The third season of The Walking Dead, which ended last night, was as good as, if not better than, the show has ever been. At least, that's true for the eight episodes leading into its Christmas break. But since it returned in 2013? Well, that's a different story.
(Warning: spoilers from last night's finale of The Walking Dead follow.)
It's been three weeks since Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and The Governor (David Morrissey) sat down, face to face, in that barn with all the wheat silos around it, to discuss terms of peace. Rick suggested The Governor leave them alone, confining them to the prison and a bit of land around it; The Governor counter-offered that Rick hand over Michonne (Danai Gurira). Then that great song by Fink played, and it became clear that The Guv was just going to kill everybody.
Three weeks, folks. And in that three weeks we've had The Governor chasing Andrea (Laurie Holden) through an abandoned warehouse and somehow fighting off 30-odd biters, Milton (Dallas Roberts) burning Woodbury's supply of walkers to death-death, and Rick struggling with whether or not to hand Michonne over while Merle (Michael Rooker) took the samurai-sword-wielding badass on a road trip and gave his own life trying to take out the bad guys.
That three-week gap, and the anticlimactic (and, even worse, unresolved) finale last night, summed up my biggest frustration with the second half of The Walking Dead's third season: we've been building and building in intensity to a confrontation that didn't actually happen.
There's no easy way to say it: last night's finale was a straight-up disappointment.
Oh, sure, there were some great moments in the last few weeks: Merle's plan for taking out The Governor (involving a car and a Motorhead album) was inspired, and the intensity was at an all-time high during the confrontation between Rick and The Governor, and the week after during that chase scene in the abandoned warehouse. And the 12th episode of the season, titled Clear, which found Rick, Carl and Michonne running into Morgan (Lennie James) for the first time since the pilot episode, might have been the single best episode of the season.
But the season is left unresolved*. A cliffhanger at the end of a season is a great thing, keeping us interested in a show till it returns. An unresolved thread at the end of a season, on the other hand, is a disaster. And by not dealing with The Governor properly, by letting him disappear into who-knows-where with a couple of his henchman mere moments after he went full psycho and gunned down a group of his own people, the show is unresolved.
Season 3 was building and building to a showdown in the finale, a showdown that never truly happened. You couldn't even call it a showdown: the only people who got a shot off at The Governor's troops were Glen and Maggie, the resident wet blankets. Everyone else was hiding out in the forest.
Even those scenes were handled badly. There was no suspense when The Governor stormed the prison, because we'd already seen Rick and Co packing up to leave. And when The Governor turned his gun on his own people, it was something of a departure for a character that has become more ruthless as the season moved along but never really shown any disdain for his own people.
I also disliked the Andrea/Milton scenes, which played like an excuse for The Governor to deliver the admittedly epic line "you kill or you die, or you die and you kill". In the course of two weeks, the show has killed off three characters - Andrea, Milton, Merle - who I felt were among the most interesting in the series. And why on earth would Rick empty out Woodbury and bring its inhabitants back to the prison? That makes no sense whatsoever.
The Walking Dead's third season had a fantastic first half, but it really went pear-shaped since its return in February. It remains a great show, and I'll continue to tune in. But that season finale was an utter disappointment. The show will need to win fans (like me) back when it returns in October.
Did you watch the Season 3 finale of The Walking Dead? What did you think? Did you enjoy the season as a whole?
(*) It's worth pointing out that Glen Mazzara - who wrote last night's finale - was replaced as showrunner by Scott M Gimple, who wrote the episodes with Morgan and with Merle's death. How much the latter half of the season, and this disappointing finale, had to do with Mazzara's exit is unclear.