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Spoilers if you haven't seen tonight's Season 3 finale of The Walking Dead!
What a bizarre finale. I'm not even sure bizarre is the right word. For all the momentum built up in the second half of the third season, the ending kind of fizzled, with one major fatality, two less major ones and an open-ended fate for the group, the Governor and the people of Woodbury. I'm not saying I hated it, though I may settle somewhere between underwhelmed and disappointed once I have time to let the episode process. In the meantime, I will say, it wasn't what I expected. I thought we'd see the big showdown near the end of the episode, and I thought the people of Woodbury would have had their eyes opened to the dark nature of their leader with some big reveal. Word likely got around about that, but the revelation wasn't nearly as grand as it could have been.
The Governor used Merle's attack on his men as an opportunity to rally some of the residents of Woodbury and get them fired up to attack the prison, which they did. They entered the prison without much resistance and ended up corralled in the yard and fired on by Rick and his men, after which they headed for the hills, deciding it wasn't worth their lives. In a fit of rage, the Governor slaughtered all of them on the road - excluding his two guys - and took off for parts unknown. One woman who was smart enough to play dead managed to escape the slaughter.
Rick came across the lone survivor when he and some of his people were on their way to Woodbury to finish the job, but by that point, the mayhem was over. All that was left was to head to Woodbury to tell the people what happened. Tyreese and Sasha looked horrified when they found out what the Governor did, which wasn't surprising, especially considering Allen was one of the casualties of the Governor's wrath - but I'm thinking they were glad they opted not to go. Being good people paid off for them.
The episode ended with Rick bringing the Woodbury people to the prison, where many of them will likely sit around in a circle, clueless as to how to protect themselves. At least, that's how they were presented to us tonight when Tyreese and Sasha were watching them. Maybe during the hiatus, Rick and his people will teach them how to kill walkers and defend themselves. They might need to, if and when the Governor returns.
The Governor is out there somewhere, which leaves the possibility for a grand return at some point down the line, if not in the near future.
In other news, Andrea's dead. I feel bad for not feeling as bad as I want to over her death. I get that they had to stretch her portion of the episode to fit the time between when the Governor left her her tied up, and when Rick and his people finally showed up to get to her, but it was enormously frustrating to watch her in that chair, constantly hesitating and expressing remorse during a time when she should have been scrambling to save herself. It was classic horror movie victim behavior. Having been gutted by the Governor, Milton was hanging on with every breath, trying to stay alive long enough for Andrea to get the pliers to free herself, and instead of focusing 100% on doing that, she kept pausing to talk, feel sad, or check to see if Milton was alive. Even when Milton insisted she needed to go faster, it still seemed like she was taking her time. Only when he was dead, on his feet and attacking her did she scramble, and by then it was too late.
The Governor leaving Milton to die and kill Andrea was a great (cold, dark, heartless) way to sentence them both to death, but the timeline for the scenario just didn't fit the episode, and in the end, I think it weakened Andrea's character. The whole thing seemed like one big stall to get to the bite, which barely seemed necessary, given how much time she had to get herself out of that chair, but didn't.
The bigger issue I have with this is that is that Andrea really could have used a more meaningful death, given that nothing she tried to do this season panned out. She had numerous opportunities to change the game and she never made the right call. Andrea was a strong character in many ways, but she didn't make the best decisions, particularly this season. That's ok. She's human and this whole zombie-apocalypse situation seems like one giant test of everyone's characters. I guess I was sort of hoping she was going to redeem herself after ending up in bed with the enemy. Instead, she had to put a bullet in her own brain, and there was nothing really heroic or redemptive about her death, which was disappointing. Not everyone gets to go out a hero, but given her aspirations, I guess I would've liked something a bit grander for her. At least Michonne was there with her in the end.
Speaking of tests of characters, Carl showed us just how trigger-happy he was when he killed one of the Governor's guys when he came upon them in the woods. The guy looked like he was surrendering, though he didn't actually drop the gun. Carl had to make a choice, and in the end, he chose to shoot the guy. Rick didn't want to believe that his son would shoot a man who was giving up his gun, but when Herschel looked him square in the eye and told him how it really was, Rick confronted Carl, who basically pointed out that Rick has been merciful in the past and it's always bit him - or someone else in the group - in the ass.
It's kind of weird to think that Rick being humane and merciful might have the reverse effect on his son. But then again, Carl's proven to have a taste for blood in the past. Remember when Rick was about to kill Randall and Carl watched from the barn door, all eager and "Do it, Dad."? This kid could become a problem.
All in all, I'd say Season 3 was a solid season, but the jury's still out on the closer. I'm not even sure how this sets up Season 4, other than that we might see a prison-society established when we revisit the group next fall. These people had the Governor to run things back at Woodbury, but can Rick be the kind of leader they need? Given everything he's been through, is he even up for it? And how's he going to feed all of these people? Not exactly riveting cliffhangers, especially by comparison to last year's farmhouse exodus and prison reveal, but I'm sure the show will come back strong next fall.