Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "Welcome to the Tombs"

Non Spoiler Review:
Welcome to the Tombs brings Walking Dead's gripping third season to a close, as the prison group prepares for Woodbury's attack. Andrea struggles to free herself while Milton's deception catches up with him. Meanwhile, Rick must deal with Carl's increasingly aloof demeanor.

The finale takes some surprising detours and leads to an unexpected ending given the build up all season. Of course there is tragedy, and the status quo come season four will be quite a different situation.

It left me with mixed feelings given the (not so) unexpected deaths. While there was no absence of gravitas, and the ongoing theme of kill or be killed culminated in some surprising ways, I think many will be disappointed at how the epic confrontation unfolded. That being said, I credit the show for taking chances and departing (very significantly) from the graphic novels in many respects, despite the absence of a favorite character come season four.

Spoilers Now!
The Governor is beating Milton for burning the roamers, blaming him for the eight dead men that resulted. He has to learn to kill or die. Milton counters with what Penny would think about what her father has become. The Governor explains she would be afraid, but had he been that way from the start she'd be alive today. When Milton asks if he killed Andrea, the Governor takes him next door where she's being held.

The Governor orders him to get the tools, but he spills them on the floor, leaving a pair of pliers behind Andrea. He tells Milton to kill her and show him that he learned something. Milton begins to walk back over to her but instead swings the knife at the Governor. But the Governor is too fast and stabs him with a knife to the chest, explaining he's still going to kill Andrea when he turns. He locks the door behind him.

At the prison Carl is packing up his things, pausing to look at the photo of his mother and father. The rest are loading up the vehicles but Carl refuses to speak to Rick, and Glen notes he's never seen him so shut down. Carol consoles Daryl that his brother gave them a chance. Rick continues to see a vision of his wife. Michonne acknowledges Rick had to consider the deal the Governor offered and holds no grudges. She thanks him for taking her in. He tells her Carl made the call.

The Governor rouses Woodbury into a furor to end the prison threat. Tyreese confronts him and explains that he and Sasha aren't going to fight other people and will stay and defend Woodbury while they're gone. If he wants them out, there will be no hard feelings. The Governor takes a weapon and gives it to him, offering his thanks. Sasha wonders what happens when the Governor returns. Tyreese thinks they can slip out like Andrea did. 

The convoy approaches the prison, firing a rocket at the guard tower. They proceed to cover the prison in a hail of machine gun fire, dispatching with the walkers in the yard. The men rush the gates and continue inside but the place appears to be deserted. The Governor finds an open bible with a verse highlighted. He splits up his men to investigate the cell blocks. 

In the bowels of the prison they hear movement, and abruptly set off smoke bombs and alarms, forcing them to flee back out where they're met with gun fire from Maggie and Glen (in armor). Allan gets to the machine gun but it's jammed. The bulk of his militia scatters and drives off, leaving the Governor and Martinez to follow. One is left behind and flees through the woods, only to run into Carl and Hershel. He drops his weapon but Carl shoots him.

Michonne wants to go after them. Maggie and Glen agree they should take the fight back to Woodbury. Rick wants to check on the others first, and Beth, Carl, Hershel and Carol return. Carl wants to come with them and admits to taking out one of their soldiers. Hershel points out the kid stumbled across them and tells Rick the boy was handing his gun over. Carl didn't have to shoot. Rick defends him, but Hershel forces him to hear that he gunned down the boy.

Rick has a chat with his son. Carl maintains the kid had a gun but admits he was handing it over. He couldn't take the chance. He never killed the walker that killed Dale, Rick never killed Andrew and he came back and killed his mother, Rick never killed the Governor and he came back and killed Merle. Carl explains he did what he had to do and Rick needs to go and make sure the Governor doesn't kill any more of them. He tosses his badge to his father and walks off. Glen and Maggie volunteer to stay at the prison to protect it, with Rick, Daryl and Michonne heading on their mission to Woodbury.

