It was the finale that none of us expected. 15 episodes of slow and steady tension had led us to believe that a devastating showdown between Rick and the Governor was inevitable. But we were never given this catharsis as instead the group abandoned the prison, the Governor's militia imploded and Andrea died.
Welcome to the Tombs was a deeply unsatisfying finale to what has been a stretched out season that like the zombies it features has limped on lifelessly for too many episodes.
"And shall come forth; that they have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, until the resurrection of damnation."
Not that all I wanted was bloodshed, as any attempt by Rick's group to try and take on Woodbury openly would clearly have proved suicidal. The townsfolk menacingly arrive in their army jeeps, smashing through the gates with ease and blowing up the watchtowers with a rocket launcher.
But after unleashing vast amounts of ammunition they soon realise that Rick's group are nowhere to be seen. Playing hide and seek from a distance, it's a great moment when the Governor's men are suddenly ambushed in the tombs below the prison, sparking pandemonium.
The real drama lies in Carl's shocking decision to gun down one of those that flee, after he stumbles upon him, Beth and Hershel. Others may disagree, but after approaching Carl whilst refusing to drop his gun, I think the young Grimes definitely made the right call in killing the teenager. It doesn't stop Rick and Hershel worrying that Carl has become too cold-hearted, too ruthless, and that in his killing he showed no remorse.
As a character Carl's development has been one of the better elements of this series. From being the naïve kid who was gunned down and accidently caused Dale's death in season two, he has now grown up fast and showed he can take the burden of responsibility on his shoulders.
But as Rick learned this season what's important is knowing when to fight and when to offer a helping hand. His decision to avoid direct confrontation, and later save the residents of Woodbury not involved in the conflict shows us that his compassion has returned. Rick now needs to make sure Carl understands the difference as well.
Dissent in the Ranks
One character who doesn't know when to back down is the Governor. The prison ambush, following on from Merle's assault last week, is enough to rattle his troops and cause them to rout.
In a moment of madness the Governor guns down those in the group that oppose his plans, massacring whatever was left of his militia. Whilst a horrific moment, it is somewhat satisfying to see the Governor's group implode as the maniacal leader tries to do whatever it takes to maintain control.
Where the episode really comes unstuck is in how it treats Andrea. Often derided by viewers, I've always believed that if written properly she could grow as a character and prove a strong female figure on the show. Whilst her relationship with aggressive outsider Shane made sense, her decision to stay in the comforts of Woodbury never seemed believable.
I hoped that as the veil was slowly brought down and Andrea saw the Governor for who he really was, it would be her who in the end united the townsfolk against him. Instead we have a whole episode built around her escape only for her to get bitten off-screen. "I just didn't want anyone to die," she tells Rick before blowing her brains out. It's a complete misstep of a finale that leaves her character's arc frustratingly unresolved.
Rather than reach a heady crescendo, the season ends on stasis as the people of Woodbury join Rick's group back at the prison. On a practical level it doesn't make much sense to return to a ruined location that a vengeful Governor could attack again at any time.
Those claustrophobic cells where Lori died also served as a metaphorical prison for Rick, as he felt trapped with the burden of responsibility of protecting the group. He may not see a hallucination of her when he looks up that last time, but by staying at the prison he has hardly managed to escape these demons.
Other than the deaths of a few key characters, very little has happened in the second half of this season compared to the first. Rick is still leader and the group's nemesis the Governor is still at large. The Walking Dead is a show that demands perpetual change as the group we follow searches for salvation. For the next season it needs to be brought back to life.