Never before have we had such a dramatic and emotional mid-season finale.
First we must pay our respects to Hershel, who had fast-become this fan’s favourite. He was a good man and an unexpected source of humour in the face of overwhelming sadness and horror. As Rick’s unofficial adviser, he was often the voice of reason but no one could make The Governor do the right thing.
The look of pride that Hershel gave Rick as he delivered a passionate speech about change, like he couldn’t have said it better himself, was a beautiful moment that made it all the more savage when The Governor slammed the sword into his neck.
It was a death so much crueler than a walker bite and the horrified and wounded reactions of his daughters Beth and Maggie reflected our own. It was every bit as shocking as Ned Stark’s beheading in Game Of Thrones.
But there was no time to grieve as Rick opened fire and war broke out. Snatches of scenes with Tara putting down her gun and hiding helped to balance out the mindless violence of this new group, who were a little too easily brainwashed into committing murder.
Meanwhile, her sister Lily is too distracted by an advancing walker wading through the lake that she doesn’t see that her child is about to be bitten. A mummified mud monster emerges from his grave to have his first meal and he’s not letting go. This is the first time we’ve actually seen a child killed on The Walking Dead and it’s pretty grim, but it’s all relative when compared to watching the beheading of one of our best-loved characters.
In the moment when The Governor decided to kill Hershel, he fully committed to being the bad guy. He didn’t even flinch when Lily appeared with an unconscious Maggie in her arms, shooting his fostered daughter in the head without an ounce of emotion. The only way out of this show was to kill the character, and we’re glad the writers decided to veer away from the events of the graphic novel. It wouldn’t have been right to have Lily, a newcomer, do the deed (although we’re glad she had the chance to deliver the final blow).
True to her word, Michonne killed him just as she did his undead daughter – with a sword from behind. It wasn’t an instant death and after watching him hacking at Hershel, pummeling Rick into the ground, and starting a war that caused so many heart-stopping close shaves (Daryl and the walker, Tyreese lying defenseless), it was like a gift from the writers to let us watch this evil character writhe in pain for a bit.
Watching this episode is like having a particularly nasty run-in with a Dementor. It sucks out every ounce of hope, leaving you a weeping wreck in dire need of a chocolate frog. Even the heartfelt reunion between Rick and Carl ended with the discovery of Judith’s empty, blood-soaked basket. The older girls’ abandonment of the helpless baby to “join the fight” was a final bitter reminder of Carol’s legacy. Their decision may have saved Tyreese, but ultimately ended up killing the child that Lori sacrificed herself for.
Now it’s father and son against the world, no wife and mother, no daughter and sister, just a couple of guns and a vow to “Keep on walking.”