WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE WILL FOLLOW.Holy hell. For those who felt the Season Three finale fell short of the promise made in the previews for the episode, this one paid off in spades. While not entirely like the Governor’s assault on the prison in the comics, this was the closest the show has been to the books in some time. The final twenty minutes were downright brutal, kicked off by the Governor taking Michonne’s sword and slashing Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) neck. Hershel wasn’t the only main character to meet his demise on tonight’s episode, as there were several notable deaths of both old and new cast members. And though it wasn’t made one hundred percent clear, it certainly looks like the show went there with regards to baby Judith, as Rick and Carl found her empty and bloodstained baby carrier. In all, the body count was quite high, and this time it wasn’t a ton of walkers biting the dust.
Things started off a bit calmly, though the tension was hanging over the episode, leftover from the end of “Dead Weight”. The Governor addressed the members of his camp, telling them about the prison and that for their survival, they need to take it. He reveals that he’s taken hostages from the prison- Hershel and Michonne. The Governor says that he has a plan to take the prison without having to kill, though they should be prepared to do so. Hershel tries to negotiate a peace, but the Governor says he could never coexist with Rick or Michonne. Hershel says his daughters were in the prison, and appeals to the Governor’s being a father as well, asking if he understood about having a daughter then “How can you threaten to kill someone else’s?” The Governor’s reply is chilling: “Because they aren’t mine.”
Turns out that the Governor hasn’t changed at all.
He would have Lily believe that, though, as he tells her he wants to keep her and Megan safe, and even has a sweet scene with Megan before heading off to confront Rick and the others at the prison. He moves Lily and the other children across the river, assuring her that the moving body of water will keep them safe from biters. And later in the episode, as Lily watches a biter wade into the river and then sink under the water, it seems the Governor was right. But the mud pile Megan was digging in held a couple of secrets, the first one being a metal sign that read “Warning: Flash Flood Area”, and the second that a zombie had been buried under the mud, which rises up and bites Megan before Lily can get to her and shoot the biter. Once again, the Governor has lost a daughter of sorts, and when he sees Lily arrive at the prison carrying Megan’s body you could see the pain in his face. It doesn’t last long, as he rationally shoot’s the dead girl in the head, to ensure she won’t come back. With that action, you could tell by Lily’s reaction that any redeeming value in the Governor had ceased to be.
There were a few nice scenes at the prison before things all went to hell. Glenn, still weak from being sick, has a sweet talk with Maggie about their upcoming anniversary. Rick finally tells Darryl about his decision to exile Carol, and as everyone who watches the show would guess, Darryl was none too happy about it. He insists they tell Tyreese immediately, but before they can tell him, Tyreese shows the two a discovery he has made, that of a mutilated animal (It’s my feeling that’s Lizzie’s handiwork). Before they can discuss the find, a blast rocks the prison. They rush outside to find the Governor atop a tank at the prison’s fence, along with his current band of followers.
The talk between Rick and the Governor was quite tense, and seeing that he has Michonne and Hershel captive, he tells the Governor “You got a tank. You don’t need hostages.” Andrew Lincoln did a terrific job showing the conflict in Rick’s face, anguished at the prospect of his current home being taken from him, and yet he’s filled with resolve that he and his group will not leave and that they will fight if need be. He tries reasoning with the Governor, saying that “We’re not too far gone. We can come back.” He offers to share the prison, but the Governor doesn’t buy it. The Governor whispers “Liar,” and with that, slashes Hershel’s neck, touching off a brutal battle between the two groups. David Morrissey was in full vicious mode for these scenes, using Michonne’s sword to hack off Hershel’s head as the old man tries to crawl away (This show does seem to like to kill off its moral centers, harkening back to Dale’s demise in Season Two.).
The battle gets very intense, naturally attracting walkers to the scene. Maggie gets Beth to the bus, the escape plan for the group at the prison, only to find that she’s gotten off when she returns with Glenn. The kids are told to get on, but Lizzie refuses to go, getting a gun for her and her sister, saying this is what Carol prepared them for. Seeing one of the other children carrying Judith in her carrier you just couldn’t help but dread what was going to happen next. The show’s producers left that open ended though, as we never see Judith be killed or be taken to safety, only that her bloodied carrier is found. Carl and Rick’s pain was strongly conveyed, with Carl emptying his gun into the first walker he sees after finding the carrier. And speaking of Lizzie, she ends up saving Tyreese by shooting Alisha and another guy who had Tyreese pinned down. It was quietly chilling to see the girls take such a step, as both couldn’t do what needed to be done when their father died from the sickness. Carol apparently had trained them well.
Darryl got to be a bad ass during the battle, killing a zombie and using it as a shield as he approached the tank, which he then took out by tossing a grenade down the barrel (with the resulting explosion being smaller and more realistic than your typical action movie which would have had the tank go up in a huge fireball). He then put an arrow through Mitch’s chest, ending the Governor’s new right hand man.
As for the Governor? He certainly resembled the character from the comics more so than he had before, saying right before the tank plows through the fence “We go in. Kill them all.” From there, the comics and the show differed. Rick and the Governor got into a brutal fist fight, with the Governor clearly getting the best of Rick, until a sword burst out of his chest, courtesy of Michonne, who had escaped her bonds earlier when the shooting began. It was a bit satisfying to see Michonne see her mission to kill the governor through to its end, though it was Lily that delivered the final blow with a pistol, ending the Governor as he had ended Megan. It was a fitting end to a strong villain, an done that should make fans of the comics satisfied.
In the end, the prison is once again overrun by walkers. Some of the group escaped on the bus, leaving others (Maggie, Glenn, Tyreese, Lizzie and her sister behind), and we see a grieving Carl and Rick escape into the woods. This was a powerful episode, delivering on all fronts, both dramatic and with its action sequences. It leaves us with a lot of questions waiting to be answered when the show resumes in February- How will the group get back together? Will Carol rejoin the fold? How will Rick and Carl bounce back from yet another tragedy? And is baby Judith truly gone?
It’s going to be a long two months, but this was one hell of a midseason send-off, a bloody end that proved to be one of this season’s best episodes.
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