The Walking Dead Season 4 has been blatant in its exploration of leadership, a person’s ability to change despite the circumstances around them, and really, the dichotomy between Rick and the Governor.
So naturally, everything was forced to come to a head in a showdown that felt like a do-over of The Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 16. This was the prison versus Woodbury all over again.
Except this time, the Governor finally met his demise, the prison was destroyed and the survivors scattered broken and battered in separate directions.
It’s kind of sad to think that people in a zombie apocalypse would blindly follow someone who just met the group, took over and urged them to fight and possibly kill other survivors because the only safe location for them to live was one specific Georgia prison.
Is that really how many of us would act in the same situation? Desperate times call for desperate measures, maybe?
At least Hershel and Rick tried to suggest living together peacefully. And at least one out of how many of the nameless Woodbury 2.0 people thought it was ridiculous to listen to a guy who cut a man’s head off in response to the notion of surviving together and being able to change as a person.
I’m glad the Governor’s story finally ended, even if it’s disappointing that he never really went anywhere as a character.
The show tried to offer a sliver of hope for him in The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 6, but ultimately, he ended up being the same crazy guy we’d seen before. Sure, he could be menacing at times and he could be nice at times, but we barely scratched the surface of the Governor in the series’ attempts to make him the evil version of Rick, one that oftentimes seemed cartoonish in his endeavors.
It even felt like for the first half of the hour, the Governor spent most of his time posturing, telling Rick his plans, telling Rick they can’t live together, basically just telling Rick things while standing on a tank.
I liked hearing Rick’s responses about change, about making things work, even if they seemed repetitive and obviously not going to work on the megalomaniac leader.
But it was Hershel’s head getting cut off that sent everything into a gripping, action packed piece that offered the audience the real and final closing of one chapter and the possibility of a brand new one, even if hope seems rather unattainable anymore.
I had that sinking feeling for the wise old farmer with every close up that centered on his face, the more he smiled at listening to Rick’s words and sentiments that echoed his own. I didn’t want him to get hacked apart with Michonne’s sword and cringed when the Governor swung the fateful blow. It was a powerful moment that spun everything out of control.
So out of control that the tank just shot at random things, wrecking the sanctuary the lemming group was trying to attain in the first place. Good job random people attacking the prison who would eventually get shot because somebody has to.
Although, I had a far easier time forgiving those moments in order to watch the core survivors, the ones we’ve come to know, struggle to deal with the situation and a fallout that pulled me in.
Rick’s hand to hand fight with the Governor was intense, and much needed after all these two had been able to do prior was chat or randomly shoot at each other. This was personal and more effective.
I guess I’m OK with Michonne being the one to kill the Governor, although, I worried when she walked away that he would find some silly way to survive. And I guess you could argue it was fitting for Lily, his new love, to put the final bullet in his head after his lunatic plan went awry and her daughter was killed by a walker in the mud.
I’m just more glad that his time is done and the series can try something else.
Another heartbreaking moment was seeing Rick and Carl’s emotional reunion turn into tragedy at the bloodstained baby carrier that held Judith. I’m glad the two have each other, but after a death like that (I hope it’s not a cheap trick of she’s still alive because we didn’t see the body ploy) moving forward seems like a dark place indeed.
Certainly, the whole Carol conversation was cut rather short (loved Daryl’s intensity over the ordeal without going overboard) and we really missed out on seeing the group deal with that decision, but the hour wound up in a better place than it started.
And as much as I can find problems with The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 8, the end result gave the show it’s chance to head towards something that will hopefully be fresh and new. While sadly, there will be no more Hershel, The Walking Dead can change for the good with no more location complacency, no more Governor, no more Woodbury 1 or 2, and no more spinning the wheels of a story that should have ended last season.
I'm excited to see the show capitalize on this opportunity when it returns in February.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.