This was it, everyone. The final episode of season three of The Walking Dead, “Welcome to the Tombs,” aired Sunday night on AMC. If you didn’t see “Welcome to the Tombs,” then grab some pliers and free yourself from this recap, because there are spoilers ahead.
We open with a truly chilling shot…we are behind the eyes of someone who has displeased the Governor, because we can see him leaning in, face flecked with blood, staring at us, punishing us. It becomes evident from the voice that it is Milton who is suffering here, and indeed, when the shot changes, we see him sitting on the floor, face like a punching bag, while the Governor rips into him. When the Governor throws at Milton that he has kept him safe and fed, Milton quietly replies, “As long as I looked the other way.” The Governor reveals to Milton just how much he enjoys his nihilistic embrace of bloodshed, and Milton manages ask what his daughter would’ve thought of him. The Governor unflinchingly replies, “She’d be afraid of me. But if I’d been like this from the start, she’d be alive today.”
The Governor takes Milton to his little torture chamber, where Andrea is still strapped to the chair. She is a bit bloody, but otherwise she looks little the worse for wear. The Governor orders Milton to kill her, and says if he does, he can live. He hands Milton the knife, and Milton takes a couple of nervous steps towards Andrea before turning on his former leader–but it’s too late. He doesn’t not have the reflexes, speed, or skills of the Governor…not even close. His attempt fails miserably, and in half a second the Governor has stabbed him in the gut, leaving him to bleed out on the floor, so that he can kill Andrea AFTER he’s dead, since he couldn’t do it before.
In the prison, everyone appears to be packing their things. Have they decided to flee? Carl seems especially cold and withdrawn, and a few of the others have even commented about it to Rick. Daryl observes to Carol that Merle never did anything like what he did for them in his whole life. Rick and Michonne even have a nice moment, clearing the air after all that’s transpired between them. Rick tells her that Carl was the one who first said that she belonged. “You’re one of us.”
In sharp contrast, the Governor is gathering his “soldiers” to go launch their full scale assault on the prison. Tyreese and Sasha look on, ill at ease, and Tyreese offers for the two of them to stay back and protect the elderly and very young that will be remaining behind. They want no part in killing other people. At first it appears the Governor might not accept that–he walks toward them with a gun, and Sasha stiffens a bit in fear. But he only hands the gun to Tyreese, agreeing that they can stay behind.
The battle sequence is next, and it’s a strange one. The Governor’s vehicles roll in, guns blazing. They have fairly heavy artillery at their disposal, and they make use of it all. They shoot most of the walkers wandering the yard, and shoot the guard towers, which blow up in a way that suggests that maybe they’ve been wired with something. What they DON’T encounter is any resistance, or indeed any sign at all that there are people still there. The suspenseful music pounds as they spread through the prison, checking the cells and searching for the enemy. The Governor finds a message for himself–a Bible propped open to a certain page, which has been highlighted, about those that do evil finding damnation. Probably a going away present from Herschel.
As the Governor prepares to lead his people into the bowels of the prison, we cut back to Milton, who tells Andrea about his ace in the hole. When asked to gather the Governor’s tools (prior to being stabbed) he conveniently “dropped” some pliers behind her chair. If she can reach them and manage to free herself, she might have a chance. She tries to tell him that he’s going to be okay, but all he can say is, “You are going to find something very sharp, and you are going to stab me in the head. That is what you are going to do…”
Elsewhere in Woodbury, Tyreese and Sasha wonder how difficult it will be to leave when the Governor comes back. Down in the torture chamber, Andrea has a frightening moment when it appears Milton has stopped breathing…but he chokes back to life (actual life) and asks her why she stuck around. She tells him that she HAD a chance to kill the Governor, and didn’t take it. She didn’t want anyone to die. Milton slowly breathes, “You need to hurry…”
In the lower levels of the prison (“the tombs”) the Governor’s group is jumpy. And with good reason, it seems…flashbangs go off, there is the noise of alarms and walkers lurching at them from around the corner. Then when they flee into the sunlight, Glenn and Maggie appear on the catwalks, protected by riot gear and shooting their hearts out. Herschel is with Beth, Carl and Judith, watching from the woods. It’s all over pretty quickly, as the Woodbury folks quickly pile into their vehicles and run away. Well, most of them. One young soldier is running through the woods when he encounters Herschel and the young ones. Carl immediately pulls a gun on him, and so does Herschel, but the boy quickly surrenders, and starts to hand over his weapon…which turns out not to matter, because Carl shoots him in the head.
