The Walking Dead Season Finale Fails to Satisfy Viewers

Jamie Ferguson

The Walking Dead cast of season three.
The Walking Dead cast of season three.

With the arrival of the season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead, fans of the show had high hopes for the eagerly anticipated showdown between the group living at the prison and the citizens of Woodbury. Between a confrontation among Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the Governor (David Morrissey), an entire episode devoted to Woodbury preparing for battle, and a disappointing proposal scene between resident couple Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), the slow episodes leading up to the finale had fans hopeful for the exciting battle between Woodbury and the prison that had been promised all season. Unfortunately, the season three finale failed to live up to these expectations, and left some fans questioning the future of the show.

The episode opens with the Governor mercilessly beating the timid but charmingly nerdy Milton (Peter Kulas), informing him that times have changed and that in a zombie apocalypse, there is no room for nice guys. The events that follow are perhaps the only redeeming part of the episode that is verging on a train wreck. He drags a bloody Milton into a room with the even more bloody Andrea (Laurie Holden) tied to a chair. When picking up a box of tools as instructed by the Governor, Milton drops a pair of pliers by Andrea’s feet, which goes unnoticed by the villain. The Governor then tells Milton that they only way he will be able to leave the room (the same one Glenn and Maggie were tortured in earlier in the season) is by killing Andrea. Milton turns around and tries to stab the Governor instead, but even with one eye, the Governor is able to see right through him. Milton is stabbed in the stomach, and left with the reminder that not only will he die, but he will turn into a walker who will in turn kill Andrea. “In this life now,” he warns the dying Milton, “you kill or you die—or you die and you kill.”

After a brief scene at the prison (in which Carl is still angsty, Michonne is growing friendlier, and Daryl and Carol still have the most chemistry on the show), the event that has been built up ever since Woodbury’s intentions have gone sour begins—the battle between Woodbury and the prison group. However, the battle is not a battle, or even a playground scuffle. The Woodbury crew sets off a hallway full of explosives and are greeted by walkers entering through an open door. When they escape from the building, Glenn and Maggie (clad in bulletproof armor) shoot at thin air, and the people of Woodbury ride off unscathed in the back of a truck. The clash between the two groups has been built up for weeks, and has justified a slew of eventless episodes because they were supposedly all build-up for an exciting battle sequence. However, the so-called battle was far from exciting; in fact, it was a short, boring, and disappointing conclusion to half a season of anticipation and build up. The two groups barely even interact with each other (with the exception of Glenn and Maggie, although they miss every single target), which is perhaps the most disappointing part of the scene.

Meanwhile, Carl (Chandler Riggs) is hiding in the woods with Hershel (Robert Kirkman), Beth (Emily Kinney), and baby Judith, where they are found by a teenage boy from Woodbury who is armed with a gun. Hershel orders him to drop the weapon, but as the boy draws closer, offering his gun for Carl to take, Carl shoots him in the face. This scene is even more interesting than the battle itself, because it forces the characters to decide if Governor is right in his beliefs that all bets are off when the world succumbs to apocalypse. Was the boy a threat? Was Carl right in killing him in cold blood? Are the characters now living in a kill-or-be-killed world? As easy as it is to dismiss Carl as a whiny preteen who is incapable of making unbiased decisions, maybe he is the wisest character on the show. He is growing up in a completely different world than the rest of the characters did, so perhaps it is easier for him to make tough calls because the apocalyptic world is all he has ever known.

The Governor stops in the middle of the road (which seems to be the road people stop on to make big decisions, as it seems whenever the characters are in a sticky situation they stop on the side of this road) after the lackluster battle at the prison. But after his army refuses to kill people and insists on only shooting walkers, he proves just how far he has strayed from the All-American southerner he once appeared to be. He shoots down his entire army (including his right-hand man Allen), killing all but one, and then shoots their dead bodies for good measure. One lucky woman, caught under a dead body, is able to survive only because the Governor runs out of bullets. And then he drives off with his two living henchmen, leaving the Woodbury army to rot. But the scene, although without a doubt unnerving, lost some of its effectiveness because the audience already knows that the Governor is crazy. The Governor is without a doubt crazy and growing crazier—and because of this, his mass murder did not come as much of a shock as it was supposed to, an unfortunate waste of one of the few redeeming scenes of the episode.

