Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "Too Far Gone"

Non Spoiler Review:
Too Far Gone brings the first half of the season to a close as the Governor rallies his people to take the prison in order to ensure their own survival. Meanwhile Rick finally addresses Carol's absence with Daryl, but there is little time for discussion as the Governor plays his hand.

After a slow moving succession of episodes, The Walking Dead delivered an epic finale in spades. This is truly the series' Red Wedding moment, and one fans have been anticipating since the beginning. While it followed as close as it currently can to the same storyline in the books, Too Far Gone also addressed this season's theme of getting to come back

I'm sure there is a different reaction between those just watching the show and the rest of us who are well-versed in the comic storyline. While feeling the impact, I definitely was not left in shock as I was during Lori's abrupt death in The Killer Within. But those not in-the-know will be left dealing with the heap of their emotions by the end of it.

Spoilers Now:
The Governor addresses his people, pitching the necessity of doing something unsavory to ensure their survival given they will eventually be overwhelmed by a herd of biters. If they stay there they die. He explains the people who destroyed his previous camp now live in a prison, with walls and plots of land for farming. They don't need to kill anyone, but must be prepared to. He has a plan to take it without bloodshed—two captives—Hershel and Michonne, taken when he snuck up and knocked out the latter, and forced Hershel to put down his weapon.

Most of the people in the prison are thieves and murderers, he goes on, adding that they mutilated him, killed his daughter and burned his camp. They have little time to delay before the others realize their people are missing and they lose the element of surprise. Tara is first to say she's in, followed by everyone else. The Governor orders them to pack up and get ready. As they disperse, Lily reminds him she was happy where they are and the idea of killing repulses her. But the only judgement he cares about is that she and Megan are still breathing.

The Governor has Michonne and Hershel in his RV, assuring no one will hurt them and it isn't personal. He tells Michonne he knows his daughter was dead now. But he needs the prison and no one else needs to die. She'll kill him, Michonne counters. Hershel attempts to reason with him, offering him a way to live in peace. The Governor suggests Hershel is a better man than Rick. Hershel sees he's changed, but the Governor counters they will never be able to live together. Hershel appeals to him as a father and the fact they both have daughters. But they aren't his daughters, the Governor replies. The Governor secures their convoy in a temporary safe place by the water, then gets a hug from Megan before he goes.

In the prison, Glen is slowly recovering from the flu. Bob sits with his unopened bottle when Sasha arrives to thank him for helping with the supply run that saved them all. Bob doesn't want anyone's thanks but advises Sasha she should be resting. Rick tells Daryl the truth about Carol. The other is understandably furious and wonders what they're to do with the girls. Rick hasn't told Tyreese yet and isn't sure how he'll take it. Daryl suggests they go find out.

They find him down in the tunnels, but Tyreese wants to show them something first—a rat skin pinned to a board. Tyreese declares they have a psychopath among them, the same one who killed Karen and fed the walkers rats through the fence. Rick begins to explain it's not the same person who killed Karen, when they hear an explosion that rattles the building. They come running outside to find a convoy of vehicles plus the tank sitting outside the gates. The Governor announces he wants to talk.

Rick explains there's a council now. The Governor asks if Hershel and Michonne are on the council, and brings them into view. He suggests Rick will be making decisions today and advises him to come out to have that talk.

Daryl nods to Rick. He speaks to his son, and then goes out across the courtyard to face his adversary through the fence. Daryl tells the others they need to get ready to flee through the back and to get the bus ready with their supplies. He begins quietly passing out weapons to Bob and Maggie, Beth and Tyreese.

Rick offers himself in exchange for Hershel and Michonne. The Governor doesn't want to blast a hole in their new home. They have until sundown to leave or his hostages die. It's not about the past. It's about right now. Rick counters that there are children inside, some still sick. The Governor is offering to let them walk away. There's nothing else to talk about. Even if they attack, the Governor still has superior fire power and will win.

From the fence, Carl wants to kill the Governor right now. Daryl says that would just start something else and to trust his father. The kids begin to load up the bus but Lizzie doesn't want to go. Carol told them to be strong. They should have guns too, she says.

Back at the Governor's camp, Lily sits on watch while Megan plays by the shore, struggling to free a sign in the mud. Lily spies a biter wander into the river and begins to come towards them. Megan calls for her to come over and help. The walker falls down and gets carried away by the water. Relieved, Lily puts down her weapon as Megan manages to lift the sign up and wipes it off. It says Warning. Flash Flood Area. Next to her a hand begins to come out of the wet mud and grabs her. Her screams draw Lily, who rushes over, but the walker bites Megan's shoulder before she can shoot it.

The Governor dispatches some walkers that begin to gather, reminding Rick the noise will only draw more over. The longer they wait, the harder it will be to leave. Rick looks to Hershel. Rick then offers that they can all live together. There's enough room. The Governor doubts they'd sleep well being under the same roof. It wouldn't work after Woodbury or Andrea. Rick knows it won't be easy, but they don't have a choice. They're not leaving and Rick promises to fight back. And gunshots will bring a herd that will take down the fence, he adds. They can all live there or none of them.

The Governor takes Michonne's sword and threatens Hershel. Rick addresses the others, explaining they've taken in some of the Governor's old friends and they're leaders in the prison now. They'll be one of them if they put down their weapons. Nobody needs to die. Rick says they can all still come back—they're not too far gone from the things they've done. They all can change. Hershel smiles at the speech. The Governor pauses. Liar, he says, and slices Hershel's neck.

