Last night was the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead and it was a dense episode that packed a punch, or rather a glass to the eyeball. The episode was just barely below the ratings record set by the season 3 premiere, but still roped in 10.5 million total viewers. That is up an incredible 58% from the season 2 midseason finale. I think it is fair to say that The Walking Dead has solidified its status as the highest rated scripted drama on television this season, which is kind of astounding when you think about the fact that a gory and very graphic show about the zombie apocalypse is the biggest show out there.
With all that being said, let's talk about last nights mid-season finale episode! Rick and his group made it to Woodbury and managed to save Glenn and Maggie. Michonne stuck the governor in the eye with a piece of glass, making him now look all menacing and scary. She also killed the shit out of Penny. And…. large Carl is officially, all grown up responsible Carl. The episode resolved a few stories, but more than anything left us with many big cliffhangers.
The episode started with a bit of a discombobulating moment as we opened on a new group of characters that we have not yet seen. They are running through the forest and seem to be experiencing many of the same problems that Rick and his group have been through. While being attacked by a herd of zombies they stumble upon the prison and the remaining members of Rick's posse. At this point, Carl truly shows how much he has matured as he goes follows the screams of the newbies and goest to help them. However, he shows he has learned a lot as he does exactly what his dad would have and locks them in the cell. I was very impressed with large Carl, and while I used to get very annoyed when he would wander out on his own, it obviously served a good purpose. He lost all of his innocence long ago, and has been paying attention as to how to survive. It is rare for a series to fully embrace a child as a hero in this manner and I appreciate it. In fact, if I were to guess which two characters will be around the longest, I would say Rick and Carl. Everyone else feels expendable in some form, but these two are really set up as the heart of the show. Of course that could change at any moment, but I like having the stability of the father and son, so I hope that it doesn't. While I have no idea how much this new group will play into the story, being the fact that the leader is played by Chad Coleman (from The Wire) I would venture to guess, that at least he will be around for awhile. While the stuff at the prison was interesting, a lot of it felt like filler. It was the bread waiting for the insides of the meaty zombie sandwich that was waiting for us at Woodbury.
Rick's squad successfully entered the community and were able to save both Maggie and Glenn. While this was very heroic, they were mostly alive because Glenn made the grosses weapon I have ever seen (ever) as he ripped out the bone of a zombie and used it to protect them. I said it last week, but Glenn has really proven to be quite the badass. While much of the Rick posse scenes this week were based on the violence and action of them rescuing the members of the group, there were two developments that will have major consequences going forward. First of all, the Governor and the residents of Woodbury know where they have been staying and their location at the prison has been compromised. The logical next step would be to make it back to the prison to meet up with the rest of the group and then venture out into the wild. However, this time around this would be much more difficult with a tiny baby and with Hershel who now has only one leg and cannot travel very quickly. The only thing we know is they either have to hunker down for a war or get out of there, and as neither of those seem like good options, I have no idea where the story might be going.
There was another shocking moment in the life of Rick Grimes and that came when he had a vision of Shane still being alive. The last few episodes have made it seem as if Rick has regained his senses and his bout of looniness while talking to dead people was mostly resolved. However, this moment opens all of that up again. Now, he isn't just talking to dead people, but seeing them and while this moment was quick, it feels as if it will be very significant.
The other major development was the reunion and loss of Daryl. He is stuck back at Woodbury in the ring with Merle who is also there after being ratted out by the Governor as a traitor that let the intruders into Woodbury. At this point, we have no idea what is going to happen to them. The citizens from Woodbury (and the Governor) are going to be out for blood as they are scared and nervous after having their peace ruined. This makes it seem as if one (or both) are doomed to die, but I wouldn't be surprised if somehow they both survive. Andrea could step in and save them or something else might happen, but I would guess that they won't be reunited only to have one of them die. They also could provide a lot of new and interesting story, especially if Daryl would be inclined to rejoin Team Rick where Merle would not be welcomed (or want to be).
Speaking of the Governor, the stories revolving around him last night were by far the most interesting of the episode. We see him interact with his zombie daughter, Penny, which we now know would be the last time ever. This scene really served to show the level of his insanity as he put her to a test and tried to get her to choose him over meat. Much to his dismay, she only wanted meat and showed no signs of residual love or affection for him. Because this has been set up time and time again with the Governor and through Milton's experiments, it will be a shocking, fascinating and awesome moment if one of the zombies ever does actually evolve to show memory or emotion. In fact, I really do hope they take the show there at some point as it would add another layer of dimension to the story. Later, we were treated to the dual between the Governor and Michonne as she waited to kill him and discovered his wall of zombie heads…and Penny. At this moment, Michonne truly broke the Governor's spirit as she took away the last thing that he loved in life and as evil as he has been I can imagine that he is just going to grow darker and darker. She also took his eyeball as she stabbed him and the patch that he wears to cover his bloodied missing eyeball makes him even more terrifying to look at and my nightmares might start to be about him instead of the zombies.
The last piece to think about is what is Andrea going to do now that she has discovered the true nature of her lover boy? Will she stay loyal to him and her cushy life in Woodbury or will she finally realize what an evil creep he is? And, where will her loyalties lie when she must choose between the Governor and Daryl?
The Walking Dead did a good job of leaving many intriguing stories open ended as it left us for the next few months. When it returns, the show and characters could take on a whole new direction. This has been a stellar and exciting season so far, and I hope they keep that up and maintain that momentum for the remaining episodes. It will be a long wait, but the third season returns on February 10th, which is the day before my birthday…happy zombie birthday to me!