The episode brings to a close a series of episodes that have looked at what it takes to survive and what that does to humanity. The prison has faced and weathered a threat from within from both Carol (Melissa McBride) and the virus. The Governor (David Morrissey) has also faced a threat from within – his madness – but he has not weathered the storm. He is, in fact, too far gone. The episode leaves us with the scattering of Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) group and the destruction of the Governor’s new family, setting up a second half of this season which will hopefully focus on how our core group find each other again.
The previously on scenes prepare us for the episode. We see Michonne (Danai Gurira) kill Penny which is the first catalyst that sends the Governor truly past the point of no return. We also see Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) tell the Governor “no dead weight.” For the Governor, that dead weight is his past and his madness – the weight of those he’s killed. Morrissey does a wonderful job showing the Governor’s persuasive powers as he convinces his new community that they must do whatever it takes to keep themselves safe. He tells them that Rick and company are the murderers and thieves. He also assures them that he’s willing to take the prison without hurting anyone – a move calculated just to get everyone to comply. It almost seems that he is trying to convince himself that what he’s doing is right because he has no choice.
Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson) has already seen the transformation of Brian into the Governor, so she calls him on his actions. She doesn’t want to kill people, and she pretty clearly suspects that she is with bad people. She realizes she’s made a terrible mistake, and it’s telling that she doesn’t respond when the Governor tells her he loves her. She tries to get him to simply go somewhere else, but he insists that anyplace safe will have either people or biters – and he doesn’t trust either.
Even the Governor realizes what a good man Hershel (Scott Wilson) is – “better than Rick.” And that makes it inevitable that he has to kill Hershel because Hershel has maintained his humanity and compassion even in the face of all that has happened. The Governor will always suffer by comparison to Hershel.
The scene between Michonne, Hershel and the Governor is fantastic. The Governor is still clearly lying to himself. Michonne resorts to threatening him. I loved Hershel just telling her “stop that” and Michonne shutting up immediately. Hershel recognizes that something has changed within the Governor, but it’s not enough. Hershel appeals to the Governor’s humanity – he appeals to the Governor’s love of his daughters – the importance he puts on family. Unlike Hershel, the Governor’s concern does not extend past his own family and he tells Hershel that, simply proving that Hershel is the better man.
The symbolism of Meghan (Meyrick Murphy) not wanting to get the Governor dirty with her muddy hands is a nice touch. She tells him she’s messed it all up and he responds that she’s made it better. In fact, it’s Meghan that messes up the Governor’s attempt to walk away from the killing; she is the reason he is getting his hands dirty again. She’s made it better by giving him a reason to take control again. But she’s also given him a reason to live too, so she’s made it better from that aspect too. Family, in this new world, is complicated, and all the characters are concerned with protecting their own.
The one disappointing scene was Rick finally telling Daryl (Norman Reedus) about Carol. The scene does say a lot about how Daryl puts the group first. Rick explains that Carol said she was doing it for the group, but that she wasn’t sorry. Daryl says “that wasn’t her.” Reedus once again infuses Daryl with a thoughtfulness that makes the character so appealing. Daryl’s clearly torn at the loss of someone close to him, perhaps contemplating that he should have seen her humanity shutting off. He’s angry at Rick but realizes it was the right choice based on the agreed upon three questions. He’s worried about Carol – and tells Rick to stop saying Carol’s a survivor like he doesn’t mean it. And then Daryl thinks of the two girls that Carol was supposed to look after. Daryl doesn’t hesitate to go directly to Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) to find out how he takes the news – he’s willing to pragmatically face whatever comes next.
The Governor forces Rick to make the decisions just as the Governor himself has been forced into making those decisions again. Rick tries to fall back on the counsel, but the Governor refuses to let him. I loved that Rick and Daryl communicate the transfer of power completely non-verbally. Rick reassures Carl (Chandler Riggs) before facing the Governor. Daryl quietly takes charge. And here’s something else the show does so well: it’s a wonderful testament to the respect Daryl so easily commands, but it also showcases how Daryl tactically realizes he has to back Rick’s play by not provoking any reaction from the Governor while still protecting their people as best as he can – here by organizing the fall back plan. I loved the exchange between Daryl and Carl. Carl distrusts talking and wants to simply solve the problem through violence, through killing the Governor. It’s Daryl who explains that Carl will only start something – more violence – and that he has to trust his father.
Lincoln, Morrissey and Wilson are simply magnificent in the confrontation scene. Rick wants to negotiate. He’s choked up by emotion as he pleads for the children. It’s clear that some of the Governor’s followers are at least partially moved by Rick’s words – for example Tara (Alanna Masterson) and even Alisha (Julinana Harkavy). Mitch (Kirk Acevedo), of course, is not. The Governor makes it seem like sending sick kids out of the prison is a kindness as he could simply kill them all with a tank.