But perhaps the one story line in the entire episode that worked and worked well was Andrea and Milton being left for dead in the torture chamber. Milton is fading fast, and every time his breathing grows silent, the audience holds their breath with him. And when he sharply inhales, it is impossible to tell if it is the ragged, gasping breath of a dying man or the raspy growl of a reanimated corpse. As Andrea struggles to pick up the pliers with her pedicured toes, she tearfully confesses to Milton why she was such a train wreck in the last season. Her switching sides, devotion to the Governor, and tendency to be a dead weight was (in addition to the writer’s tendency to lose interest in female characters) because she “wanted to save everyone.” And for this, Andrea is the most human character on the show. She makes mistakes and she is sometimes selfish and even annoying, but as much as she is criticized, she is the most startlingly real character on The Walking Dead. In the middle of a zombie apocalypse, the skill of multitasking must have been put on the back burner, because whenever Andrea starts chatting with Milton, she pauses in her attempts to pick up the pliers, wasting the precious time she has while Milton is still alive. However,Andrea manages to free herself with the pliers just as Milton turns into a walker and starts to stand up.

Back at the prison, Rick confronts his son about what happened in the woods, not able to believe that Hershel might have been right about his son’s intentions. Although a low blow, Carl notes that Dale, Lori, and Merle would all be alive if people had been as ruthless and unforgiving as he was in the woods. And although the boy could have been perfectly innocent, what if he had fired on them and killed someone? Maybe Carl is right in not wanting to take any chances.

Rick, Michonne, and Daryl head off to Woodbury, running into the victims of the Governor’s killing spree on the way. They reluctantly accept the lone survivor into their group, as well as Tyrese and Sasha (who they meet upon entering Woodbury). When they enter the chamber, they are greeted by poor Milton dead on the ground with a pair of pliers stuck into his head, and Andrea still alive in the corner. But the sliver of hope of her survival is destroyed when the bloody walker bite on her neck is shown. In a tearful death scene rivalling that of Lori earlier the season, she asks if she can shoot herself, and tells Rick that she knows how the safety works (a nod to when Rick and Andrea first met in season one). Michonne stays in the room with Andrea as Rick and Daryl leave, but before they go, she whispers her last line to Rick: “I tried.” And she did. The scene was gripping, sad, and poignant—everything this episode should have been. The camera cuts away to a shot of the group waiting outside the door, with the sound of Andrea’s suicide echoing through the silent room. Andrea died with at least a little dignity in tact after being ripped apart by writers over the past three seasons, and after the way The Walking Dead tends to treat their female characters (as either a way to enhance male story lines while portraying women as weak, catty, and whiny), this was the best send off viewers could ask for.

The episode ended with a bus full of Woodbury citizens pulling up into the prison, led by Daryl and the rest of the gang. Carl is disgusting by the change in dynamic, and perhaps rightly so—upon closer examination, the group is mostly the elderly and young children. The relationship between Carl and Rick, once that of utmost devotion, seems to be reaching a boiling point with the addition of the Woodbury citizens, and season four will hopefully exploring the growing rift between father and son. Although Carl is often too sure of his own opinions, perhaps he is right in doubting his father’s heroic but poorly thought out decision to welcome Woodbury into the prison. What happens when one of the older people dies in their sleeps and turns into a walker overnight? And who is going to take care of the children when walkers are attacking?

That being said, walkers have become more and more of a manageable threat this season rather than a force that has taken over the world. When they are met by a group of the undead, they efficiently exterminate them with their inextinguishable supply of bullets and weapons. The fear of walkers that overran the first and second season is gone, and humans seem to be more of a threat than zombies. Hopefully, season four will present new challenges in regards to the apocalypse run by creatures who have become more or less like a buzzing mosquito that can be killed in a single swat.

The first three seasons all began in a new location: Atlanta in season one, Hershel’s farm in season two, and the prison in season three. But from what the finale hints at, the fourth season will remain in the prison, which begs the question of what the writers plan on doing with the group. Will the focus be on the struggle of accepting new members into the previously tight knit group, an increase in the danger of walkers, or the Governor returning after his killing spree? Is the prison going to become like a home to the group instead of a safe location until disaster strikes? For now, only time will tell; hopefully, the disappointment of the last half of season three will be buried with the conclusion of the season, and The Walking Dead will return with a bang next season.