By Jeannie Chan
Previously on TWD, we’re reminded of why the Governor hates Michonne with such a fiery passion. We begin the mid-season finale with the Governor holding court in his new camp. He’s giving his new family his Braveheart speech and tells them that he has leverage and will use them to get access to the prison. No one will have to die if his plan goes well. Yeah, right.
We continue with the recent pattern of weird time-jumps as we watch Michonne and Hershel walking through the woods as the Governor tells his camp he’s got them hostage in present time. All of a sudden, the Governor’s hand comes out of nowhere and he cold clocks Michonne in the face with the butt of his pistol. I started freaking out at this point in the episode, expecting the excitement to continue. (I was wrong.)
Lilly does not like this plan at all and tries to argue/reason with the Governor. Why do they have to go to the prison? If the lake is safe enough for her to sit and wait out the potential bloodbath, why can’t they just camp out there? All legit questions, lady. The Governor’s answer is basically that the prison is way more secure and security is what they need. Because he loves her. Lilly says, “I don’t even know you,” and I’m like, for real, girl. But whatever moment of reality-checking Lilly has gets soothed away by the Governor’s strong yet gentle hands on her shoulders.
When the Governor returns to his RV, we see that Michonne and Hershel have been tied up there. Hershel also attempts to reason with the Governor and suggests that they could all live in the prison together, peacefully. Rick is changed man. Hershel sees the Governor now and hears the way he speaks; he’s a different man. But there is no other way. There is no way the Governor and Michonne can co-exist peacefully, even if he has done a ton of self-reflection and given up a lot of his ghosts. Hershel, as only Hershel can, calls into question how reformed the Governor can be if he’s willing to kill (or put at risk) other children, other families for the sake of his own. To that, the Governor says, “They’re not my own.” So, that’s how much moral fiber we’re working with. But then again, isn’t that kind of the same as everyone else? Again: Rick? Carol?
Speaking of which, back at the prison, Rick and Daryl are exchanging words about Carol. It’s been a while since we left off with these guys, so Rick’s attempts to justify his actions seem to fall even shorter than they did the first time around. Daryl is upset, obviously, and calls Rick out for not waiting to get back to the prison before making the decision on his own. Rick counters with Tyreese as all the justification he needs for acting independently. There’s something still bugging me about how they’re taking Tyreese’s threats seriously, and not as a response to the traumatic loss and grief he’s experiencing that can be worked through or reasoned with. I can’t quite put my finger on it… Anyway, they dash off to find him to tell him about Carol but he finds them first and brings them to a rather disturbing display of rat guts tacked onto a board. Think animal dissection in biology class. I actually don’t think it’s that disturbing and that’s either the scientist in me or… let’s just leave it at that. Tyreese is convinced that there’s a psychopath amongst them and the same person who killed Karen is responsible for this sick shit. Before Rick can set him straight, there’s a loud boom from above. The Governor’s come a-knockin’.
And does he come in style! TANK! TANK! TANK!
The Governor and Rick yell at each other through the fence. The Governor tells Rick that he has until sundown to give up the prison or he’s going to kill Hershel and Michonne. Rick, unconvincingly, tries to convince the Governor that they can share the vast prison and find a way to live together but the Gov’s not buying it. Rick tries to be more forceful and says that they can all live in the prison or no one else can. The Gov’ responds by taking Michonne’s sword out and holding it to Hershel’s neck. Rick speaks directly to the others now, asks Tara and Mitch if this is what they really want. Rick works them; says that if they put down their weapons and walk in through the gates, they will be welcomed. Mitch exchanges a hesitant glance with the unnamed crew. Rick pleads with the Governor. Let go of all of it. Nobody dies. “We’ve all done the worst kinds of things just to stay alive. But we can all come back. We’re not too far gone. We all can change.” The Governor slowly pulls the sword away from Hershel but the camera stays real close and tight on his head and the Gov’ still has an evil, unsteady glint in his eye.
Time is moving so incredibly, painfully, nerve-wrackingly slow right now. It is at a standstill. I am frozen on Hershel’s proud face as he watches Rick come back from his demons. And then time rushes forward way too fast beyond our control. The Governor calls Rick a liar and swings the sword at Hershel. He doesn’t have enough force behind the swing though and Hershel looks only partially decapitated and it’s an awful, bloody, messy sight. The world goes silent. Michonne is barely registering what just happened. Maggie and Beth have completely lost it. Hershel’s body falls to the ground.
