“I’m afraid of terrorists who want what we have.” — Philip “The Governor” Blake
We’ve finally reached the mid-season finale of season 3 of The Walking Dead. It’s one that changes the dynamics on both groups we’ve come to know through this season’s first half. The season has been a tale of two cities. We have the one with the imposing prison where Rick and his people have chosen to use as their safe haven though losing a couple of their own in the process of doing so. On the other side is the almost-idyllic town of Woodbury where it’s leader in the Governor plots to keep his charges safe but also unaware of what truly transpires before his charming smile. It’s not just about the differences between the two groups of survivors but between the men who lead them.
“Made to Suffer” begins with a new group of survivors in a forest being attacked by a number of zombies. It’s a small group of five and we learn quickly enough the name of the group’s leader. It’s a name that’s been speculated on since the start of the show over two year ago. There were rumors that the writers had decided that the character might not ever make it to the show since it was already starting to bulge around the edges with some many names both main and supporting. While the secret about this character (who was an integral part of the comic book for almost five years) appearing on the show was revealed a couple weeks ago tonight saw the first appearance of Tyreese to the merry band of survivors.
The introduction of Tyreese should make for an interesting second half to this season as we get another Alpha Male to compete for the leadership role on the show that already has Rick and the Governor. For the moment Tyreese and his small group of survivors must contend with a much more resourceful leader-in-training in Carl who has been left behind to protect the other half of the group in the prison while Rick and his group went onto Woodbury.
Tonight’s episode was all about the confrontation between Prison vs Woodbury that’s been building up all throughout this first half of the third season. The fact that the writers made this confrontation not last through most of the third season is another sign that this season is more about keeping the story on the move instead of stopping to contemplate on the nature of the new world and its affect on those left behind. This narrative style of less is more has done wonders in making the show regain the tension that was built during the truncated first season, but was almost wasted in the sophomore effort.
With the Rick group sneaking into Woodbury to rescue Maggie and Glenn we get to finally see how the two competing groups would stack up when put up against each other. To say that Rick and his people look to be the better survivors would be an understatement. As we’ve learned throughout this first half of season 3 Rick has honed his band of survivors into an efficient group of killing machines. They move in precise, military-like manner to the point that even the Governor could see it and knew they were outclassed despite his group’s numerical superiority. It’s a testament to the hardship Rick and his people had to go through during the months between season 2 and 3 out in the wilderness in a day-to-day survival mode. It’s made his group hardened veterans with no weak links. On the other hand, the Governor has kept such a tight grip on power and information flow with the survivors in Woodbury that most were ill-equipped to deal with any attack of sufficient force.
One cannot say that Rick’s own methods were better than the Governor’s but the difference between the two seem to be that where the former sheriff’s deputy acted like a dictator in his own way he also kept everyone in the loop with what he wanted to do. The same couldn’t be said about the Governor who seemed to keep most everyone except for a handful of confederates at arm’s length. Even one of his most trusted lieutenant’s in Merle he didn’t fully trust. This differences between these two leaders meant a successful, albeit a costly one, rescue operation by episode’s end.
By the end of the episode we also find out that things might not be right with Rick mentally as we were led to believe after his bout with the prison telephone. The weight of leadership looks to be creating strains on Rick that could prove detrimental to the survival of those he cares about as we await the season’s return in a couple months. We also learn that the Governor doesn’t stand betrayal too easily as we see his reaction to the return of Michonne and the aftermath of that return. Both leaders are now set to suffer the consequences of their two groups meeting up. Rick losing two of his people (though as we see at the cliffhanger ending to the episode that there’s still hope for a fan favorite to survive) and the Governor losing whatever grip on humanity he might have had with the true death to his zombie daughter Penny.
This mid-season finale has been everything the season has been remaking the show to be. It’s been fast, thrilling and bare bones. We still don’t know too much about some of the side characters on the show, but we get glimpses to their changes through actions rather than long-winded expository scenes that weighted down the second season. Tonight’s episode shed a light on characters and their motivations and most of it through dialogue-free sequences. Even the speech made by the Governor in the end showed a lot about this man’s personality and done so without making it sound like it was for the audiences benefit and not to move the story forward.
It’s going to be a long two month wait, but as we’ve seen with the show’s fans even during a maddening and frustrating season 2 it’s a fan-base that will come back and come back hungry for more of The Walking Dead. The question now is whether this prison vs Woodbury story arc will finish this second half of the season or will we continue to see the prison as a setting for the show beyond season 3.
- Tonight’s episode was directed by series regular Billy Gierhart and written by series producer and creator of the comic book, Robert Kirkman.
- Welcome Tyreese and his ever-present claw-hammer.
- A name from the comics but used on a throwaway character (same as the comic) appear in the cold opening: Donna.
- Now we have an idea why the prison doesn’t seem to be running out of zombies even after the initial clear out by Rick and his people then after Rick’s Killpocalypse rampage during episode 5.
- Glenn definitely is made of sterner stuff this season and has a MacGuyver streak in him by creating makeshft shivs out of a zombies splintered forearm bones.
- Axel is still an unknown factor on the show despite helping Rick and his group earlier in the season, but his interaction with both Beth and Carol was both creepy and hilarious.
- Carl doesn’t like Axel making the moves on his woman.
- Nice move by Mazzara and the producers to bring back Jon Bernthal to make a brief, but important cameo, in tonight’s episode as Shane.
- Despite being outnumbered it’s really interesting to note how much more dangerous Rick’s group when compared to the Governor and his Woodbury Bunch. Even the Governor admits that his people are survivors and not military who he thinks Rick and his people are.
- Carl is becoming more and more like Rick: Taking charge though he doesn’t seem to want to and looking at the world through a pragmatist’s eyes.
- Even Tyreese can see that Carl is more man than boy now. Carl has improved and gotten a major reset this season while another character like Andrea just continues to stump the writers.
- Fight between Michonne and the Governor was even better than the one between Rick and Shane from season 2 and that’s saying something considering those two’s fight was one brutal of a fight.
- We end the episode with a side profile view of the Governor’s face that’s literally a cover artwork from the comic book.
- Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 12.
Past Season 3 Episode Review
- Episode 1: “Seed”
- Episode 2: “Sick”
- Episode 3: “Walk With Me”
- Episode 4: “Killer Within”
- Episode 5: “Say the Word”
- Episode 6: “Hounded”
- Episode 7: “When the Dead Come Knocking”