This review contains spoilers.
3.16 Welcome to the Tombs
It’s fitting that the final episode of the third season of The Walking Dead gets credited to the show’s departing head honcho, Glen Mazzara. After all, he’s the man who shepherded the show through some very rough patches in season two with the departure of Frank Darabont and who remade it in the image of his previous work on The Shield, a rougher, bloodier show that wasn’t leaner but was definitely meaner. On a programme not known for subtlety, he at least tried to shade characters in certain ways, from Merle’s subtle redemption arc to Rick becoming unhinged but trying to hold it together. He gave the fans more of what they wanted (zombies and action) without going too far and forgetting the show’s roots as a survival drama.
Also fittingly, this season had one of the most harrowing set-ups for zombie horror in the show’s history. Earlier in the season, Merle essentially throws a walker into a room with Glenn and locks the door. The Governor has learned a lesson from that experience, as we find out in this episode. The resulting scene, with Andrea and Milton locked together in a room, was one of the better looking moments in the show’s oeuvre, as well. Ernest Dickerson really milks the scene with some well-placed shots, keeping either Milton or Andrea just out of the centre of the frame to ape some iconic horror movie shots very effectively. Call it cheap tension if you wish, but it’s a great way to work the locked-room danger. (Another great moment was the opening shot of the Governor speaking to someone in POV, starting with an extreme close-up of his remaining eye before panning back to a tight close-up of his bloody, crazed face.) The Walking Dead is very much a show made by its cinematography and special effects, and both were on display this week.
Andrea’s season makes more sense given that the character got to have her deathsplanation moment at the end of the episode. It doesn’t exactly redeem her, per se, but she makes more sense. She’s dead because she refused to change. Like Rick, she’s against killing people even if (sometimes) they need to be killed. Rick, at least, can occasionally pull the trigger when necessary. She’s the anti-Carl in that respect. Andrea has tried not to change, not to lose her humanity, but Carl seems to be in the process of giving his away. He’s gone from a scared boy, to a boy who refused to stay in the house, to a borderline sociopath.
I’m not going to lie, while it’s a little disturbing, it would be a joke if it didn’t change Carl in some fundamental way to grow up in this world. He had to shoot his mother. His father was dead for months. The only girl his own age was shot down in a zombie barn rodeo. It’s no wonder Carl is looking, acting, and behaving like a cornered rattlesnake. Indeed, it looks as though Shane was a bigger influence on Carl than Rick has been, given the fact that Carl both drops the badge after telling his father off and the fact that he actually told his father off in a pretty brutal fashion. By pointing out Rick’s repeated failings, Carl is saying what a lot of people in his position would be thinking.
For better and worse, Carl Grimes is not growing up in the world Rick Grimes is trying to hold onto, and that shows itself more and more with every passing moment, from Carl’s disgust at another show of kindness from his father, to Carl crossing a pretty big line in the sand. It’s a gutsy play for the show; lots of folks have described Carl as a miniature Governor, and that makes a lot of sense given the way they respond to pretty much everything. Both are traumatized by their world, and both are lashing out at others in destructive, hurtful ways.
Will Scott Gimple be brave enough to turn a major character – a child no less – into someone who kills without a second thought, even when it’s a surrendering man? With Glen Mazzara at the helm, you knew The Walking Dead would kill off anyone at any time (except for Rick and Carl), since Glen is the guy who ended the Sophia saga with a dead preteen walker. I wonder if AMC will allow the new show boss the freedom to turn Carl into a serial killer or if they’ll be forced to dial it back by a) fan reaction or b) the powers that be.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan cannot wait for another season of The Walking Dead with another new showrunner. Maybe there can be someone both AMC and the fans love. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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