3.16 "Welcome to the Tombs"
Okay then. I guess we're completely off the reservation now.
After a tense opening with the Governor beating the shit out of Milton before tossing him into the torture room and telling him to murder Andrea, this episode went downhill fast. It's a sad way for Glen Mazzara to go out, but might throw up some red flags about why he's gone. The most obvious point being that there's no thematic or aesthetic satisfaction from any part of this episode, except maybe for the scenes where Carl goes full-on sociopath. Confrontations we've been waiting to see happen just don't. Characters do stupid things just so the show can get itself out of tight corners or remove characters that ultimately weren't working.
As a regular episode leading to something else, it might have held up to scrutiny a little better, but as a season finale and Mazzara's final episode before handing over the showrunner reins to Scott Gimple, it failed on most levels. We get only cursory mentions of last week's events as Carol briefly praises Merle to his brother and Michonne says no hard feelings to Rick for considering turning her over to the Governor to be tortured and murdered. These moments were so quickly glossed over that they had no resonance whatsoever.
I suppose I should be happy there was that much attention paid.
The Governor's dealings with Milton were better handled, but that involved just beating him to a pulp, then stabbing him repeatedly, and finally leaving him to zombify and eat Andrea. Milton's dying took way too long and Andrea spent way too much time sitting and chatting when she should have been breaking free. Ultimately, she dies because she wasn't able to get free in time, getting her second hand free just seconds before zombie Milton attacked. If she'd shut her fool mouth for a minute -- or had the toe dexterity of ANYONE ON THE PLANET -- she would have been free with a good two or three minutes before Milton even died.
Seriously, when she almost had the pliers up to her hand and then dropped them, it was the worst piece of fake tension building I think the show has ever offered up. For a character whose dying words were about how she always tried to save lives, she never seemed to really own up to her absolute failure to do so. This was just Bad Writing 101.
Actually, the Andrea/Milton scenes are a microcosm of what was wrong with this entire episode. There was a violent and impressive opening that then turned into pointless meandering where nothing is accomplished and nothing is gained. Then, after a lot of false starts and forced moments where we're supposed to feel dramatic tension, we instead get a flashy piece of action that leads to meaningless deaths. The only thing more stupid than how Andrea goes out -- this is a woman who killed zombies effortlessly every chance she got, getting bitten by GOTH MILTON -- is how the rest of Woodbury's best and brightest go out.
After entering the prison like a crack troop of commandos, a few flash grenades and a stray walker or two causes a full-fledged panic retreat by EVERY SINGLE PERSON the Governor brought with him. And when he finally catches up with them and forces them to stop running, they tell him to his face that attacking the prison is crazy. And being crazy, he then guns them all down (well, all but one, anyway). I'm not sure about the numbers but around thirty people
were murdered without ANYONE GETTING A SINGLE SHOT OFF IN RETURN.
I guess they really were useless.
But that genius move on the Governor's part leaves him with just two henchmen left -- who are either the stupidest motherfuckers left alive in the zombie holocaust or, well, um, no, I can't think of a single reason why they'd get in the truck with the madman who just murdered half of the town. Aside from plain old bad writing, of course.
But I'm being too hard on the characters. These aren't real people making real decisions, or even a reasonable facsimile this week. These are characters being written by a man who seemed to have a handle on what this show needed back when the season began, but by the end had completely lost the ability to even craft forty minutes of dramatic television that he'd had an entire season to prepare for.
Instead we get an episode of empty scares and out-of-character behaviors by characters who should know better. And in the end, the new showrunner is handed a storyline involving our heroes taking in (to the busted-ass prison instead of moving our heroes to Woodbury) all the old people, children, and anyone else who was incapable of defending themselves. With the Governor still on the loose. But hey, at least Rick isn't seeing Ghost Lori anymore.
The only bright spot in this finale was Carl.
He wanted to be in on the defense of the prison, but his dad said no and sent him to hide in the woods with the teen girl, the baby, and the old man with one leg. Why don't you just tell your son you think he's a liability, Rick? Well, when a skeezy teen from the Governor's forces stumbles across them during his retreat, Carl gets the drop on him. Both he and Hershel tell the kid to drop his rifle, but instead of doing so, the kid steps forward and offers the rifle to Carl in a move that any sane person would see as being asked to get shot in the head.
So Carl shoots him in the fucking head.
Good on him.
Of course, Hershel doesn't think this is healthy behavior, and in the real world it wouldn't be. But this is the zombie apocalypse, in case you hadn't noticed, Hershel. When you tell a man to drop his gun and he doesn't drop his gun, he's a threat. Nobody thought it was a bad move when Rick gunned down two guys in a saloon before they could slap iron, if I remember correctly. Carl did the right thing. And when Rick tries to tell him he didn't do the right thing, Carl drops some knowledge on his lame-ass dad.
Rick's hesitations have caused countless deaths, including Lori, T-Dog, and Merle. It was high time somebody had the guts to say it to him. At least somebody who isn't going to go off and get killed like Shane and Merle. Carl's dropping of Rick's badge and calmly, coolly walking away was perfect.
"You can go now," indeed.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now forKindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories,Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at@PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.