And the bullets start flying. The Governor takes one to the upper arm. Rick gets shot in the thigh. OH WAIT HERSHEL’S NOT DEAD. Hershel tries to crawl out of harm’s way between two vehicles. He is gushing blood everywhere though. Oh my god, how is he still alive?! Oh wait, the Gov comes around to finish the job. With every blow to Hershel’s head, the camera jumps to Maggie and Beth. Ugh. DAMMIT WHY MUST YOU TOY WITH MY EMOTIONS LIKE THIS. The next time we pan back to Hershel, his head is completely severed and the Gov’s face is splattered with his blood. He looks up and sees Lilly carrying Megan’s body. (Oh right, I forgot to mention that while Lilly and Megan were chilling by the lake, Megan had unearthed a sign that warned of flash floods in the area and in doing so, freed a zombie that had been buried in the mudbank. Lilly had been too busy keeping her eye on a walker that tried to cross the water to pay attention to what Megan was doing. By the time Megan screams for help, the zombie had already taken a bite out of her.) The Governor wordlessly takes Megan’s lifeless body into his own arms and shoots her in the head. Well if the Governor wasn’t back before.. I have a feeling (a hope, really) that this reincarnation of the Governor will mirror the original comic book version; that is, be ridiculously insane.
He orders his camp to take over the prison. To kill them all. The tank rolls in through the outer perimeter easily. Team Prison is slowly running out of ammo. The tank starts to fire on the buildings. Maggie is running back inside to get Glenn but Beth doesn’t want to separate from her. Maggie holds steady and tells Beth to get people on the bus to prepare to drive off, without her, if necessary. “We all have jobs to do,” she says. RIP Hershel.
Rick and the Governor proceed to have a good old-fashioned brawl as the tank barrels through the prison grounds. Maggie gets to Glenn just seconds before another shell blows away part of the wall. She gets him to the bus only to discover that Beth isn’t on it because she had gone to find her. Of course. Even now, Glenn is like, “No, you can’t go by yourself,” although she has proven to be quite self-sufficient and capable of protecting herself through now.
Tyreese, Sasha, and Bob are holding their ground as best they can. Daryl now also has to contend with walkers lurking behind him as bullets come flying at him from the front. He doesn’t see the one walker sidle up to him. All these bullets and explosions are attracting the attention of many walkers in the area. AND WE DON’T SEE WHAT HAPPENS BECAUSE WE CUT BACK TO RICK AND THE GOVERNOR ROLLING AROUND IN THE GRASS. But thankfully, Daryl remains unharmed and uses the walker’s body as a shield before tossing a hand grenade at the tank. Maggie runs up to Sasha and Bob just as Bob takes a through-and-through. He’ll need to be patched up and as they look towards the bus, it pulls away. WHAT NOW. Meanwhile, Tyreese isn’t getting enough cover from the shrubbery he’s been hiding behind. Alicia and some random guy are gunning towards him hard when all of a sudden, the other guy takes a shot to the head. Alicia whips around and sees Lizzy and her sister holding guns in their tiny little girl hands. One of them shoots Alicia in the head. Even Tyreese is stunned.
The Governor continues to pummel Rick’s face in the grass. He is not winning this fight… As the Governor’s hands tighten around Rick’s throat and Rick’s feeble grabs proceed to get weaker, I think this is it. This is the moment that Rick dies. Although that can’t possibly be right – this is his show, after all. All of a sudden, like a foot of steel blade juts out from the Governor’s chest. It’s Michonne. “Carl, where’s Carl?” is the first thing Rick says. (Where’s the baby? is what I want to know now.) The Governor is still alive, gurgling blood. Michonne leaves him there.
Daryl, the badass that he continues to be, is taking out walkers left and right in the yard. He casually dunks another grenade into the tank. Beth runs out and tells Daryl she was trying to find the kids but they’re nowhere to be found. Daryl is just like, we gotta go. They run off somewhere. Rick stumbles into what’s left of the courtyard, calling out for Carl. He finds two walkers instead and he is in no physical condition to fight them off. Two shots get fired offscreen. We see that it’s Carl. He has no idea where Judith is. They walk through the wreckage. Everyone is either dead or has fled somehow. They see Judith’s car seat on the ground. It’s empty. It looks bloody. Rick openly weeps. A walker makes his way towards them. Carl shoots him in the head. And again. And again. And again.
We cut back outside. The Governor is still alive. But barely. There are walkers in the distance and they’re slowly closing in on him. But then he turns and blurrily sees Lilly standing over him with a gun. With a shaky hand, she fires.
Rick and Carl head off into the woods. The prison burns behind them. Judith is presumably dead (though I’m hoping someone just took her onto the bus). The Governor, unless Lilly missed, is also dead. Hershel is dead. Who knows where the hell everyone is.
True to form, TWD leaves us mid-season with our characters uprooted and scattered, dead or injured, and most certainly in despair. If the modicum of stability and serenity that we tasted in the beginning of the season let you forget the show’s M.O., or god forbid allowed you to believe that they could actually build a life somewhere and survive through the end, they certainly made it a point to remind us tonight. Bearing in mind that the show is ultimately about how people survive, I wonder what we’re going to see when the show comes back. Will they continue to be hopeful for normalcy? Will they ever be farmers again and have it as good as they did in the prison? What other demons and villains await them?
Anyway. Those will be answered in due time, I guess. Thanks for reading! See you in February!