The Walking Dead episode review: Welcome to the Tombs

It was a dramatic and emotional season finale as the Governor mounted his long-awaited full assault on the prison. But instead of relying on a drawn-out battle to keep us occupied, I’m pleased to say that The Walking Dead played to the strength that has always set it apart from other zombie stories: its fabulous characters.

Milton
I don’t think there’s anyone who didn’t see this coming – Milton’s fate was sealed early and brutally. But at least he wasn’t just another casualty to show how ruthless the Governor had become (save that for later); he died very nearly heroically. When the Governor gave him a chance at forgiveness if he would only kill the bound and helpless Andrea, he turned on the Governor. Of course, he was no match for his former boss, and he ended up gut-stabbed on the floor. The Governor, in true Bond-villain style, left Milton locked in with Andrea in the hopes that he would turn and kill her.

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But Milton clung to life for most of the episode, giving his all to afford Andrea a chance to free herself. For a character who has been written as earnest but cowardly so many times, it was a fitting end. Courage won out.

Glenn and Maggie
With Milton and Andrea left to die, the Governor began an all-out assault on the prison, bringing (almost!) every able-bodied person in Woodberry with him. But even though it seemed hopeless, Rick’s group drove the Governor’s soldiers out with strategic use of smoke bombs. Once they were on the run, Glenn and Maggie appeared in full riot gear to snipe at them from the fortified catwalks, chasing them the rest of the way out of the prison.

While it was a dramatic, thrilling scene, I was a bit surprised that two characters who have gotten so much development and so much story focus this season contributed so little to the finale. After their victory in defending the prison, Glenn and Maggie did very little else. But I’m not complaining. At least neither of them died!

Carl
If I was surprised that Glenn and Maggie got so little focus, I was equally surprised that Carl got so much. But again, I’m not disappointed. During the defense of the prison, Carl was sent into the woods to hide with Hershel, Beth, and the baby. He was clearly furious at being excluded from the fight. So when a fleeing Woodberry man came across their hiding spot and tried to surrender, Carl shot him down in cold blood.

Is Carl trying to live up to his father's legacy? Or is he turning into a ruthless killer?

Is Carl trying to live up to his father’s legacy? Or is he turning into a ruthless killer?

The writers walk a fine line with Carl. Too little, and he becomes a passive child. Too much, and he appears petulant and bloodthirsty. But so far they have toed that line. When first confronted about his decision Carl says that he acted in self defense, bringing up his failure to kill the walker that took Dale. When Rick tries to argue the point further, Carl turns it around on him and cites Rick’s failures to kill people who were clear threats early enough – mistakes that cost friends their lives. It’s hard to say for sure whether Carl is covering up a childish desire to prove himself, or whether he truly is emerging as a product of the new world they live in: ruthless, logical, and cold.

The Governor
Okay, I was wrong. I’d assumed that we’d seen everything that the Governor was capable of, and that it was time for him to go out in a blaze of unhinged, evil glory. But apparently the show is not quite done with him yet, and it’s not done plumbing the depths of his depravity.

When his assault team fled the prison, the Governor chased them down and stopped them on the road. When they refused to go back and finish the job, he gunned every last one of the deserters down without so much as breaking a sweat. Goodnight, folks, the Governor has officially left the reservation. Any semblance of normalcy, of trying to hide his true nature, is completely gone. He drove off with his last two lieutenants in silence, and was not seen again in the episode. But will that be the last we see of him, ever? I highly doubt it. This evil sucker needs to go down. It just looks like we’ll have to wait until next season to see it happen.

Rick, Daryl, and Michonne
A couple of days ago, I predicted that Rick would take a back seat to Daryl and Michonne in the final battle of the season. I couldn’t imagine that Daryl wouldn’t play a huge role in the finale after the death of his brother.

Well, mark me down as wrong again, because all three of them did just about nothing. Sure, they defended the prison, but the more visible role in that skirmish went to Glenn and Maggie. The main contribution that these three made was a counter-attack on Woodberry that was stopped short when they discovered what the Governor had done to his own people. They found a single survivor – Karen – and brought her back to Woodberry with all the fight gone out of them.

Tyreese and Sasha
These two are fast becoming favorites of mine. They have the clear-sighted innocence and moral fiber that has become tarnished among Rick’s crew. When the Governor makes for Woodberry, they opt to stay behind and look after the children and those too weak to fight, making it clear that they will kill walkers but not fellow human beings.

When Rick, Daryl, and Michonne show up at their front door with Karen in tow, they know that Woodberry is finished. They let Rick’s group in. With the able-bodied adults of Woodberry almost all killed, and the Governor missing, Tyreese and Sasha bring what remains of the town to the prison to join with Rick’s group. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them next season, and what effect their strong-willed integrity will have on Rick and his people.

The Woodberry survivors join the prison.

The Woodberry survivors join the prison.

Andrea
Watching the end of the episode, it becomes clear that this whole season has been Andrea’s story. She talked to Milton as she worked to free herself – about how everything she did was to try and prevent bloodshed, about how she took risks on peace that didn’t pay off, about how she gave up her chance to kill the Governor before he could finish his vendetta against Rick and Michonne. She spoke with regret, but also with resolution. She may have made the wrong decisions, but she made them with the best intentions.

Unfortunately, intentions don’t help her. She frees herself just as Milton turns, and by the time Rick and the team arrive to save her she is already bitten and dying. My feelings for Andrea have been a roller coaster over the last couple of seasons, but her final scene touched me deeply. She accepted her death calmly and with a smile. While Rick, Daryl, and Tyreese waited outside and Michonne held her hand, Andrea ended her own life before she could become a walker.

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Love her or hate her, agree with her or not, you have to respect Andrea’s legacy: she tried.

She tried.

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