In last week’s episode, we were finally brought back to where we left off at the end of 4.5, “Internment”: The Governor eerily peering at the prison along with those inside that had cost him his kingdom. It’s no secret that I wasn’t a big fan of the last two installments, but things looked to be moving in a significantly different (and better direction) this week.
Prisoners of the Coming War
…and holy crap were they ever. The Governor starts things off by getting the drop on Michonne and Hershel, deciding to kidnap rather than execute them. He then returns to his new group, tells them a very creatively embellished version of what happened at Woodbury, and rallies everyone to his crusade to take over the prison (and maybe enjoy a little revenge against Rick & Co. on the side).
When The Governor later talks to Michonne and Hershel, however, his pledge of not wanting to kill anyone almost sounds genuine. Hershel even seems to have earned a degree of respect from the murderous sociopath (probably due to their shared ability to grow incredible facial hair). But in the end, his pleas to not attack the prison are ignored.
As everyone heads off to battle, The Governor’s girlfriend, Lilly, objects to his plan. He assures her that it’s what needs to be done and that if things go well, there won’t be any bloodshed (HA!). He then manages to make himself look almost human while doting over his surrogate daughter, Meghan, to whom he gives a touching farewell.
A Subdued Showdown
Back inside the prison, we get the long awaited showdown between Rick and Daryl over Carol being left behind and banished for her crimes… and after a bit of redneck raging/posturing, he actually seems to accept it pretty well. This was one of only two small problems that I had with the episode (the other being Mitch’s continued willingness to follow the man who murdered his brother). Daryl may be a lot more level headed than when the show started, but I think we’d earned a bit more conflict from him for Rick’s decision than what we got.
Instead, he goes with Rick to help break the news to Tyrese that he would not be able to take revenge on his girlfriend’s killer. When they find him, Tyrese has discovered that someone (who he believes to be the murderer) is still trying to feed rats to the zombies. But before the conversations can move beyond rodent conspiracy theories, Rick’s confession is interrupted by the most conveniently timed tank cannon blast in history.
Everyone runs outside to see The Governor, who is most definitely backed up by a tank… and a well-armed militia. Rick tries to explain that he’s retired to a life of bean picking and pig slaughtering, but Eye Patch isn’t hearing any of it. Instead, he brings out Hershel and Michonne, forcing Rick negotiate the terms of what he believes will be a surrendering of the prison grounds.
Rick pleads his case, trying to explain that the two communities could live together. As you might imagine, The Governor doesn’t agree. Rick also declares that there are still children inside recovering from the sickness that had almost wiped out the prison a few days ago. Once again, his attempts to appeal to the sliver of human decency that resides in The Governor’s heart fails. In Eye Patch’s mind, the fact that he was letting them leave without blowing everyone to kingdom come was magnanimous enough.
Don’t Play in the Dirt
Back at the place where the Governor dropped off his surrogate family to wait out the battle, Meghan had found a nice patch of Georgia red clay to play in. While Lilly is focused a zombie going for a swim, one that was buried under the ground comes up and attacks her daughter, proving that zombies don’t care how adorable you are when it comes to making their meal choices. Unlike the last time Meghan was attacked by a biter, however, this one manages to take a chunk out of her.
Rick continues to try and appeal to The Governor on a human level, this time explaining that people can change and come back from the horrible things they’ve done. The swelling music and smile on Hershel’s face were a nice touch, but they also foreshadowed what might have been the most heartbreaking scene on the series: The Governor responds to Rick’s pontificating by taking Michonne’s sword and slicing into Hershel’s neck, killing him.
For fans of the comic, we know that every moment spent with TV Hershel was a blessed bonus. Comic book Hershel was a great character, as well, but he also kind of went out like a spaz (and at a much earlier point in the series). The character brought to life by Scott Wilson on AMC, however, was something truly special: he was the group’s moral center, their caretaker, and even a badass when the situation called it. If you didn’t hate The Governor already, than any good will he may have built up from the previous two “character exploration” episodes had been completely wiped away.
Rick responds the same way the rest of us wanted to: By screaming in anger and firing a gun at The Governor. He manages to hit him in the arm, but the militia immediately returns fire. Fortunately for Rick, they all had Storm Trooper shooting skills, allowing him to escape automatic machine gun fire from only a few yards away and find cover with only a leg wound to show for it.
