For a television series, a season ender is a big event. Ratings tend to radically rise, offering a chance for greater exposure beyond the normal fanbase, and traditionally, series creators really pull out the stops and try to bring their A-game to the project. The problem for THE WALKING DEAD has been that its A-game tends to look pretty much like anyone else's third- or fourth-string. The series has all the potential in the world, and there are the occasional episodes that don't entirely suck, but in the larger context of the series, they seem to be more like happy accidents than the result of anyone genuinely applying themselves. TWD splits its season, and, as a consequence, has had the equivalent of five season enders to date. None of them have been good. The second season ender, "Beside the Dying Fire," remains, to date, one of the absolute worst episode of the entire run. And that's saying an awful lot. Tonight's season 3 capper, "Welcome To The Tombs," did nothing to reverse this trend.
At times, TWD collapses into such a morass of ineptness that it plays
like a parody of itself, and that was on display quite a bit tonight.
TWD has the pace of molasses in January. Its creators talk a bullshit
propaganda line about running a show where anyone can die at any
moment, but when it comes to potentially alienating the audience with the deaths of popular characters, TWD doesn't take any risks, and their decision to spend all season turning Andrea into a hate-figure added up, tonight, to exactly what it always does.
GINO leaves Andrea handcuffed to a chair and viciously stabs Milton,
leaving the bespectacled scientist to die so he will reanimate and chow
down on her. Milton left a pair of pliers where Andrea can get to them,
though. It's a race against time, with Andrea trying to retrieve the
pliers with her feet before Milton's life bleeds entirely out of him. As
with most TWD races-against-time, though, it turns into more of a
really slow creep against time, running most of the length of the
episode, with--as usual with TWD--filler moments continually destroying any tension the
scenario could have built. At one point, Andrea entirely halts her escape
attempt to have a few minutes of conversation with the expiring Milton
about why she stayed in Woodbury. Later, when she thinks he's reanimating, it
doesn't spur her to redouble her efforts--instead, she comes to another complete stop, and just sits and looks at him.
As I said, a parody of itself.
GINO takes a Woodburian army to the prison, which serves as the
excuse to unleash some loud, visually impressive pyrotechnics as they
blast their way in. These looked good in the "next week on AMC's The
Walking Dead" preview, and that's the only reason they were included. After building to it all season, there's no big fight over the prison. Most of the prison group hides
nearby while GINO and his men explore the empty facility. When the
Woodburians venture into the zombie-infested area, a smoke-bomb that
was left for them explodes, and they run from the building like rabbits.
Glenn and Maggie are waiting behind cover to shoot at a few of them as they
run out. They needn't have bothered--Woodbury takes to its vehicles and
flees in terror. GINO and a pair of his trusted lieutenants pursue,
and, stopping the convoy, GINO becomes so angry his people won't fight
that he guns them down himself! And so was ludicrously ended the great
Again, a parody of itself.
GINO and two of his men survive, though, and leave for parts unknown,
leaving open the prospect of a return--something I imagine most viewers
would, after this pathetic mess, welcome about as much as they'd welcome a return to Hershel's farm. Or the return of new Coke.
The episode did feature one really striking moment that hit at the
heart of one of TWD's many shortcomings. During the prison attack, Carl
guns down a surrendering Woodburian. Rick confronts him about this, and
Carl thoroughly dresses down his father, noting that their failure to
deal with potential threats in a responsible manner is what results in
their people being killed over and over again. He failed to kill the
walker that killed Dale; Rick failed to kill Andrew, which resulted in
Lori and T-Dog dying; Rick didn't shoot GINO when he had the chance,
resulting in the attack that had just happened. And so on. At someone
finally speaking this hard, frank, nowhere-to-run-or-hide truth, this
viewer and vociferous critic of the series felt like cheering. Even
more so when Rick looked as if he'd been slapped, then took on the
countenance of a rapidly deflating balloon. Unfortunately, TWD has never
had the stomach for this kind of matter-of-fact sentiment, and Mazzara,
its now-fired showrunner and the writer of record on this episode,
double-stacked the deck against Carl's brutally frank words by having
the incident that led to it be Carl shooting a surrendering teenager,
then, in the end, having Rick take in the remaining Woodburians, mostly
kids and old people (nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, but it was presented as a direct and total repudiation of what Carl had said).
Instead of moving everyone to Woodbury, Rick moved the Woodburians to
the prison, damaged and still mostly full of zombies as a consequence
of our heroes' failure to clear it.
TWD, this season, has definitely been a tale told by an
idiot (more particularly, a group of them), filled with sound and fury,
signifying nothing. Except without
the fury. Fury requires competent pacing, and was definitely a no-show
most of the time. The final count: three episodes that didn't entirely
suck ("Seed", "Clear", and "This Sorrowful Life"), adrift in a sea of
rubbish. The story: A lot of claim-staking and brainless posturing over a
prison that, as was presented, wasn't worth keeping; and a threat to it
posed by a well-equipped villain who has no motive to want to do them
harm other than
being the designated villain (and who turned out to be no real threat at
all). It doesn't add up to anything.
Except THE WALKING DEAD.
 GINO kills Milton because Milton torched his zombie zoo in the previous episode, and, he says, because of that, eight Woodburians were killed by Merle, which makes one wonder if Glen Mazzara, the writer of the episode, even bothered to read the script for the previous ep. Merle was able to take out a few Woodburians because he brought an army of zombies to the meeting, and shot GINO's men in the confusion that resulted. How more zombies roaming around through that situation would have helped GINO is anyone's guess.
 And because of the episodes in ludicrous ass-draggery, she is bitten and meets her end.
 Why on earth would our heroes take over a huge
prison as their new home, then confine themselves, all season, to one tiny, filthy
cell-block of it, while allowing zombies to roam freely
through the bulk of the facility? There's a collapsed wall on one end of
the compound, allowing the dead--and, more importantly, any potential
enemy--free access to their home, while cutting off their only means of
retreat, should they be attacked. Why on earth would they allow the
existence of that breach, unrepaired and entirely unguarded, throughout
most of this season? To use it as plot points later, of course! Tonight was the payoff on that.
 In another low point, the writers attempt to free Rick from the appalling, irremovable stain they'd left on his character by having Michonne forgive him for contemplating turning her over to GINO, telling him that considering it was the right thing to do. She even thanked him for taking her in!