Review of ‘The Walking Dead’ – Series 3, Episode 16
This season reaches its conclusion not with a handshake and a peace treaty, but with grief, regret and a high mortality rate. To deliver an effective finale a series has to provide a satisfying resolution to the central story while leaving sufficient storylines unresolved for successive seasons. The third season finale of The Walking Dead may not quite be the best the show has done so far (an honour that probably belongs to the conclusion of season two), but it does come close, in equal parts thrilling, ambitious and heartbreaking.
The Governor finally launches an overwhelming attack on the prison, but is surprised to find his enemies somewhat more prepared and resilient than he imagined. In the aftermath of his attack, the prison inhabitants emerge victorious, but must then come to terms with the loss of one of their own.
The episode offers a suitable send-off to Laurie Holden’s consistently resourceful Andrea, whose nine lives finally run out as she meets her end in the Governor’s private torture chamber. Her final scenes with Milton manage to be touching as well as tense, and the central problem of placing the character in a trap that even David Blaine would have trouble getting out of helps to maintain the sense of peril. Fans will likely look back on her final moments as the tearjerker scene of the season, managing to trump Merle and Lori’s grisly exits (even though there are very few actual tears on show).
After weeks of being forced to confine his libido for violence, David Morrissey’s Governor is finally let off the leash to engage in what is evidently his favourite pastime. As expected, Morrissey is at his most callous in this episode, delivering a highly convincing performance as a mad man addicted to violence. He is perhaps at his most mesmerising in the aftermath of the group’s retreat from the prison.
The mass murder of several of his Woodbury allies truly reveals the extent of his ruthlessness, but it’s fascinating to watch Morrissey shift from cold-blooded killer to contemplative comrade, as he welcomes his two closest allies into his truck only moments after slaughtering their companions. The episode also provides a fitting conclusion for the character, drawing an end to the current conflict while leaving the door open for his return in future seasons.
The Governor’s final assault on the prison is everything we could hope for, playing out like a Roland Emmerich movie on a small-screen budget, complete with massive explosions and plenty of shambling zombies being torn apart like bystanders in the crossfire. The conclusion of the battle is a smart resolution of the aggressive conflict between the two groups, enabling the underdogs to emerge victorious while providing an answer to a theme that has been explored throughout the season.
Despite the Governor’s superior firepower, it’s ultimately the unity and companionship of the central group that enables them to tackle the brute force of their oppressors. While it’s by no means an original outcome, it is convincingly conveyed, with the impressive ensemble of central characters all playing their part in the final encounter.
After a season that has explored a growing landscape of characters, it’s surprising that this finale manages to return to its roots amongst all the carnage by focusing on the relationship between Rick and Carl. While Andrew Lincoln and Chandler Riggs have delivered solid performances as father and son respectively, the relationship between the pair has been somewhat sidelined throughout.
The scene where Carl murders a fleeing Woodbury resident is one of the more memorable surprises of the episode, a shocking end of innocence moment that stains the overall triumph of their victory and offers a much-needed degree of development for the character. The resulting scene between Carl and Rick is probably the most important of the finale, and one which does a good job of drawing together the dilemmas faced by a series of characters struggling to remain blameless in a cold and relentlessly demanding world. In that sense it marks a return to the family-oriented elements of the first two seasons, depicting a father desperately trying to teach the right lessons to his child, a motivation that helps us to reconnect with Rick as a character.
Now that Woodbury has been abandoned and the central battle is over, will the two surviving camps be able to work together as one community? Can Rick instil a sense of morality in Carl before it is too late? And how long will it be before the Governor returns for vengeance?Tagged in: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, The Walking Dead, zombies
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