Carl fires and hits the Governor in the shoulder, starting a barrage of gunfire. Michonne falls and rolls to the ground while Rick takes cover. Hershel is still alive, crawling along the ground, but the Governor finds him and cuts his head off. He looks up to find Lily standing there with Megan in her arms.

Tara hides behind the tank, shell-shocked and unable to use her weapon. Alicia tries to get her to fight but then tells her she'll find her if they get separated.

The Governor shoots Megan in the head, then orders the convoy to start up and break through the fence. Kill them all. The fence goes down under the tank with the Governor's forces following. The tank fires into the main buildings and proceeds up to the inner fence. Maggie rushes in to get Glen and tells Beth to get the bus ready.

Rick tackles the Governor as the tank rams into the last fence. As the bus gets loaded up, Maggie arrives with Glen, but Beth isn't there. She goes off to look for her. The Governor pounds Rick's face. Walkers begin to swarm towards the prison drawn to the commotion.

Maggie finds Bob and Sasha pinned down by a car as he takes a hit. The bullet passed through him. They watch the bus drive off and flee together. Tyreese gets trapped by Alicia and another man, but Lizzie shoots her cohort, then Alicia in the head. Tyreese tells Lizzie and her sister they need to make it to the bus, but they go running off in another direction and he's forced to follow.

The Governor gains the advantage and begins to strangle Rick, but Michonne stabs him through the chest. Struggling to his feet Rick asks about Carl. She doesn't know. As he runs off in search she looks down at the Governor gasping for breath and leaves him there.

The tank continues to barrage the prison but Daryl throws a grenade in the barrel. Mitch jumps out as it blows up only to find himself facing Daryl's crossbow. Daryl shoots him in the chest. Beth comes running over and he tells her they have to go.

Rick stumbles back calling for Carl, but only finding walkers. Then Carl appears, shooting them. Sobbing, Rick asks for Judith, but his son hasn't seen her, and they find the empty baby seat covered in blood. Rick tells them they have to go and they flee the prison.

The Governor lifts his head to see Lily covered in blood and walking over. She raises her gun and shoots him. The herd begins to converge inside the burning prison as Rick tells Carl not to look back.

The Verdict:
Too Far Gone was one of the best episodes to date and ended the storyline quite a bit sooner than I would have thought. Until I saw the tank in the Governor's camp I anticipated the prison arc lasting until the end of this season, but once that prop made its appearance at the fence there was no other path for Rick's group other than to say good-bye to the prison for good.

I do feel the Governor's double episode arc was essential in fleshing out his character a little more as well as the faces in his own camp. While he arrived at the same place he left, he remained more than a two-dimensional villain (with kudos going to David Morrissey for his fantastic well-rounded portrayal). Even the conversation-heavy face off between him and Rick was just as intense as the final battle itself. Having two episodes with the Governor left us with a (slim) bit of hope that he might take Rick up on his offer of rapprochement. His single word liar carried plenty of weight as he ended the life of a beloved character.

I kept thinking how valuable Carol would have been during the attack (and could not help but notice Rick maintaining he couldn't make decisions now because there was a council, despite that Carol was on that same council). My theory is that one of the groups will encounter Carol on the road, even possibly Tyreese's. With Hershel dead, only Rick and Maggie and Daryl (maybe Beth) know the truth about the murders, so her return to the fold could be based on keeping that secret. And by the time Rick is reunited with them it could all be decided upon. Just a theory.

I'm happy that the series continues to pull no punches. Hershel's death wasn't entirely unexpected, given his big climactic speech in Internment that hinted at bad things ahead. He did die during the prison attack in comic continuity anyway, but his presence here also served to fill the absence of Dale, and the series is left without the sage wisdom of either of these characters now.

The attack was especially chilling considering how sick most of the background characters are as they recover from the flu, so having that extra element figuring into the equation added to the tension. The deaths of the Governor's new people got more weight given we've gotten to know them. Some were very welcome, like Mitch, while others like Alicia were shocking, if more for the fact of how great a shot Lizzie is. I even had to go back to the comic to realize that Lily indeed killed the Governor then, as well. So that leaves Tara and Lilly as the only survivors (that we know of). The series needs to replace Andrea in some way, so I'm guessing the two of them might end up with the rest of the survivors eventually.

I did love the chaos of the final moments and the disparate groups that have run off in wildly different directions. Tyreese appears to be with Lizzie and Micah, and I'm assuming the other children made it to the bus. Beth and Daryl are an interesting pairing too, while Maggie (who is seven kinds of awesome right now), Bob and Sasha are off in their own direction. That leaves Michonne on her own again, and the rest of the group with Glen on the bus. And the final scene in the comic is matched with a beautiful shot of Rick and Carl fleeing over the hill and his urgings not to look back. Very effective.

There are lingering questions of course—who skinned the rats? I'm guessing Lizzie, but Micah is also a possibility as I'm certain the series is going to follow the twins storyline now that the group is on the road. I'm leaning towards Micah, given Lizzie has proven herself a capable killer. Also, there is the question the mysterious third group who killed the camp the Governor was spying on. There are a couple of storylines from the comics that could lead them all to cross their paths on the road, too.

As for Judith, my bet is that the series is sticking to the comic and keeping her dead. I will be very let down if they've somehow gotten her to safety on the bus. It would certainly be an odd happy twist for The Walking Dead to pull on its audience and rob Rick and Carl of the angst they earned here.

The Walking Dead closes its mid-season break refreshed, with a cathartic end to the Governor, shaking up the status quo and the potential of new characters arriving on the horizon. While it would have easily made an amazing season finale, I'm happy it wasn't. There's plenty of dark storylines to harvest and I'm excited to see the series within reach of them.

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