Herschel is especially disturbed by this, and he reports what happened to Rick when the group reconvenes after the Governor’s people have cleared out. “I’m telling you. He gunned that kid down.” Rick is now faced with a grim prospect…that all Carl’s been through may have set him on a path he won’t be able to get off of.
The Governor’s caravan stops in the middle of the road at his prompting. He is filled with rage because his band of “soldiers” fled the prison instead of regrouping to stay and fight. Like any megalomaniacal general, failure for the Governor is simply not an option. He gets tunnel vision, and turns on those he was originally supposed to be protecting, gunning them down in the middle of the road. Only Martinez and one other flunkie survive, and they both look scared as shit. Well…there is ONE other survivor. The dark-haired woman, Karen, is spared because another body falls on top of hers, and she lays very still and pretends to be dead. The Governor and his two remaining henchmen hop into the truck and head off…we don’t know where.
Back in the torture chamber, Andrea is still frantically trying to pick up the pliers with her bare feet and transfer them to her hands to free herself. The clock is ticking…Milton is dead, and there is a flicker of movement in one of his hands. Reanimation will not be far behind.
Rick finds Carl and asks him directly about the incident with the Woodbury boy. Carl admits that the boy may have appeared to be turning over his gun, but he was the enemy. Carl’s icy lack of remorse is fairly disturbing to see, and it’s clear that Rick is also upset by it. In the end, the group at the prison decide to try to end things, unable to continue living in fear. They will send a small but potent contingent. Rick, Daryl and Michonne will go to Woodbury for one last ditch attempt to kill their enemy. Glenn and Maggie will stay behind to protect the prison, should any of the Governor’s people come back there. The three heading to Woodbury don’t get very far, however, before they run across the vehicles in the road, and the scene of the Governor’s slaughter of his own people, now turned into a zombie feast. As they take it in, Karen startles them by pounding on one of the vehicle windows, where she has locked herself in to keep the walkers at bay. They order her out of the car.
Andrea is still working to undo her bonds, but she can see Milton has changed. She has little time left. He slowly stands, right as she manages to undo her restraints, but did she have enough time? All we get are the sounds of a gruesome struggle as the camera pans away from the closed door, where blood has leaked out.
Rick, Daryl and Michonne approach the Woodbury walls with Karen in tow. And it is Karen who calls out to Tyreese and Sasha that they are no threat–indeed, that the Governor has completely lost it, shot most of his own people, and run off who knows where. (Seriously…where did he go?!) They let Rick and company inside, where he tells Tyreese that Andrea never made it to the prison, and they’d like to see if she’s being kept in Woodbury. Tyreese is shocked to learn the extent of the Governor’s foulness, and eventually the group reaches the torture room, where things are eerily quiet. When they open the door, we see at last what has happened…Milton is dead, but Andrea has been bitten. Now, I fully admit to never being the biggest Andrea fan, but this scene still saddened me. She’s a character who has been with the show from the beginning, and it was especially moving to see Michonne’s face covered in tears as she bid her friend goodbye. Andrea insists on taking her own life, while she can, and Michonne offers to stay with her when she does it. Rick and the others wait outside, and we wait with them, until we hear the echo of a gunshot from behind the door.
The episode ends on a strangely positive note…positive for this show, anyway. Rick, Daryl and Michonne return, but they are not alone. They bring Tyreese, Sasha, and all the other Woodbury folks who were abandoned…the very old, the very young. It is oddly moving, watching the group we know observe these strangers joining them. Only Carl, in his unfeeling new way, takes issue. “What is this?” he asks Rick rudely. As for Rick, he no longer sees Lori watching him, a sign that he’s starting to get right again in his mind with this act of kindness.
So the villain of the piece is still out there, somewhere, and we’ve bid farewell to Andrea (and Milton), but a larger community is being built, giving folks at the prison a new reason to fight when season four begins next fall. See you then!
Quote of the Night:
“I tried…” – Andrea