What did a season finale of The Walking Dead have to do in order to be successful? For one thing, it had to resolve the conflict between The Governor and the prison group. It had to wrap up the dangling thread of what is to become of Andrea now that she was in the Governor’s clutches. It had to deliver some kind of catharsis and leave the characters in a place where we are assured of their situation for the moment but invested in seeing where they go from here.
This episode had to do at least this much to pay off on the drawn out procession to the much-hyped final showdown, and be entertaining and not emotionally incompetent as well. Barring all of that, it also had to be exciting, because what good is an hour of zombie-filled dystopia without some thrills?
To what extent, then, was “Welcome to the Tombs” successful? Well that depends on what level you are more invested in. If all you were looking for was the twists and thrills that have become (ironically) predictable on this show then you might be happy about it. There were, after all, many jaw dropping and paradigm-shifting moments that would make for an excellent water cooler discussion. But there were also character moments that fell flat, not to mention some very major developments that did nothing to actually resolve anything. In all, it was as uneven an episode as one could expect from The Walking Dead, though the place that it leaves us does make one wonder what they have in store for next season, even if even some aspects of that resolution are frankly baffling and infuriating.
Let’s begin with the greatest plot thread of the season, and the one that leads to the most frustration. We’ve been looking forward to – or at least being told to brace for – the big confrontation between the army of Woodbury and the prisoner group. Since Merle took Glenn and Maggie hostage the coming conflict between the two groups was palpable. Yet as the season went on the conflict was continuously put off, pushed back, and generally deferred. Now, finally we got to see the eruption of violence.
And it is underwhelming. The Woodbury crew (sans Tyreese and his sister, who stay behind because they are not terrible people) rush into the prison which seems to have been abandoned. This doesn’t stop them from using some grenade rounds to blow up the watch towers, along with a lot of bullets to clear out the walkers in the yard. It seems as though they are alone, until they scour the lower depths of the prison block and are ambushed with stun grenades, alarms, zombies, and bullets.
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