The Walking Dead: 4.08 - Too Far Gone
Beware: Spoilers and strong language right from the start of this review.
Holy cow! That’s more like it! After Walking it's way through the first half of the season, The Walking Dead finally reanimated itself and returned with a massive episode. After giving over its previous two weeks to The Governor, it starts this mid-season finale - since when did that become a ‘thing’ - with him pitching his prison takeover plan to his new crew. And we also see what happened after last weeks cliffhanger, he’s got Michonne and Hershel as hostages!
So here we go. The music starts and the first couple of minutes already have you hoping, expecting, that they’ll pull this season up by its britches. And they certainly do. Despite bringing Rick and the gang back into play (we first see a scene between Glenn and Maggie, then Daryl and Rick discussing the Carole decision, and a bit of Bob and Sasha), the first half belongs to The Governor. There’s a return to the good/bad people motif (Lilly “You said they weren’t all bad people”, The Gov “Well they’re with bad people.”), the feeling of deja vu as The Governor feels reborn (“I don’t wanna die, I don’t want you to die.”), and an excellent scene between him and Hershel, where you start to believe he really does want it to go down peacefully. His reaction (“Don’t call me that!”) when Hershel addresses him as “The Governor” gives you renewed hope that he’s changed, and the moment he hugs Meghan is the first time I genuinely felt warmth toward him.
Sadly that feeling doesn’t last long. In the most tense scene the show has delivered for a long long time, The Governor, stood on his tank and far too smug for his own good, forces Rick to speak with him. As the faintly 1980’s Terminator style music ramps up the tension you can see the panic spreading through Rick’s body at the thought of having to step up to the plate and make decisions about people's lives, it’s a terrific bit of underplayed acting from Andrew Lincoln. The polar opposite is The Governor, with his icy cool and completely in control stance and manner of speech, he thinks he holds all the cards, and David Morrissey is in full flow in his excellent portrayal of the shades of the character. After Rick announces he’s no longer in charge and that there’s a council, The Governor shows his hand (“Is Hershel on the council?” out comes Hershel, “Is Michonne on the council?” out comes Michonne.). Of course, he’s overplayed his hand and Rick is by now wrestling with his conscience and doing a grand standing speech about no-one being “too far gone” for everyone to live together in the prison. Just as it looks like he’s winning over The Governor's camp we see Hershel, he knows it won’t work. And it doesn’t, the red mist descends and The Governor katanas Hershel in the neck, all hell breaks loose (screaming and shooting), and he then finishes butchering the old man by chopping his head off completely! Holy whatsits.
Whilst all this has been going on there’s been the saddest scene of the season so far, Meghan has been bitten. For all The Governor’s wrongdoing his relationship with the little girl has been one of the most tender on the show. Not any more.
As Lilly turns up at the gunfight with the lifeless Meghan in her arms, The Governor looks up from Hershel’s headless body, takes Meghan in his arms AND SHOOTS HER IN THE FACE! In that scene we see the last vestige of hope that things will turn out OK for him disappear. The gunfight moves closer to the prison and a variety of characters get it, mostly on The Governor's side, and then finally we get the match-up we’ve waiting a year for, Rick versus The Governor. It’s a bloody pulp of a fight, neither man will to give an inch, until Rick’s face is bludgeoned to a bloody mess and The Governor is in the final act of strangling him, but we know Rick won’t die. Don’t we? Yes, as Michonne runs The Governor through with the katana, though she doesn’t finish him off, she just leaves him there to bleed out.
During the final twenty minutes of the show the rest of the prison gang are split up and strewn across the countryside. Tyreese and the little girls, Bob and Maggie, Glenn and a bus full of extras, Daryl and Beth, and most heartbreakingly Rick and Carl. Why heartbreaking? The bloodied empty baby carrier that used to hold Judith…
A fantastic episode that ranks right up there with the best of them, and shows what the cast and writers can accomplish when they get it right. It’s unlikely you’ll see a more thrilling or emotional hour of television this year (except maybe that episode of Game Of Thrones). It’s also accomplished the task of moving the team on from the prison. The show has struggled the most when it gets too settled, the farm in Season Two, being the other example.
So where to now? Hershel and The Governor are no more, characters are scattered, Carole is out there somewhere, some crazy person (remember the rats) is still around, there are plenty of places to go. The major downside is just as the season gets going we’ve got to wait two months until February. See you then...