The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 16 – Welcome to the Tombs
Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead. Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.
I can already tell that “Welcome to the Tombs”, the season finale for the third season of The Walking Dead, is an episode that may be seen as a disappointment for some and a triumph for others. It does a lot of things that this season has been setting up throughout, but also leaves a lot left open. While leaving certain storylines hanging is appropriate enough for a TV series, I can’t say I am all that excited for some of those particular aspects to come next season. With that said, the episode did bring to an end certain aspects about this season that were a constant issue and also played against expectations in regards to how “the war” went between the prison and Woodburry. Given that predictability has been an issue for me with this show (and not just because I am a huge fan of the comic), it was nice to see The Walking Dead mix things up a little bit, let alone actually end on an optimistic note, no matter how ridiculous.
The episode begins with one of its best scenes. Something this show continues to do well is opening pretty great and that is reflected with the Governor delivering a beating to the good doctor. The Governor tries to teach Milton a lesson, but since Milton has shifted his alliances or is at least no longer turning a blind eye to ol’ one-eye’s evilness, the Governor sticks him with a knife, which will lead to him becoming a walker and presumably killing Andrea. Milton had the chance to kill Andrea and go back to living under the thumb of the Governor, but he chose not to and will now suffer because of that choice. Andrea had a chance to kill the Governor and now she will die as this episode continues, because of that choice. And lastly, Rick, according to Carl, had the chance to kill the Governor and more died instead, because of that choice.
Choice, specifically in regards to life or death decisions, is a huge part of what made this season, let alone the series in general, function. As the Governor put it, “In this life now, you kill or you die. Or you die and you kill.” That is certainly a dark sort of way to paint any world, but that is what has been presented and The Walking Dead does provide examples of what those kinds of stakes lead to in an episode like this, which provides finality to certain arcs of this season. The added aspect for this season is in regards to killing not just zombies in order to survive, but to face off against other survivors in the wake of this apocalypse. Rick has been a key example of having to make life or death choices, as he has had to deal with other possibly deadly people in all three seasons. Shane was also a figure who had to work this out, but unfortunately got too crazy for his own good. And of course The Governor was a man we have been watching all season, eventually becoming something of a psychopath, given the choices that he made.
So what has led to Rick mostly coming out on top in all of this? It is hard to say, but it must have to do with him legitimately caring for everyone in his group and wanting to do whatever he can to keep them safe. That said, he did suffer the loss of his wife and T-Dog. This is why it was an important step for him to take last week in having the others finally starting adding in their input. Now who knows, perhaps ending the Ricktatorship will have repercussions, because Rick has been able to get these people as far as he could, based on his own decisions, but for the time being, these people: Hershel, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Beth, Carol, Michonne, Carl, and even Judith give him the strength that he feels he needs. I think that is why the plan against the Governor goes as well as it does.
The episode does a good job of misleading us at the beginning. The setup suggests that Rick and the gang truly are leaving the prison, but that really was a clever ruse. The Governor and his soldiers arrive, clear the outside perimeter (using drastic tactics), and enter in deep. They are then alarmed by flash/smoke grenades, the presence of walkers, and loud sirens that push the group back outside. It is then that we find out that Rick and the gang never left, as they open fire on the soldiers from up high. The result is a full retreat and a claim of success by Rick, only to now consider whether or not to go after them and really finish things.
That choice ends up not mattering though, as the Governor really turns the tables on this episode. In what is his last scene of the season, we see the Governor flip out on his own people and gun down almost all of them. If you are not with him you are against him and need to be put down. That seems to be the logic running through Gov. Phil’s crazy little head, as he exits the season with only two men by his side. We will of course see him again, I can only imagine in a more consistent manner – meaning always on the edge and ready for carnage. I would have been much happier with Martinez taking out the Governor and thus ending his presence on the show, but I can only hope that the plans for next season will incorporate him well, if at all. David Morrissey is a solid actor, but I have had issues with how the role was written in this series. Maybe that can be rectified, but I really hope it is dealt with sooner, rather than later.
