The Walking Dead: "Welcome to the Tombs" (Season 3, Episode 16)


Well, that was different.

Dramatically, you could say it worked. Thematic resolution of a sort occurred, and in real life, things often do end with a whimper rather than a true bang. Still, the sense of proportion seemed off in a couple of places. Basically, Rick and Co. came up with a rather weak plan, but triumphed anyway because the Governor went nuts.

That could happen in real life. Historically, it no doubt has. It just feels a little odd on the boob tube where carnage is so relentlessly driven to scenically climactic ends. Or, if you want to put a positive spin on it, maybe some redemption is overdue on this show.

The opening is riveting in a very nasty way. We swirl out from the Governor’s pupil to his full face in a fantastic shot that drives home the analogy of the last few weeks—he may still be alive, but he’s already a walker. He’s also punching Milton repeatedly in the face, torturing his pal for the sin of betrayal (i.e., burning the attack walkers in that pit two episodes ago). We also learn that eight men died in Merle’s assault. As we will see later, they were disproportionately the Governor’s hardened shock troops.

The Governor takes a battered Milton to where Andrea is still tied to that dentist chair turned prison restraint. He tells Milton to collect the tools on the table. Milton thoughtfully drops them and makes sure a pair of pliers is left behind the chair. But as he’s leaving , the Governor gives him a knife and orders him to kill Andrea. Milton tries to take out the Governor and fails. The Governor stabs him repeatedly in the abdomen and leaves him to die. So he will kill Andrea eventually. After he turns.

Back at the prison, the Grimes crew is packing up to leave. The prison has never looked better, either. It’s light and airy. The whole thing feels like your last day in an apartment, when you’re scrubbing and cleaning to get that deposit back. Lots of inspirational dialogue, too. It’s almost like we’re graduating all over again.

The Governor is loading up troops in Woodbury, whipping them into froth by promising to finish the prison threat once and for all. Tyrese is kind of freaked by the whole thing. He and Sasha opt out, saying they’ll stay to look after the women and children and leave afterward, if that’s what the Governor wants. Ha. If the Governor makes it back they are so dead, his brusque “Thank You” notwithstanding.

At the prison, the Governor’s convoy blows up one tower, machine guns another with the turret mount, then blows up a third. As an encore, they dispatch the few walkers in the field with as wildly wasteful a display of extended automatic weapons fire as you’re likely to see on TV. It does make the point, however, that his remaining twenty or so troops are much less disciplined than those Merle dispatched last week. Strangely enough, they find no one as they advance inward.

Andrea remains exasperating to the end. The dying Milton has told her about the pliers. She needs to pick them up with her feet and free herself. So what does she do? She reminisces with him, trading brief synopses of things we already know while emoting about why things have wound up this way. Finally, the dying Milton has to point out the obvious: “You need to hurry.”

That would be correct.

Finding no one in the main prison, the Governor decides on a stupid course of action. He splits his force into two and descends into the dark “tombs” devoid of windows. Even Milton would have told him that’s dumb. They eventually run into a booby trap consisting of flash bangs that fill the corridor with smoke while some walkers come out. Everyone flees pell mell. Outside, Maggie and Glenn are in tactical gear; they’ve been hiding in tactical on a shielded causeway. They start strafing the survivors coming out, but oddly don’t seem to hit many.

The Governor’s second string warriors have had enough. They make for the cars and head out. One of them, a teenage boy by the looks, stumbles into the woods and runs across Carl protecting Beth and Judith. He and Hershel draw down on the intruder, who proceeds to surrender and offer his gun. Carl plugs him anyway.

This is where the weakness of the Grimes plan bothers me. It seemed intended more to scare the Woodbury attackers than kill them. That would be all well and good if John Wayne is going to come riding over the hill with the 3rd Cavalry tomorrow. But he ain’t. Basically, Team Prison just sacrificed a good deal of its defensive capabilities as well as the element of surprise to make their enemy momentarily leave.

We’re supposed to ponder the potential brutalization of Carl, but against the backdrop of this particular plan, maybe Carl gets it. This is their one chance to do the enemy serious damage. Maybe they should take it.

Maybe Glen and Maggie should have been aiming at torsos instead of strafing. But I suppose that wouldn’t fit the redemption theme so well, now would it?

Fortunately, our heroes are saved from the potential consequences of their actions by Governor ex machina. When he pulls his people over on the road, they’re not enthused about going back. So he snaps and guns them down. All twenty or so, with the exception of Martinez and some other guy. Seriously. He destroyed his own army. His town with it, too.

What’s more shocking, Martinez and the other guy get in a truck and drive off with him. Now, I don’t know about you, but having seen that particular flavor of local labor relations, I’d be looking for new employment.

The other problem with Rick’s plan? Team Prison decides it should follow the Governor and finish this. So he, Darryl and Michonne head out to do it.

Three people.

Three whole people.

I don’t care how battle-hardened they are. If Governor ex machina doesn’t conveniently lose it and annihilate his own force, which they can’t expect, they’re toast. You don’t over pursue a still intact force in small numbers. That’s how victories get lost.

That’s what I meant about proportions in the beginning. Rick’s plan doesn’t seem properly developed for the big showdown anticipated. Heck, his threesome got pinned down by Tyrese with a rifle at the gates of Woodbury. Just imagine if a fuming Governor and his pissed off army had been there. Rick would have been Custer doing a reenactment of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Fortunately, Rick had rescued the one survivor of the Governor’s massacre. Some woman called Karen. I’ve got a cousin named Karen, so I’m cool with that. She explains to Tyrese how the Governor went nuts and they go off together to find Andrea. She killed walker Milton, but alas got bit in the process. So Rick hands her a gun.

RIP. But Milton did tell she should have worked faster.

We end with the remaining Woodbury folk on a bus going to the prison to live. Rick looks up where he’s been seeing Lori’s ghost and she’s not there. There’s only sunshine. It’s an obvious metaphor for Rick surviving as a morally aware man where the Governor couldn’t, but we’ll take our redemption where we can get it. Particularly on a show as bleak as this.

One concern, though. The Governor has become so unremittingly monstrous that he’s not all that interesting anymore. I fear a rematch next season. That could become tedious.

Or maybe Martinez will just frag the Governor off screen. In any case, given the demographics of the Woodbury survivors, Rick should be busy in Season 4 setting up a day care center and bingo night at the prison. Good stuff.

Will conservatives like these episodes: The sun is a convenient spiritual metaphor, and everyone likes redemption. On Easter Sunday no less. So sure, unless you really wanted a big battle. In which case, c’est la vie.