The Walking Dead Season 3 Finale Review: They Never Could
Well, Andrea's curse on Season 3 of The Walking Dead is over. Just in time for everything to be over.
For a character whose sole purpose was ultimately to be blissfully ignorant of the political affairs between Woodbury and the prison, her role was strung out for what felt like an eternity. By the end, the writers were just having her show increasing amounts of skin and trip on stuff like some common, sweater-meated horror-trope harlot. How often can you have someone constantly make decisions the audience knows are the wrong ones?
Even if we didn't have a somewhat-limited but basically omniscient perspective on the story, the fact that she'd turn coat on Michonne so quickly and trust the stranger over her intuition and obviously badass friend doomed her from the beginning. Then, not only was she wrong about The Governor, but she tried to broker some sort of peace deal when she found out that he was intent on destroying Rick and the gang. Rather than choosing a side, she ended up riding the fence right into the jaws of a biter. Her destined demise was the root for one of the major themes of the season.
The Governor, especially after adopting the pirate look, got cheesier and cheesier with his one-liners and any examples of his unchecked power that didn't involve blasting people in their heads. But his big line sums up that theme: "In this life now, you kill or you die. Or you die and you kill." In a world where people are disillusioned of past notions that we may not all be walking meatbags, where the macabre and bestial nature of killing walkers to survive and watching others get eaten as they die is the norm, pacifism loses its place with no one around to respect it. Armies of the undead have no rules against living civilians, and scarce resources mean whoever is mightier will be the one to get what they need. Be prepared to kill or be prepared to die. Because even death can't stop you from being a killer.
Carl spoke with Rick, just before Rick headed to Woodbury, and filled in that sentiment with a little more nuance. Carl wasn't ashamed that he shot the fleeing member of Pip Blake's militia, no matter whether he was surrendering or not. The boy has become disillusioned with his father's white-hat approach to survival. As the enemies become more complicated, and not just the undead are trying to kill them but so are the people who are competing for resources and safety, Carl feels like Rick's sense of "doing the right thing" is an antique. For Carl, it's not Humans vs. Walkers. It's Us vs. Them. If he doesn't know you or feel like you're "one of us," you're just another mouth to feed, another body to protect, another set of hands that can turn on you. Letting people live just because they're people has gotten the group into trouble, according to a suddenly very mature, very talkative Carl. Had they been more ruthless, they might not have to live in fear.
There was also a sense of choosing sides and how necessary it is for survival. It's no surprise that Daryl voiced the concurring opinion as Andrea uttered the platitudes of the dying. Happy to see that Michonne had made it into the in-crowd, she said, "No one can make it alone now." "They never could," Daryl said. That was the fundamental difference between him and Merle, particularly after Daryl had been with Rick's group for a while. Merle thought he could survive on his own, at the most be a soldier-of-fortune, within the walker landscape. Daryl came to realize that people have to stay in a pack, that that's the only way to happiness and safety: numbers. And having to put Zombie Merle down last week only confirmed his perspective. You can't waver. You can't just plug your ears and pretend it's not happening. You have to be active in this life. And you have to choose which side you want to be on: the undead or the living, the White Hat meritocracy or the benevolent dictatorship. You can't be alone anymore, so choose a group and stay loyal to it.
Then, right after Andrea said that, she talked about how she wanted to do "it" herself, meaning she wanted to end it all after she done got bit. Seeing her there with a tearful Michonne and a solemn family almost made us forget how utterly annoying she'd been the entire episode. You could reduce her entire story to: She was handcuffed to a chair, she had to pick up pliers with her toes, she finally did it, but she wasn't able to escape Milton the Walker. That was strung out for AN HOUR. So many pauses just to look at Milton and assess whether he was going to turn. So much time wasted on talking with Milton about whatever when she could've been working at her binds. Maybe her clock was much shorter than the rest of the characters' (we don't know how long Andrea was lying on the floor before the prison group found her), but because so little happened with Andrea over the course of the episode but her story still seemed to be equally weighted with other scenes, it felt like she was just gazing at that doofus for half the day before finally going into panic mode.
Good riddance, I say. A thought crossed my mind when the group was about to head to Woodbury and Glenn said he and Maggie would stick around: Daryl mentioned that it would just be the three of them, meaning Rick, Daryl, and Michonne, who were heading to the Governor's settlement... "That's really all you need," I thought. And, really, you only need Rick so he can do the talking. If it were a fairer fight, like The Governor's men all had compound bows instead of military-grade automatics, those two could've killed three-quarters of Blake's army, scared off the rest, and pantsed The Governor in about twenty minutes.
Putting Andrea back in the mix would've only introduced a "me too" to the dynamic. They have everything covered now; bringing Andrea back to the prison would just bring unnecessary complications to an already-established warrior class. She would've insisted on being a part of that group, though; doesn't matter that whenever she has been in the past, she's been nothing but trouble. Remember when she almost killed Daryl? It's better this way, with Andrea serving as the fountain from which Michonne's consuming desire for revenge springs eternal.
Besides, there are enough people in the prison now anyway. If Carl's reasoning for why he shot that kid and why his dad's gone soft might've sounded a little silly near the beginning of the episode, bringing a busload of strangers into the safety of your home with no real plan to feed, clothe, or protect them from the world and the inevitable attacks by Dread Pirate Captain Blake might make you come around. The White Hat is getting them into another critical situation because Rick lacks the ruthless instinct necessary to keep his family unit together while everybody else rots. In contrast, his son can see how the "open door" policy may lead to their doom. It's too trusting for a world where everyone is, basically, out for themselves. If Rick breaks down while running the lives of ten other people, that's nothing compared to the entire town of Pleasantville.
For a season finale, the cliffhanger wasn't necessarily the mightiest or the gaspiest but it does open up a couple of questions. (1) How is this going to work with so many people (probably all suffering some sort of trust-issues since they were duped by a madman) and (2) How will The Governor strike back and how long until Michonne cleaves his head clean off his body? A good episode full of the post-apocalyptic platitudes but a lot of senseless death, and it tied a ribbon on the season quite nicely.
– The Governor went from charming secret maniac to Mad Max villain right quick. In this episode he swung so far into comic book villain it was almost funny. The grave "thank you" when he presented Tyreese with the rifle, the cheesy line when he closed down the teaser, the senseless killing of his people and those who would turn against him. I didn't know if I was watching The Walking Dead or some prologue to a Joel Schumacher Batman flick.
– At first, I was pretty disappointed with how the prison invasion sequence happened at the top of the episode. Pip had that pep talk, they moved out, they got into the prison and blew up the watchtowers, marched right in, then scurried out, and retreated. Part of me expected there to be a long drawn out battle. When they all left I actually said out loud, "What the eff? That's it?" The AMC promos showcased a war and all we got was barely a skirmish. After watching the entire episode, I can see that the actual battle wasn't the real war but, at the time, I was about to demand my money back.
– Since this episode aired on Easter, I'm curious: Has The Walking Dead ever done a holiday episode? A Very Walker Christmas? The Undead's Thanksgiving Feast? Where's our wedding episode?
– Maybe one of those new people from Woodbury can cut everyone's dang hair.
– Is it too soon to start 'shipping Rick and Michonne?
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