eyes—eye—speak the truth. He has been wronged, by Rick, Michonne, and Merle. Nothing will stop him from his vengeance, no matter how pretty and blonde she is. Even poor Milton is helpless to do anything kind and decent in the face of Phillip’s vengeance. Andrea, Milton, and now Tyreese and his crew, are nothing more than weapons the Governor can use in his schemes. He knew Andrea would eventually sneak away from Woodbury and go to the prison. He was counting on her to do it so he could gauge the mental health of the people he is at war with. Phillip fights with everything he’s given, and he just happened to be blessed with a seriously intelligent mind and a taste for death. And now not only does he have a feel for who he is facing, but with Tyreese’s help, he’ll have everything he needs to tackle where he wishes to attack.
Andrea should have done what Carol told her to, don’t you think?
I can’t leave without giving props to the wizards at KNB EFX. Their work on the zombie Andrea mutilates is astounding. Disgusting, yet beautiful to those who are intrigued by special effects.
What do you think is in store for Team Prison? Let us know in the comments below.
This episode in particular had a lot of anticipation built up around it long before it aired. Heck, people were excited back before filming began and producers confirmed what the main story arc of the third season would be. Fans were anxious to meet the Governor and see Woodbury outside of the confines of paper and ink. Not to mention, watch an entire episode devoted to Michonne and Andrea. Oh and there was a certain returning character fans begged and pleaded to have back on The Walking Dead. We’ll get to them later.
For three seasons, we’ve been teased with glimpses of a helicopter. In the apocalypse, something like a helicopter builds hope that somehow, some way people are surviving and thriving. At the very least, survivors begin to think there is still some sort of government force at work to keep them safe. It is a false hope, really. But there we were again, watching a helicopter hover over the earth and wondering, “How on earth did any military personnel survive? They were on the front lines when the walkers rose.” Obviously some would make it as long as Rick and his original crew. Seeing them, though, was a little strange. Any sort of government figure is a foreign concept now. Even Rick dropped his sheriff uniform. What point is there when most of the people you swore to serve and protect are dead?
There was very little time wasted introducing the Governor. On first impression, one looks at the way he leads his men and realizes, this is the sort of leader Rick wishes he could be. Unfortunately, Rick has an overwhelming sense of guilt and morality hanging over his head at all times. The more we saw of the Governor in this episode, it became quickly apparent he had neither of Rick’s downfalls holding him back. Can Andrea and Michonne trust the Governor? The answer is a double-edged sword. He fully believes his efforts alone will be what saves humanity and made it perfectly clear he’d do anything necessary to do so. When you know someone’s game plan, you can trust them to follow through. But to rely on him for their safety when he lies about his intentions in other matters? They’d be foolish.
Michonne is more than ready to leave town and make her own path to survival. She is a woman determined to do things on her own. Trust is a huge issue with her, except when it comes to Andrea. However, trouble could be brewing in their friendship if Andrea insists on staying in Woodbury much longer. Michonne’s spidey-senses are tingling. She’s pacing like a caged tiger waiting for someone to get too close to the bars. Danai Gurira is amazing in this role. Michonne rarely speaks, unless she is alone with Andrea, but her misgivings about Woodbury and the Governor are very, very clear thanks to Danai’s stellar performance.
Caution: There may be spoilers below.
The pets. It was difficult watching Michonne dispatch them in order to keep the walkers from giving away their location. It became even more difficult to let them go after seeing her dodge around the question—the one question that’d give everyone a deeper insight into what makes Michonne tick. Who were the walkers she disfigured and kept by her side at all times? It is easy to assume she found a couple random zombies and fashioned them into her personal pack mules/cloaking device. However, once the question was asked, we knew there was a story there. Maybe one day, we’ll even figure it out.
Woodbury seems too good to be true. It has the same sort of vibe as the prison and Hershel’s farm—if the survivors get too comfortable and settle in too deeply, the place will become their grave. Who on earth would even think of utilizing solar power during the Zombiepocalypse? Yet, there it is. Along with well-manicured flowerbeds, gardens, clean sidewalks, hot water, electricity—the works. What of oneself does it cost to live in Woodbury? For the men, they’re conscripted into the Governor’s private militia. We haven’t met many of the women, yet. They simply seem happy to have a safe place to call home. Because of that, they’re not asking the questions nagging at the back of their mind before they go to sleep each night.
Helpful tip: Don’t ignore the nagging voice when your safety is on the line.
Let’s see…was there anything I forgot? Hey, stop throwing stuff! You know I couldn’t forget good ol’ (rotten ol’) Merle Dixon.
The reintroduction of Merle was perfect. Even without showing him, we knew right away who’d snuck up on Andrea and Michonne. This isn’t the same Merle we saw handcuffed to the roof of a department store. His time in Woodbury has given him a clear head. With the Governor calling the shots, directing Merle’s every move, he has no leeway to dive back into his vices. At least, that’s how it seems so far. Who knows, Merle could flip a gasket and start talking to rocks for all we know.
Lesson number one of The Walking Dead fandom, never attempt to predict what any of the characters will do.
I’ll close this out with one last note:
Fish tanks. Eww.
What do you think about the goings-on in Woodbury? Let us know in the comments below.