'Walking Dead' Season Finale Recap: 'You Kill or You Die'

Walking Dead finaleAfter 16 episodes, one mid-season break, record-breaking ratings, the announced departure of showrunner Glen Mazzara (over, mysteriously, "a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward") -- and before tonight's show, several deaths, one grisly amputation, an eye-stabbing, and a childbirth gone horribly awry, we're finally at the Walking Dead season finale. It's such a bittersweet feeling, isn't it? On the one hand, we've been leading up to this conclusion all season long ... and on the other hand, no more Walking Dead until OCTOBER. Woe.

Let's get straight to tonight's finale breakdown! (And as you should darn well know by now, dear recap readers, there will be many many MANY spoilers ahead.)


The episode opens with a closeup of the Governor's remaining eye -- which is a nice callback to the season 3 premiere, which featured a similar closeup of a zombie eye. He's beating the pulp out of what appears to be someone on the other end of a handheld camera, but eventually our POV changes and we realize it's Milton. Aw, it's so sad to see Milton all vulnerable and stuff without his glasses. Well, and also bloody and bruised and getting socked repeatedly in the face.

It's not entirely unexpected, though: Milton had to know he would pay the piper for burning those pit zombies. "It's time for you to graduate," the Governor pants, looking spectacularly evil thanks to a clever bit of dramatic lighting. "You kill or you die."

Milton wants to know what the Governor's daughter would think about the sort of man he's become. "She'd be afraid of me," the Governor tells him. "But if I'd been like this from the start, she'd be alive today."

Sure, until she disobeyed you or maybe spilled some milk or something and you put her HEAD in a tank, Gov. Just saying.

The Governor brings Milton into the chamber where Andrea's bound to a chair, and he tells Milton it's time to prove himself: Milton can't leave the room until he kills Andrea. Ugh, this is a creepy Saw-like twist. Milton takes a hesitant step or two towards Andrea then attempts to whirl and attack the Governor instead -- which, naturally, results in the Governor stabbing him in the gut. Well, E for Effort, Milton. Now the even creepier plan is for Milton to be left locked in the room with Andrea: "You're gonna die and you're gonna turn, and you're gonna tear the flesh from her bones."

Back at the prison, everyone's packing supplies into cars. Carl is HELLA pissed at Rick, for unknown reasons. Rick sees fucking Ghost Lori again, but thankfully ignores her this time. Daryl is mourning his brother's surprisingly heroic actions at Woodbury, saying Merle had never done anything like that in his whole life. "He gave us a chance," Carol says gently, while HOLDING DARYL'S HAND. *shriek*

In Woodbury, the Governor rallies his troops, bellowing about how Rick's gang is worse than the biters. Tyreese and Sasha are like, excuse me Mr. Governor sir but if it's okay with you we're not exactly down with this murderous angry mob thing? The Governor narrows his eye at them, but allows them to stay and guard the women and children. "Thank you," the Governor says, which is totally weird. Is that his version of the Godfather kiss of death? "You broke my heart, Tyreese!" *SMOOCH*

The Governor and gang arrive at the prison, guns blazing. And by guns I mean a SHITLOAD of guns, including grenade launchers that totally destroy the watchtowers and a truck-mounted .50 cal machine gun. Walkers die in a hail of bullets, parts of buildings blow up, and then everyone storms the cell blocks, even though what they'd actually be doing in this situation is rolling around holding their ears and yelling, "WHAT? WHAT?" at each other. Ear protection is very important when you're firing heavy artillery, kids. The More You Know!™

The bad guy troops split up to search the prison corridors, which seems ... inadvisable on the Governor's part, but whatever. It's not like the prison gang has carefully plotted an ambush or any--OH SNAP. Flashbangs go off, the prison alarm whoops, walkers lurch into view, and Glenn and Maggie fire on the retreating Governor gang until they drive away from the prison. Wow, that was so easy! God, and you guys were worried.

Hershel, Beth, and Carl are observing the battle from the forest, while Carl grumps about how he should be there fighting. A fleeing, terrified Woodbury kid approaches them, and he's in the midst of surrendering his weapon when -- blam! -- Carl guns him down without a second thought.

Hershel's like, MY BUSHY EYEBROWS HAVE KNITTED IN CONSTERNATION OVER THIS UNFORESEEN TURN OF EVENTS. Back at the prison, he tells Rick that he's real sorry but Carl's become a stone-cold psycho. Rick is all, oh great now I have parenting shit to deal with, on top of this Governor war thing. FML.

