My reactions to the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead were all over the place (a bit like Season 4 so far, and episode 7, for which I couldn't even find a public-suitable reaction.) While I was watching, my heart was in my mouth and I was completely absorbed in the action, but during every commercial break (and there were so many!), my brain caught up to my heart and started arguing about ... well, everything.
Let’s start with the fact that this should have been the Season 3 finale. I would have believed the animus that the people of Woodbury held against Rick’s group, which had raided their town, killed some of their townsfolk, and generally actually done things to them. Moreover, they’d known the Governor for a while, and were used to obeying him; in the end, even that group that knew and trusted the Governor to keep them safe, balked at attacking the prison, whereas I’m expected to believe that people he met just a few days earlier would follow him into massacring a bunch of people they never met before. (?!)
Of course, there will be more incredulity and spoilers ahead.
Despite the fact that they tried (and failed) to set up this Woodbury 2.0 subplot in the previous two episodes, I just didn’t buy it. These people didn’t seem particularly malevolent (unlike the admitted rapists whom Herschel, Rick and Glenn had encountered back in Season 2), and even if I could accept that they were swayed by the Governor’s lies about how the people in the prison were all Bad People who deserved to die, once they actually watched him behead the crippled Herschel (SOB!), I couldn’t believe any of them trusted this psycho, whose arrival coincided with the mysterious deaths of two of their own.
Moreover, because the focus of the show shifted to the Governor for two episodes, I thought the actual conflicts and potential conflicts between the prison group ended up getting short shrift. For example, I’ve been waiting and waiting to see what Daryl’s reaction to the revelation that Rick had banished Carol would be.
I know a lot of people saw theirs as a romantic relationship (I’m not sure that I did, though I could have been convinced) but even disregarding that aspect, Carol seemed like she was one of Daryl’s few close friends. They’d known each other from the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, and the bond they forged during Daryl’s futile search for Carol’s daughter, Sophia, was deep. And Daryl is nothing if not loyal; he pushed so strongly for the inclusion of Merle into the prison group because of that loyalty to his blood. So I was expecting that he would experience some real inner conflict between his loyalty to Rick and his loyalty to his friend. Instead, aside from a fairly mild protestation that Carol wouldn’t have killed the flu patients, he didn’t seem particularly perturbed, which I thought was unlike Daryl. And of course, before he and Rick could talk to Tyreese at all, all hell broke loose and now the group is scattered and we’ll never talk about these things again. See what I mean about how frustrating this show is sometimes?
But enough of that - let me talk about the things that were actually awesome on this episode, though they should have happened months ago. First of all, please forgive me, Herschel, for insisting that you should have died during the flu epidemic, because getting the Theon Greyjoy treatment from the Governor was definitely far, far more traumatic and horrifying for everyone, especially your two daughters. I will miss Herschel, I have to say; unlike Dale, the previous self-appointed “moral conscience” of the group, Herschel was never annoying (perhaps because he had a strong awareness of his own sins) and his kindness and thoughtfulness will be missed (although he would have definitely slowed down everyone fleeing the prison. Do they have a rendezvous point? They should have a rendezvous point—it’s the first thing they taught us about emergency evacuations!) Plus, with Herschel gone, who’s going to talk Rick down from his inevitable spiral into crazy? Carl is his only companion now, and I’m not too sure about Carl’s own sanity, poor kid, after having to put a bullet in his mother’s head and seeing his baby sister’s blood-stained baby carrier. (Pro-tip for childminders in the zombie apocalypse: don’t take those ridiculously heavy baby carriers that Baby Judith already looked too big for—a nice long piece of cloth used a sling would serve them much better, with bonus hands free for shooting people/zombies.)
And then there’s the Governor, to whom I say only “good riddance!” I was honestly devastated when Michonne just stabbed him, because somehow he escaped being eaten by zombies last season when Andrea locked him into a factory of them, and I could just foresee the “whomp whomp” music and yet another “monomaniacal Governor returns to torment our heroes” storyline slouching towards us in the season finale. Thankfully, the mother of one of our two “little girls lost,” took care of that problem, even though the headshot was more merciful than the Governor deserved.
Speaking of little girls and little boys, we got a study in contrasts in this episode, between poor sheltered Megan, who had no survival skills whatsoever (call it the “Woodbury Plan”) versus Lizzie and Mika and Carl, all of whom had the skills to make it through an attack not just by humans but by zombies. I’ve seen people suggest that Lizzie is a psycho for shooting at Tara’s girlfriend, but the woman had just fired on Tyreese (whom the girls knew) and tried to kill him. I’d say they were responding to a threat, and Carol would be proud of both girls.
So now Tyreese has the girls, and Daryl has Beth (but please, PTB, let that relationship stay platonic, because otherwise it’s quite icky!), and Maggie and Sasha and Bob are in their own little group, and then there’s Glenn with the busload of non-combatants, and Rick and Carl on their own. (Rendezvous points, people!! And emergency bags, to be carried around at all points.) Where is Michonne, though? Am I missing anyone else? It’s ironic that Carol, whom Rick banished from the group earlier, is probably in better shape than any of them at this point, because she had a functioning car (sssshh, I won’t ask why the gasoline still works!) and the supplies Rick had given her, whereas each of these little groups seems to be basically completely on their own (unless someone thought to fetch their cars, or supplies, but I’m dubious because that’s not how these people seem to roll.)
Despite my complaints and grumbling about this half-season, I think it’s been rather good on the whole. I think they did need to shake things up at the prison because everyone had gotten complacent, and also the established relationships such as Glenn and Maggie or Rick and his family or Daryl and Carol had gotten a little stagnant to watch on TV. (I was complaining to a friend that Glenn used to be a lot more interesting, but he has had so little to do this season and Daryl as an unconflicted good-guy is also less interesting than the squirrel-hunting chip-on-his-shoulder loner redneck than he used to be, so I think the destruction of the prison safety zone was probably a good thing in terms of the ongoing storyline and I’m looking forward to tracking the individual stories for the second half of the season.
Predictions? I am about 99% certain that Tyreese and Lizzie and Mika will somehow run into Carol and she and Tyreese will become friends so he’ll be totally conflicted when he learns that she’s the flu-patient killer, which will inevitably happen sometime near the season finale. I’m also leaning towards Baby Judith not being dead, but if she doesn’t turn up in someone’s custody soon, I’ll have to believe she is. (Plus, given that they’ve just had to abandon all their supplies etc. at the prison, I’m not sure how long she’d make it on the road.)
What does everyone else think? Biting your nails until February 9th, or feeling like, Meh, perhaps I should give crochet or that New Girl show a try?
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current TV shows, and a hopeless romantic.