*Obviously, I’m issuing a huge SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t seen the episode so watch it, then read on.
Even though we’re at the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, it’s pretty safe to say that this has been the strongest season yet. I had my worries that the series, which is on its third showrunner in four years, would suffer from so much changing of the guard.
If anything, the series has gotten better.
That’s not a knock against either Frank Darabont (the first showrunner and the man responsible for developing Robert Kirkman‘s long running comic book series into a television show) or Glen Mazzara (who inherited the mantle from Darabont and proved to be a worthy successor). They both did a great job capturing the essence of the book. However, that didn’t always translate well to the small screen. There were long stretches where the plot was simply spinning its wheels, limping along until something interesting happened. Often times, it was a struggle for the viewer (at least this one) to maintain interest.
Current showrunner Scott M. Gimple has pumped some much needed action and character development into the show and he and his team of writers have sharpened the focus, propelling the show forward at a much faster pace. Yes, much of the season took place at the prison but, unlike the stint at Hershel’s farm, things happened. A flu almost decimated the survivors. A murderer lurked inside the prison walls. And then…the Governor.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I saw the Governor (David Morrissey) standing outside the prison at the end of ‘Internment’, some of the wind was taken out of my sails. The Governor, while scary in the comics, was never a fully developed character on the show as the writers never seemed to know what kind of a villain they really wanted. Morrissey gave a hell of a performance but, as an antagonist, the Governor never seemed like a real threat.
Then something interesting happened. The Walking Dead veered away from its main cast and instead spent two episodes focusing on the possibility that the Governor might change given another chance. It was an interesting decision and it worked well (though it might have had more of an impact had season 3′s Governor been more fully realized). The Governor gained a new family and struggled to leave his old life behind. But old habits die hard.
At the beginning of ‘Too Far Gone’, we see the Governor addressing his militia, swaying them to his side and persuading them to attack and take over the prison with the goal (at least in their eyes) of finding a safer place to live. Heavily armed, the formidable band stand their ground outside of the prison fences with the Governor confidently perched upon a tank. He tells Rick that he wants them out and uses Herschel and Michonne as hostages to let Rick know that he’s serious. But…he’ll let them all live if they just leave. Rick attempts to reason with him and the rest of the group saying that none of them are “too far gone” where they can’t find a way to coexist peacefully.
The Governor knows better. He’s tried in vain to redeem himself but he’ll always be a tyrant, a murderer and a man who is unable to let go of the past and his need for revenge.
Then he uses Michonne’s katana to strike Hershel in the neck, severely wounding him (moments later, he finds Hershel crawling away and finishes the job, hacking away until decapitating him) before telling his group to “kill them all” while storming the prison.
Instead of having part of something–a family, a safe haven and people who look up to him–the Governor ends up with nothing and again proves himself an incompetent ruler, leading his people to slaughter. Ultimately, it is neither Rick nor Michonne who strikes the fatal blow. That comes from someone else, someone who trusted him when he told her that everything was going to work out.
‘Too Far Gone’ ends with a terrific cliffhanger, scattering the survivors and leaving them both physically and emotionally wounded. With nearly everything taken from them, they face uncertainty as to what the future holds.
Thankfully, fans of The Walking Dead don’t have that same sense of uncertainty. ‘Too Far Gone’ (and the episodes that preceded it) plants the seeds for many more epic adventures both in the second half of season 4 and beyond. I look forward to what else is in store.