Guns, grenades, and goodbyes. No, it's not a Bruno Mars song, it's the Walking Dead's mid-season finale, which kept viewers glued to their seats. Honestly not since the Red Wedding have I sat so stunned at what I was seeing. Not that it wasn't expected (much like the RW), but expectations often lack the shocking factor of seeing it actually happen. The reason I was shocked? The whole episode was really good. The acting, the atmosphere, the action: it was all done better than the past two seasons put together.
Throughout the past four seasons, The Walking Dead has built up a reputation for starting off with action packed episodes but the storyline and development quickly deteriorates into a cluster of characters with no real sense of direction. Almost like the writers hadn’t planned that far ahead. Maybe they only watched the last few seasons of Lost? This season has been different. Walkers were everywhere outside the prison, their presence a constant reminder that even the simplest tasks can be deadly. But the writers really leaned on what was going on with the characters and their lives. The drama this season started off inside – the illness being the first direct threat – and worked its way out until the governor resurfaced. Suddenly the zombies weren’t on the other side of the fences, they were inside the prison. After wiping out just about all but the main cast (duh), they finally got over it and were looking forward to moving past the death.
And that’s when the governor showed up. It was another reminder of how much danger Rick’s group is in constantly. Despite their vigilance and careful preparations, some things will always be out of their control. Essentially, the group had become comfortable in their daily routine of making sure everything was safe. But it was all an illusion when the governor used his manipulation skills to grab a tank and hack Herschel with a sword. Rick’s police skills were rarely used this season but sometimes, you catch a glimpse of how great of a cop he really must have been. Unfortunately, the governor is nothing short of a monster. So he does something super stupid and tears down the only thing that separates the walkers from the living: the fences. Without the fences, as Rick pointed out, the prison is useless. For a while, the two men talk it out but as the past season showed, the governor is hell bent on destroying Rick. So for all his talk of it not being personal, his decision to kill everyone in the prison – children included – and run over the fences shows how deeply his hatred for Rick goes.
The entire episode up until Rick’s speech is teaming with tension as both groups have their guns pointed at each other from a distance with Michonne and Herschel held hostage but Rick's group is outnumbered and definitely out-tanked. Then all hell broke loose and we saw that Rick and his people were probably expecting this for some time. Their safety protocols allowed some of the children and others to leave, including a still very sick Glenn. Beth has been hanging around Carl too much as her listening skills have lessened. Her only instruction was to stay in the bus. But of course she doesn’t, forcing Maggie back into the fray to look for her. Beth finds Daryl, who has just destroyed a tank with a grenade, and the two leave for safety while Rick and the governor go at each other. Rick puts up a good fight but since farming doesn’t help ninja skills, the governor almost kills him. Michonne puts a sword through the governor’s chest and she and Rick go find Carl, who is the poster boy for missing people. But then she seems to disappear. Carl and Rick reunite only to realize they have no idea where Judith is. Now we definitely know Judith is Rick and Lori’s child since even as a baby, she is never where she is supposed to be. However, the two find her car seat empty with blood but it doesn’t appear that walkers know how to work a car seat so there is also the possibility that someone, in the midst of the chaos, found the baby and took her away. Of course, it wasn’t Carl’s fault the baby was outside. Blame that on the kids who just set her down like a bag and tried to help the grownups.
That brings us to the best part of the episode. Lizzie, the older girl who named the walkers, takes out two adults in a super badass way. Just the look on Alicia’s face when she saw how much they underestimated the prison group was priceless. Not gonna lie, watching Alicia get a bullet in her head was the highlight of the episode for me because she was going to kill Tyreese so you know, she had to go. However, I really hated that it wasn’t Maggie who took out the governor. I think out of everyone, she deserved to do the deed since he held her prisoner, made her strip and threatened to rape her and then killed her father in front of her. That is so much worse than Andrea. Also, can Rick please not get his ass kicked all the time? He held his own against Tyreese but he can’t with the governor? Come on now. Instead of Michonne dealing the final blow, it was Lily who put a bullet through his brain. He deserved so much worse than that.
But the governor wasn’t the only thing happening. Rick told Daryl about him letting Carol go and he did not take it well. Still, his maturity was shown as he went with Rick to tell Tyreese. That’s when the rat situation from the first episode came back up. Just as Rick is about to tell Tyreese it was Carol who killed his lady love, the governor arrived. So there are two more situations that were postponed this episode that have yet to be resolved.
So with all the chaos that happened this Sunday, there are three major questions for fans to ponder over: Where is Judith and will she get a better name if she’s alive; where and how are the survivors going to regroup; and lastly, what’s in store next? Though the show is infamous for terrible second parts of their seasons, the careful development of both the characters and the plot through the first half make me hopeful that these writers have a plan that makes sense.