Let’s talk about Carl. While there are characters I like more than Carl, I think this youngling may actually be the most interesting character on the show right now. We seem him angry at the beginning and end of this episode. He is angry as the show begins, because he is being forced to not help protect the prison. The end of this episode has him angry at his dad for taking in more people to protect. In the middle of all of this, Carl kills a guy. Right now this boy is dealing with killing his own mother, killing one of his father figures, killing a stranger, and killing countless members of the undead. All of that and he’s a pre-teen that has been involved in very adult things. Carl is much more Shane than he is Rick and that is going to be a problem if the boy is not brought under some control and be given a talking to. Yes, he is making certain decisions and argues a certain logic that suggests proper motivation for what he’s been doing, but the boy is becoming hardened and cold to emotion, and I believe young Chandler Riggs deserves some props for bringing to life that complexity.
In regards to what is holding this back from being a stronger finale for me, there are two main issues. The first is a lack of closure in regards to the Governor, which I mentioned. The other is the ending of this episode. Following Rick’s arrival at Woodbury, with Daryl, Michonne, and Karen, the gang manages to talk down Tyrese and Sasha, which was easy enough, as they were already on the fence about staying. This is followed by our last visit with Andrea, who has been problematic all season, but at least had these last couple episodes to become a more sympathetic character. After all of this though is where my issue really kicked in. What is the logic in Rick bringing a bunch of people to the prison? I can understand thematic idea of this, as Rick feels he is doing a service that reflects his character, etc., but this did not make a whole lot of sense to me. Given that Rick and the others are capable at making decisions and have a sense of strength and teamwork on their side, they could have easily just headed over to Woodbury, given the absence of the Governor, and made things work there. The prison has not proven to be a very safe place; especially now, given the destruction that took place.
The only think I can imagine is that this used to be a much longer episode that was cut down for time. It does feel like the pacing was a bit off in this otherwise well-directed episode. Not only did the ending seem a bit rushed, but things like how Tyrese is utilized or the aftermath of Carl shooting that guy felt choppy. I do not have anything to base this on, but the strength and structure of this episode, which did actually feel better written than others, was undone by not quite hitting all the marks where needed to make a more fulfilling episode overall, when it came to wrapping up this season.
Still, “Welcome to the Tombs” brought this season to an end, leaving Andrea dead and the Governor out in the wild. That sums up basically the good and the bad, as we have some closure and some open-endedness, which defines many TV shows, but also makes me uncertain about whether The Walking Dead is best suited for keeping up that kind of structure, as far as season-long arcs are concerned. As far as the season is concerned, despite my issues with this episode and others, The Walking Dead has never been better than season 3. I can only hope that things become even better in the next season, as I can only keep hoping that those involved in its production are getting a better and better understanding of what works best in the show. For now though, Rick and the gang have earned their breather, just keep an eye on that Carl.
4 out of 5 Busters
Zombie Kill of the Week: It’s a toss-up – we got to see some Beth action and Michonne had a zombie double-kill with her sword.
- I could have written a lot more about Andrea in this review, but honestly, I have spent so much time on her this that it just didn’t really matter to me. She was frustrating in this episode, given that she decided to pause every damn second, before trying to free herself, but then she got a nice moment with Michonne before her end. Of course, it would have been nice to really dig into this relationship between these characters and better appreciate their dynamic, but here we are. RIP Andrea.
- I’m starting the campaign now - #MoreKarenNextSeason!
- I’m super relieved that Hershel lived – go stumpy!
- I was going to question the accuracy again, but upon second viewing I realized that the plan for the Prisoners was to purposefully miss everyone and simply drive them away. The plan worked and no one was killed…aside from Beanie Kid (Carl is so cold). But still, it was a solid plan, kudos Rick.
- So that car ride with the post-slaughter Governor has to be the most awkward car ride of all time.
- I actually added up all of my ratings and divided it by the number of episodes – the season grade for me equals 4 out of 5, which is what I would have given it anyway. Yay math!
- Thanks to everyone who kept up with reading what I had to say about The Walking Dead every week. The dead will return this October and so will I!