So, Season 3 is in the books.
After all this build-up I really wanted a satisfying end (particularly Zombie Milton eating The Governor), but instead got an ending similar to Star Wars as The Gov goes spinning off in his TIE fighter to who knows where, with his last two surviving goons (Martinez and Bowman) along for the ride. (Why the hell would they get into the truck after all that, or not shoot him at the first opportunity?)
The whole fight was kind of a let-down, actually. They'd been stringing us along all season with skirmishes and negotiating ploys, but I kept thinking -- it'll all pay off with that last episode. The battle started out well -- I liked the tension of searching the prison while not being sure if Rick's crew was there or not (I was thinking they'd run off to Woodbury for a showdown with Tyreese, which didn't happen until later), and then... ambush!
Usually when someone takes his helmet off after an ambush and says something like, "We won! They're retreating!", he gets shot in the head. But this time, they really were retreating. The show had laid the groundwork -- while Rick and company were roughing it in the woods, learning how to fight like a team, the Woodburians were watching gladiator fights and picking off walkers from behind their huge walls. When the actual shit started going down, it made sense that they panicked and fled. But still, it was over way too quickly for me -- after all this build-up I needed more action. It didn't even look like any of them got killed! I can't blame the Governor for being annoyed and shooting the cowards after that despicable showing.
Also... I know I'm not alone in thinking Carl did the right thing in shooting the "boy" in the woods. Look, we all know this trick from movies -- when someone says "drop your gun!" and you step closer as if you're going to hand it over instead of dropping it, it's a trick.
Way to go, Carl! Besides, did we really want Season 4 to have another Randall?
So we lose Andrea, who, let's face it, was probably irredeemable after this season. She doesn't even get the benefit of a redemptive death, though she does get a chance to explain why she was being so annoying, naive, and two-faced. "I just wanted everyone to live" -- yeah, good luck with that, on a show called The Walking Dead.
Adios, Andrea. I still love you in the comics.
And the ending... all the people from Woodbury who couldn't go on the raid, basically little kids and old people, are taken in by Team Prison. I guess this is supposed to show how Rick -- who has turned down every wanderer he's come across this season -- is becoming a nice guy again. OK. But instead of taking in the Woodbury huddled masses, why not simply take over Woodbury? I guess you could argue the prison is more defensible, although the gates keep getting knocked down, and there's a whole wall down where Tyreese came in. Woodbury has those nice big walls. On the other hand, it took a fairly large number of people to patrol those walls, and most of those people are dead now. Ah well.
Overall, I thought it was a good season -- the first half was very good, but it got bogged down in the second half except for Clear. The second half felt like they were padding -- we have to get to 16 episodes, what else can we do? -- and that led to a lot of frustrating dead ends. I don't have a problem with dead ends, but I do have a problem when we KNOW they are dead ends. We knew the negotiations weren't going to go anywhere. We knew Andrea wasn't going to kill the governor. We knew Rick wasn't going to fall in love all over again with Ghost Lori.
I know it's a problem if you have a 16-episode run and only 12 episodes worth of stories to tell. It's such a heavily serialized show that you feel every week you have to advance the ball. If I was on Scott Gimple's writing team (have your people call my people), I'd suggest avoiding so many dead ends by working in more stand-alone episodes like "Clear". Wouldn't it have been cool to have an episode that was maybe 10 or 15 minutes of life in the prison, and the rest about the hitchhiker, or the Spanish-speaking family, or whoever? And then an episode or two later they pop up again, and you think they'll become part of the story... but no, they're just passing through. Or maybe have some people who don't even pop up again. There's endless potential. Explore the world of Walking Dead, instead of just this one group in the prison.