The Governor catches up to his militia and forces them to pull over. He insists they're not giving up but the others are firmly in favor of leaving the people at the prison alone. The Governor loses it and massacres all the men and women who want to flee. Allan, who has been loyally at his side, pulls his gun on him but the Governor shoots him in the head. Martinez watches the Governor walk out and shoot the bodies in the head. One woman remains alive hiding underneath a corpse. He runs out of bullets and walks back to his vehicle, and tells Martinez and his other henchman to get in.

A mortally wounded Milton informs Andrea about the pliers behind her. She struggles to reach them and promises he'll be okay, but Milton knows he's going to die and tells her she's going to get free and stab him in the head. She manages to retrieve the tool. He asks her why she didn't stay with her friends once she found them, but Andrea wanted to save everyone. She confesses she had a chance to kill the Governor but she didn't because she wanted to try and save everyone. Milton dies and as Andrea struggles to free herself he begins to reanimate. He rises and comes to her just as she frees her hands. 

Rick, Daryl and Michonne encounter the Governor's massacre on the road, killing the walkers that turned. They find the surviving woman, Karen. They reach Woodbury by nightfall, taking fire from the wall manned by Tyreese and Sasha. Karen speaks up and tells them the Governor killed them all and Rick saved her. Rick calls out that they're coming out and proceed to the fence. Sasha opens the gate and greets them. Rick explains they were coming to finish the Governor but they saw what he did to his own people. He also says Andrea never made it to the prison so she might still be in Woodbury.

Together they go to the Governor's lair and see the blood under the door. They find Milton dead, as well as Andrea lying against the wall. She's feverish. She's been bitten. Rick tells her everyone is alive. She's happy Michonne found them. She just didn't want anyone to die. She tells them she can do it herself while she still can. Rick gives her his gun and Michonne promises to stay with her. They leave them alone. Andrea kills herself.

By dawn they return to the prison with a school bus and Andrea's body. The bus contains the surviving men and women from Woodbury. Rick tells Carl they're going to join them. 

The Verdict:
While I enjoyed the finale for the most part I felt it perhaps wasn't as strong as the previous season ender. There were two notable moments—Carl shooting the boy, and Andrea's death, of course. The former was quite shocking and a powerful moment, leading to a host of ethical questions. Andrea's death, growing ever more inevitable over the last few weeks, was heartfelt, but this is the biggest waste of a character the series has seen, especially one who continues to play such a prominent role in the graphic novels. I was very disappointed they chose this route and it just feels like the series couldn't figure out what to do with her at this point.

Getting back to Carl, I'm very happy they're charting his moral decay so well. With the theme this episode being kill or die, it drew an interesting comparison to the Governor. Yet we're forced to agree with Carl's reasoning that so many of them would still be alive if Rick (and Andrea) had just taken the initiative and killed a few more people.

I'm sad to see Milton go as well. He and Andrea would have rounded out the prison group very well. But in an interesting twist Rick has brought the remaining survivors of Woodbury back to the prison. It was a touching final scene that seemed to be full of hope and promise for the future, but I got the sense that a lot of those people (like the background characters in Lost) are cannon fodder for future attacks. Hopefully there are some interesting personalities in their midst that will shine next year.

Tyreese and Sasha have at last been made part of the group, though I hope he and Rick have a quick chat about the latter's behaviour that sent them running in the first place. I'm glad we got a similar discussion from Michonne acknowledging the tough choice he had to make.

I was debating whether the Governor storyline would completely wrap up or he would be back again, and I'm happy the series chose to send him off for now where he can lick his wounds and come back in full force. Given the prison storyline in the graphic novels was so much longer than what we've got so far, I'm looking forward to some of those additional plot developments to unfold in the next season. The Governor's arc has been fun to watch and much preferable over the full blown villain that appeared in the comics. Now that he's lost his town and pretty much all of his people, when next we see him he will likely be far more unhinged and similar to his literary counterpart.

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