Wilson is simply brilliant as he reacts and responds to Rick’s speech, almost entirely non-verbally. He subtly encourages Rick to find compromise with just a subtle nod. Rick pleads with the Governor, but he also tells them they are willing to fight. Rick shows that he’s become the leader they need. He calls on Tara because he sees that she is having doubts about the Governor. Rick invites them all in. He appeals to their humanity – he admits that they’ve all done terrible things to survive, but this is a chance to come together, to prove that they aren’t “too far gone.” For a moment it appears that Rick may be right, he may even have gotten through to the Governor. Hershel smiles as he sees that Rick has changed. In “Internment” Hershel told Rick that life was a test. It appears that by embracing a more hopeful future, one that looks beyond the atrocities of the past, Rick has passed that test, at least for Hershel. Rick has once again become the leader that Hershel was urging him to be. Of course, this also resonates with the Steinbeck quote from that episode from Travels With Charley. Rick and company’s time at the prison is up, they are about to resume their travels.
The Governor refuses to believe there can be anything beyond the violence. He calls Rick a liar and mortally wounds Hershel. Cohen and Kinney’s reactions to Hershel’s death are incredibly powerful and genuine. I can only imagine how close the actors become on a show that demands such intense emotional reactions every week. Certainly, Cohen was still emotional on the episode of The Talking Dead that aired after the episode.
Everyone’s reactions are telling. Tara completely shuts down. The Governor coldly and dispassionately finishes hacking off Hershel’s head and looks up to see Lilly arrive with Meghan’s body. He takes Meghan from Lilly and shoots her in the head, showing no emotion. Hershel represented hope for the group in the prison, and Meghan represented hope for the Governor. Rick at least has taken on the mantel of hope for the prison. Now we have to hope that he will be able to hold onto the lessons he learned from Hershel.
While Meghan’s death was inevitable – who lets their kid play that far away from them during a zombie apocalypse, anyway? – it is also worth noting that it isn’t Meghan’s actual death that leads to the Governor attempting to kill everyone in the prison – it is the mere possibility of her death. So, while Meghan reawakened the Governor’s humanity in his wanting to care for her, his madness was too far gone to even contemplate losing her.
Maggie and Beth focus on the jobs they have to do just as Hershel taught them to. Maggie goes for Glenn but leaves Beth in charge of the bus and getting everyone to safety. The scene between Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) discussing their anniversary plans is heartbreaking in light of them being torn apart at the end of the episode. Maggie goes after Beth but ends up watching the bus leave as she helps Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green).
It was hard to choose who I wanted to kill the Governor more. At the same time, it’s a testament to the writing and Morrissey’s brilliant performances that I almost didn’t want to see him killed. Kudos to Morrissey and Lincoln for a brutal and intense fight scene. It was so satisfying to see Michonne run him through with her sword, however, coming to Rick’s rescue: both completing her own revenge and demonstrating her integration to the group. Lilly is the one to kill the Governor in the comic, so it was nice to see her get to finish the job too.
Daryl goes up against the Governor’s second, Mitch. I loved them toying with us with Daryl pinned down and being attacked from all sides. Only Daryl would use a walker as a shield! Of course, we’ll suspend our disbelief that any bullets really would have been stopped by a half rotten corpse. I loved the Star Wars moment of Daryl putting the grenade down the muzzle of the tank and Mitch popping out so that Daryl could make the kill more personal. Of course, it is remotely possible that Mitch survived. Tara also simply wanders off.
It’s ironic, of course, that it’s Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) and Mika (Kyla Kenedy) who save Tyreese because of the hard lessons that Carol taught them. On the other hand, watching Lizzie embrace her “strong” side was pretty chilling. The episode really does a wonderful job bringing to fruition one of the other threads that this season has brought into focus. What does happen to children in this new world? When Lily questions the Governor, he tells her that Meghan will survive – that’s the only goal. Rick has struggled with maintaining any of Carl’s childhood but has increasingly been forced to rely on Carl to help him and the others survive. Perhaps the most hopeful moment in the show is when Carl completely breaks down after finding the bloody baby carrier. Carl is far from losing his humanity.
Beth misses the bus because she’s trying to find the kids but she does manage to find Daryl. Carl and Rick’s reunion is poignant – another scene that Lincoln and Riggs knock out of the park. Carl is Rick’s first thought and Carl is desperate to find his father. Carl saves Rick but both are devastated by the evidence that they have lost Judith. Rick tells Carl they have to leave because “it’s over.” The time of peace that they’ve been allowed has come to an end. Is it also the end of their family? Is it the end of humanity? He tells Carl not to look back, to just keep walking. This leaves us to wonder – are they the walking dead or the walking living? Does Rick want to keep Carl from dwelling on the carnage? To keep hoping and looking to the future? Or does he mean to forget about those they are leaving behind? In a final circle back to the beginning of the episode, we see Clara (Kerry Condon) coming to the prison as a walker. In that episode, Rick told Clara that people were the best defence against the walkers. But Clara keeps chanting over and over at the end that “you don’t get to come back.” Yet here she is arriving at the prison.
We will have to wait and see if our core survivors do get to come back. Can they keep their humanity in the face of all the violence? Perhaps most importantly will they get to come back together as a group? One of the threads that will get picked up in the second half of the season is the mystery behind the eviscerated rabbit corpse that Tyreese found: who is the psychopath in their midst? In the scene just previous, we see Bob with a mysterious box – could he be the one? He doesn’t have the box by the end of the episode.
What did you think of the final episode of the first half of the season? Were you happy or sad to see the end of the Governor? Do you think everyone will make it back together? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!