As every season of every beloved shows draws to a close, the finale is the one episode that is highly anticipated and yet so bitter sweet. The Walking Dead has consistently not disappointed its audience during a finale, and this season certainly passed that muster.
The episode opened on a close up of The Governor’s (David Morrissey) good eye, almost as though we are staring into his soul, as he leaves punch after punch to the face of a person we cannot see. It is quickly revealed that the master is beating his prized dog, Milton (Dallas Roberts), who is only worried about Andrea (Laurie Holden). Friends till the end, when The Governor tells Milton he will be the one to kill Andrea, he tries to turn the tables and stab The Governor, which backfires. As Milton lays dying, he talks Andrea through getting a hold of a pair of pliers to free herself and take care of him before he turns.
As a counterpoint to the war being waged behind closed doors in Woodbury, the prison group is packing up camp. Rick and Carl’s relationship is as tense as it ever has been. Rick still thinks of Carl as a child to be protected and tells Glenn that it is so easy to forget how young he is. Across the yard, Carol and Daryl briefly mention Merle’s heroic moment and Carol says what we all were thinking: “he gave us a chance.” In one last moment of softness, Michonne and Rick share a moment of acceptance. Finally, she is accepted as one of them.
In the streets of Woodbury, The Governor is gearing up for war. Seeing through the mound of BS, Ty (Chad L. Coleman) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) says they will stay behind and guard Woodbury. This, ultimately, is the smart choice. The Governor hands over a gun and thanks him, but there is little (if any) emotion behind it – his vendetta has clouded any part of the man he used to be. As the army trucks carrying The Governor’s soldiers barrel into the prison yard, the music takes on the sound of a beating heart. A walker massacre ensues as they storm into the prison with guns drawn, prepared for a fight. What they are greeted with is eerie silence and an empty cell block. As The Governor examines where our nuclear group had been living, his eye falls on a Bible. As he reads the highlighted verse, John 5:29, he throws the book away in disgust, not letting Hershel’s faith blind his own selfish motives.
Blindly, stupidly, The Governor plows ahead into the once-walker-infested bowels of the prison. Much to the dismay of his and his townspeople turned soldier, flash bombs go off, drawing the attention of a few remaining walkers and causing mass chaos. As they retreat back to their vehicles, Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and Glenn (Steven Yeun), dressed in S.W.A.T. gear, spray them with bullets to hasten their retreat. In the bushes, Carl (Chandler Riggs) is angry that he was out on baby duty instead of being in the prison yard defending their home. As a young man from The Governor’s brigade runs up on the group, Carl levels a weapon at him and, ignoring his surrender, puts him down. Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) disapproval in the background is palpable.
In a rush of relief, half of Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) little group wants to celebrate their scaring off The Governor while the other half wants to charge after him and finish this once and for all. As they file back inside, Hershel explains Carl’s gunning down of the young man who met them in the woods. Rick, wanting to believe his son is a mirror image of him, refuses to believe that he shot the boy in cold blood until Hershel makes him believe it. The look on Ricks face says it all – how could his own flesh and blood be as cold and callous as The Governor himself?
In a locked room hidden away in Woodbury, Andrea finally gets hold of the pliers that Milton so smartly left for her. Time after excruciating time, we think Milton has breathed his last, only for him to open his mouth and push Andrea to hurry. Throughout all of this, we come to find out that all Andrea ever wanted was to keep people from being killed. In that quest, she ultimately killed so many others (let us not forget the night standing over a sleeping Governor with a perfectly good blade). As she fumbles with the chains of the handcuffs that are cutting into her wrists, Milton begins to reawaken as a flesh-eating walker intent on gorging himself. As she scrambles and finally gets herself free, Milton is nearly on her, and with a blood curdling scream from her lips, we stare at the outside of the room and are left to wonder.
As The Governor and his soldiers charge toward home, he pulls the caravan over and is ganged up on by a group of angry townspeople used to having barbecues and cage fights for entertainment. As The Governor gets tunnel vision, he raises his weapon and kills the lot of them. As he climbs into his truck, his last two reminiscing men sliding in with him and an emotion creeps in. Is it grief or guilt over what he had just done? Disgust at who he had become? Or was it fear knowing that he no longer has the control? Only the season 4 premiere can answer such questions.
As Rick, Michonne and Daryl prepare to end things with The Governor once and for all, Rick takes a moment to have a heart-to-heart with Carl. His concern for how hard his son has become is evident, but Carl somehow finds it in himself to make Rick think twice. Time after time Rick, has let someone live who has been the cause of a death among their group. Rick’s moral compass makes him want to believe in people, and while it has led to some severe repercussions, if he were to lose that, he would lose himself.
As they travel, they come upon the massacre that The Governor left in his wake. The sole survivor, a girl we come to know as Karen (Melissa Ponzio), smartly hid herself beneath the fallen body of another towns person. Rick, seeing the proof of The Governors tendencies, decides they will take her with them to Woodbury. Once there, a cease fire is called and the two warring sides finally get to talk and find out the truth: Andrew never made it to the prison and The Governor murdered innocent people in cold blood. Knowing where Glenn and Maggie were held, Rick charges in on the hunt for Andrea. A deep red pool of blood flows from beneath the door where she was locked and, fearing the worst, Rick unbolts it. A fully deceased Milton lays in the middle of the floor while a very ill Andrea slumps against the wall. In her struggle for survival, Andrea was bitten before she could end Milton’s time as a walker. With her final breaths she asks about the others at the prison before asking to be the one to end her own life. Ever the peace maker, she would never want one of her friends to have to put her down. With tears in her eyes, Michonne says she isn’t leaving her and as Rick and the others leave her to the peace of her death she utters her last sentence: “I tried.”
As the sun rises on the prison, so does it on a new order of things. Rick returns with a bus full of the remaining residents of Woodbury and the body of their departed friend. While Carl may not be too thrilled with this change of events, the new comers are welcomed by the others. Rick takes a moment to glance up at the walkway where he has seen the ghost of his wife so many times, and waits for her to appear. However, his moral compass is again pointing North and there is no longer need for a reminder.
While this season was plagued with some intensely emotional moments and a twisted psycho with one eye, I am sure that next season will be just as, if not more, emotionally jarring and exciting. Here is to season four and surviving the next seven months of The Walking Dead withdrawal.