Back at the prison, Daryl had been busy passing out weapons to everyone else, who were now also screaming and firing at the most hated man in television. While the fire fight raged on, The Governor sees Lilly walking with Meghan lying dead in her arms. He shoots her to prevent his surrogate daughter from turning into a walker, loses any shred of humanity he had left, and orders his army to “Kill them all.”
Lessons Learned and Battles Lost
The Governor’s tank, driven by Mitch, plows through the gate. The militia uses it for cover while the cannon continues to bust holes in the prison… and attracts a lot of curious zombies.
As The Governor walks through to the prison yard, however, Rick jumps out like a ninja (with a bullet still in his leg) and tackles him, instigating a testosterone fueled bare knuckle brawl between the two.
Meanwhile, Tyrese gets pinned down by enemy gunfire. Just when it looks like he’s going to be killed, however, Psycho Little Girl Lizzie and Mika, who had been taught by Carol how to handle a firearm, shoot his attackers dead.
Back at the main firefight, the tide is slowly turning. Daryl almost gets eaten by a zombie, which caused millions of women around the world to scream out in a mix of anger and fear. Instead, he ends up using the zombie for cover, pulling out a grenade, and dropping it down into the tank’s cannon, blowing the vehicle up.
Look, I’m a 100% straight male, but that moment pretty much sealed it: If Daryl asked me to marry him, I’d say yes.
Making the moment even better, Mitch scrambles out of the tank’s hatch and falls on the ground, where he comes face to face with Daryl’s crossbow. He raises his hands to ask for mercy, but gets one straight through the heart, instead.
Back in the prison yard, Rick’s heroic moment is losing its luster due to the fact that he is getting his ass handed to him by The Governor. But just as Eye Patch puts his hands around Rick’s neck to finish him off, a katana blade bursts through his chest.
During the melee after Hershel was killed, Michonne managed to get herself free and reclaim her sword, which she used to save Rick and put an end to The Governor’s reign…
…or so it seemed. Instead of cutting him in half like she promised, Michonne left him there to die, causing my family and I to scream in anger at the television. Fortunately, Lilly showed up with a gun and finished the job. Whether she did this to keep him from turning into a walker or because she was mad because the dude she was sleeping with ended up being a psycho is unclear.
Don’t Look Back
It had been a long time since we’d heard Rick yell that repeatedly, but it’s the first thing he said after Michonne saved him. After calling for him a few more time, Carl announces his presence by blasting away a few walkers, saving his dad (and redeeming himself for being an annoying little brat for much of the season).
When the father and son go to get Judith, however, all they find is a bloody car seat. It’s not explicitly stated that she’s dead (and she wasn’t in the “Those We Lost” segment of ‘Talking Dead’ last night), but it her chances of survival don’t look very good.
After crying together over losing another family member, Carl and Rick stumble off into the woods. Daryl, Maggie, and the others also flee the prison along with a bus full of extras and Glenn that managed to get away. The Governor’s militia is decimated along with the prison, leaving us with a long wait until February to find out where our group goes from here.
- After a somewhat stagnant season so far, the show’s entire complexion was dramatically (and violently) altered.
- Some of the best action we’ve ever seen from the series.
- Character deaths that resonated due to expertly crafted development over the last few seasons.
- Underwhelming resolution to Rick telling Daryl about Carol.
All is forgiven as far as the last two episodes were concerned. This one had it all: Action, drama, zombie kills, Daryl badassery, and multiple moments that changed the entire complexion of the show going forward.
I hated watching Hershel die as much as anyone, but his death resonated because it meant so much. It also made watching that blade go through The Governor’s chest that much sweeter.
If there was one major knock against season four, it’s that things had grown a bit stale. Dealing with a viral outbreak during a zombie apocalypse (which itself is an infection) felt a bit redundant. Going through two episodes of The Governor supposedly changing only to once again prove he’s a sociopath with a knack for leading people felt a little unnecessary.
But last night’s episode brought all those pieces together into a fantastic mid-season finale. Even the last two episodes (which I was not a fan of) were needed to build up to this incredible climax. It’s going to be tough waiting until February for the show to return, but the remaining episodes for this season have a very tough act to follow.
Need to play catch-up? Watch all of the The Walking Dead: Season 4 episodes on Amazon Instant Video.