Elsewhere on the road, the Governor screams at the retreating Woodbury residents, who refuse to go back and fight because the prison isn't worth getting killed over. In a stunning moment of pure deranged fury, he opens fire on nearly all of them, while his footsoldiers Martinez and Shumpert look on in horror. Um, guys? Breaking news: you have the worst boss in the world.

Rick decides now is a good enough time for a little chat with Carl about what just happened in the woods, and Carl tells him he couldn't take the chance at letting the Woodbury boy live. "I didn’t kill the walker who killed Dale, look what happened. You didn’t kill Andrew, and he came back and killed Mom. You were in a room with The Governor and you let him go, and then he killed Merle. I did what I had to do." Woo, Carl's character arc is moving along nicely! And actually, the kid may be increasingly fucked in the head, but he has a point.

MEANWHILE, in a scene we keep visiting and returning to, Andrea is in that room with Milton, who is dying a very slow Monty-Python-esque death. He tells Andrea that he left pliers by her feet, and that she'd better hurry and free herself and stab him in the head before, you know: chompy chompy. At one point Andrea gets real distracted by explaining how she never meant for anyone to die, she was just trying to save everyone, and it's like, okay great but how about working on getting those goddamned PLIERS? She eventually grabs them with her feet but drops them, because oh god Andrea you just never stop sucking. Milton finally dies, then his fingers twitch, then Andrea manages to get free right before Reanimated Milton descends on her and they both make a lot of dramatic noises.

Rick, Daryl, and Michonne come across the Governor's convoy bloodbath, and pick up the one surviving Woodbury citizen. They arrive at Woodbury where they're fired on by Tyreese before the survivor, Karen, shouts about the new world order, whereas Governor = bad, Rick = good. (Somewhere, the shredded remains of that ignored backpacker from two episodes ago call out, "Bullshit!")

The gang finds Andrea's interrogation room, where Milton is dead but Andrea's been bitten. WHEW THANK GOD AT LEAST THIS IS THE END OF -- I mean, gosh, bummer. Andrea is glad to hear that the other prisoner survivors are still alive. "No one can make it alone now," she says. Daryl chimes in, "I never could." (Eight million female viewers: "AND YOU'LL NEVER HAVE TO.") Michonne breaks down into tears as Andrea asks for a gun. Michonne stays with her friend, as Rick, Daryl, and Tyreese wait outside the door ... until the inevitable gunshot rings out.

I'm enjoying mostly everything about this finale so far, until I realize there are like two minutes left. Wait. Wait. Where's the final, crazy battle against the Governor? What's this school bus full of Woodbury survivors doing pulling up to the prison? They file off the bus, all whatever-many of them, as Carl (and I) look on in disgust. "They're gonna join us," Rick says. He glances up at the catwalk, where Ghost Lori has disappeared.

Ohhhhh man. I gotta say, this was not the ending I was hoping for. At the very least, I sure can't agree with this teaser from actor Dallas Roberts:

The Walking Dead fans will not feel cheated by the finale. It's not a soft close for sure. As [the season] starts to wrap up, it gets stronger, crazier and weirder. Although you'll never see it coming, when it cuts to black at the end of season three, there will be millions of mouths agape.

Agape that they're dragging out the Governor storyline for another season, maybe. (And yes, David Morrissey is officially confirmed for season 4.) And if they really wanted to shock us, they should have killed someone we actually liked, instead of ANDREA.

I guess we're supposed to believe that Rick, faced with how his son is changing before his very eyes, suddenly had the sort of change of heart that convinced him to bring a shitload of strangers back to live with them, but ... I don't know. It just felt unexpected in an undesirable way. Like yeah, I didn't predict that, but that's because it doesn't ring true. And truly, I was hoping the Governor business would come to a close in tonight's show, even if he took out some key players in the process.

It's sort of like the show motto just became, "Look, We're Sick and Tired of Being Compared to the Comics, OKAY???"

In conclusion: I'm sorry, I didn't love the way it ended. I wanted to be blown away, even heartbroken, and DYING for the return of season 4. Instead, I'm a little bummed I didn't watch Game of Thrones instead.

Okay, fire away: what did you think of tonight's finale? Were you amazed? Disappointed? Neutral?

Image via AMC

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