Looking back over The Walking Dead's grim, gory third season, I'm surprised that last night's finale, "Welcome to the Tombs," was relatively easy on our heroes. Though everything pointed to a bloodbath--including The Walking Dead's overzealous Twitter feed—the finale killed off just one of our longtime main characters: Andrea, a character whose death seemed fairly inevitable, and who we've all been complaining about for a while now. I'll leave it to you guys to eulogize Andrea, but I will say that Laurie Holden is a fine actress—and that her final scenes, which included a clever callback to her introduction in Season 1, were a perfect way to send her character off.
If only the rest of the episode had worked as well. I hate to criticize The Walking Dead as its all-time best season comes to an end, but this was an enormously underwhelming finale. On one hand, I'm glad that the denouement to the prison/Woodbury conflict wasn't too predictable—we've all been assuming for weeks now that Andrea, Rick, or Michonne would stab out the Governor's other eye before the third season came to a close, and that certainly didn't happen. On the other hand, who knew that unpredictability could be this boring? I'm exhausted by the idea that we'll be spending even more time with Governor, a character long past his sell-by date, when season four picks up next fall. As much as we've all been predicting it, the Governor shouldn't have been killed just because this was the series finale; he should have been killed because there's nowhere else for him to go. The Walking Dead isn't above hastily rewriting its characters without explanation—see Carol, Michonne, et al.--but it can't un-crazy the Governor, and any doubts about whether his character had dead-ended were resolved when he blew away the rest of his fellow Woodbury-ians.
I hate to criticize The Walking Dead as its all-time best season comes to an end, but this was an enormously underwhelming finale.
I'm particularly frustrated by the Governor because it's so easy to imagine how much more compelling his character could have been. If he'd been a little less crazy--no heads in aquariums would have been a nice start--The Walking Dead could have positioned him as an intriguing, plausible alternative to Rick, instead of a mustache-twirling villain. I'm intrigued by the episode's other major development, which saw Carl needlessly shoot a surrendering enemy because of the potential threat that he posed--but if the show is positioning Carl as a proto-Governor, it should have made the Governor a little less cartoonish in the first place.
I once made the case that The Walking Dead would be better off without series creator Frank Darabont as showrunner, and once again, I think new blood might not be the worst thing for this show. Glen Mazzara deserves ample credit for guiding this show through its best era (the latter half of Season Two and the first half of Season Three), but this final run of episodes has been an absolute mess—and "Clear," the only real standout, was written by The Walking Dead's new showrunner, Scott M. Gimple.
But as I think about where The Walking Dead can go from here, I having a hard time imagining—and, honestly, a hard time caring. The Governor is now some kind of Merle-esque boogeyman, ready to drop back in whenever the series needs an overwrought, overacted villain again. Rick and company are turning the prison into some kind post-apocalyptic Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. If I had it my way, I'd use this (presumably temporary) happy ending to leave our heroes altogether, and pick up the fourth season with an entirely different group of survivors in an entirely different part of the country--but going on the fairly safe assumption that a full-on Walking Dead reboot is out of the question, I'll settle for hoping that Scott M. Gimple has a plan to turn this uneven zombie TV show into the incredible zombie TV show that it's always threatened to be.
Here, as before, Scott carries the burden of fair-mindedness for the Walking Dead Roundtable. I know that the three of us here—Scott, Jeff, and me—brought a common spirit of generosity to the show from he outset and through much of Season 3. But I think Scott has done the best job of maintaining it. Well, Jeff's given him a run for his money. Maybe they tied. I just know that, despite intentions, I've come in by the end of the season dead last.