Walking Dead Season Finale – “Welcome to the Tombs” – Review & Recap
The Walking Dead has come a long way since its first season. Hell, it’s come a long way in the second half of Season 3. Back in October 2010, the show, based on the well-loved comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, got off to a promising start. Directed by Frank Darabont, the first episode was a masterpiece of tension, a legitimately horrific portrayal of a post-apocalyptic America infested with zombies, as seen through the eyes of small-town cop and series star Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).
Then the characters started talking. And talking. And talking. What they had to say, unfortunately, was not very interesting. While the zombie scenes were well-staged and wonderfully gruesome, they were interspersed with dialogue that could have been ripped out of a bad TV soap opera.
The show persisted in this fashion for the better part of two seasons, with rare moments of quality highlighting its potential, only to descend again into high-budget mediocrity. The breakneck narrative of the comics, part of what made them so unique, gave way to a painfully slow progression. Many of the characters, including those that were quite popular in the comic, behaved illogically and did not do much to ingratiate themselves to the audience.
With the first half of Season 3, the show’s creators – not the same ones who helmed its predecessors – finally got their act together, foregoing the languid pacing in favor of something more similar to the source material. The writing also took a big step up, with some notable exceptions, before concluding on a beastly mid-season cliff-hanger in which Rick’s wife died in childbirth. More than anything else, however, The Walking Dead benefitted from an interesting protagonist in the form of the nefarious Governor (David Morrissey).
Sadly, The Walking Dead took a step backward with its finale, with lots of action and very little substance. Things started off promisingly enough, with the Governor delivering a suitably intimidating speech to a captured Andrea (Laurie Holden). Speaking of which, continuing in a grand tradition of killing off unpopular characters abruptly and underwhelmingly, Andrea meets her end, eaten by a zombie in a scene clearly intended just for shock value.
Her death, which accomplishes little of narrative relevance and precedes a forced, cheesy closing sequence, begs the question of why the writer felt the need to spend half the season finale focused on her. Stronger characters like Glenn (Steven Yuen), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) don’t get to do much here, yet we have to listen to Andrea blab with the Governor’s boring assistant for what feels like an eternity. To be fair, the sequence, in which Andrea attempts to wield a pair of pliers to free herself from captivity in a chair, is executed well. But the characters’ banal dialogue takes away a lot of the suspense.
The Governor, up until this point one of the highlights of Season 3, is reduced to a mustache-twirling font of clichés. His portrayal isn’t helped by the completely illogical decision to kill off a good chunk of Woodberry residents when he still has a final battle to fight. And then… well, then he’s gone, and we’re given no inkling of his intentions for the future.
Far from a suspenseful cliffhanger, it feels like the writers simply didn’t know what to do with the Governor other than kill him off, which a better show would have done. Instead, like with Shane, whatever interest the character holds will likely be ruined by an arc longer than he can sustain, and since said writers have almost always done worse when they departed from the comic, his continued existence doesn’t hold much promise.
How many inconclusive standoffs can the Governor have with Rick and his crew before it gets boring? Oh, wait, it’s already boring. Other than blow up a few buildings and shoot at Glenn and Hershel, the Governor accomplished nothing of substance in this episode; nothing to shed light on his character or reveal additional layers.
The only real attempt at character development in this uneventful finale involves Carl (Chandler Riggs), who quite sensibly executes a man who refuses to turn over his gun after being warned repeatedly. The moment is supposed to be shocking in an “oh-my-god-the-innocent-kid killed-someone” kind of way. We’re supposed to face the horror of a world that turns children into killers.
Instead, we’re left wondering why everyone gives the boy such a hard time for acting in a way far more rational than the so-called adults. Rick has killed people for far worse reasons than Carl did here, and his sudden shift back to a paragon of absolute good makes no sense given his path over the course of this season and hell, the entire season. Besides which, we’ve already seen that Carl is capable of killing people at this point and the whole situation feels contrived as a means of lending dramatic heft to a scene where it isn’t present organically.
The Walking Dead has its moments, but is ultimately a pale imitator of the quality character dramas it emulates: Breaking Bad and Madmen are infinitely more complex and stylistically interesting, and that’s just naming other shows on AMC. Its writers have a unique talent for improving just enough to suggest potential before devolving into the same flaws that have plagued it since the beginning: inconsistent pacing, flat characters that live too long, studiously mediocre writing and wannabe-emotional moments that lack impact. Walking Dead vs. Game of Thrones? It’s not even a contest.