“The Walking Dead” said goodbye to one of its greatest heroes during its Season 4 midseason finale.
Hershel was at his best this season, and he wanted to expect the best of everyone else around him as well. He helped Rick be his best self and find himself again during their few months of peace at the Prison, and he repeatedly risked himself to save others.
All that sacrifice finally came to a head in “Too Far Gone.” The Governor lived up to the episode’s title when he proved he couldn’t put aside his transformation into something evil for the sake of peace. He rallied his new group to feel that they needed to take the Prison for their own, but in doing so the Governor lost everything he claimed he was trying to keep safe.
At the beginning of the episode, it was revealed that the Governor had taken Michonne and Hershel as leverage to steal the Prison from Rick. From the get-go he made it clear that he didn’t want to resort to violence and death, but would if needed. What the Governor has never quite realized is that he is always the one who forces his own hand, and that was proven again when his own desire to conquer and for revenge caused him to lose everything he thought he had come to love.
“The Walking Dead” has killed off many of its major characters during the course of its run, but every time it hurts just as much as the last. The loss of Hershel was no exception. The father of Maggie and Beth was more of a patriarchal figure than anyone else on the show, and it’s a testament to Scott Wilson‘s great acting that Hershel has had one of the most remarkable character arks on “The Walking Dead.” From an infuriating, drunk, close-minded veterinarian to a soft-spoken, kind, level-headed healer, Hershel is someone the audience on “The Walking Dead” was lucky to get to know.
But Hershel’s death was just where the violence started on “Too Far Gone.” Though Rick had offered peace and a shared Prison to the Governor and his crew, the Governor’s murder of Hershel ended that bargain. As the Governor had his men drove their tank towards the Prison, everyone there opened fire in a total bloodbath. All of the Governor’s men ended up being killed, Rick was shot in the leg, and a number of people at the Prison lost their lives. Tara, who clearly had not realized what she was getting herself into in attacking the Prison, at least seemed to manage to escape.
His men weren’t the only people the Governor lost. While he left Lilly and Megan behind at the camp to go find them a “better home,” a walker who was buried under where she was digging bit Megan and she died. The Governor’s obsession with the Prison and revenge caused him to lose his second attempt at a family, and it was his own worst self that made it so.
Though the Governor and Rick finally got to fight fist-to-fist, it ended up being Michonne who killed “The Walking Dead’s” worst villain — just as she promised. She stabbed him through the heart with the same katana he used to kill Hershel, but she didn’t strike the killing blow. That honor was given to Lilly, who ended up shooting the Governor through the head.
If the folks at the Prison were thought to be separated before by the virus, they truly are scattered to the wind now. Viewers should take romantic conversations between Maggie and Glenn as a warning from now on, because after they started talking about their anniversary plans in this episode they ended up getting completely separated. Glenn was taken away in the bus used as the escape vehicle for the majority of the Prison survivors, while Maggie was left behind looking for Beth. Rick and Carl similarly got stranded alone, while Tyreese survived only because Carol’s girls came out and started killing the Governor’s people as well. Daryl walked away unharmed, and hopefully he uses this opportunity to go out and find Carol.
There has to be a backup plan and rendezvous point for this sort of situation, but Rick & Co. have never been weaker than they are now. “Too Far Gone” might not be a phrase that applies to all the characters on the show, but this group is definitely too far gone from the hope of ever having a happy ending. The way the end of the midseason finale stood, it even seemed as though Judith had been killed (though we’ll continue to hold out hope that someone managed to save her). But “The Walking Dead” does seem to be making good on the warning skeptics have been saying for seasons: a cripple and a baby can’t survive in the post-zombie apocalypse world.
“The Walking Dead” started off its fourth season with a sense of security, and that’s been completely destroyed now. With no home and no hope, it will be difficult for these people to regroup and start from scratch. And can they? Like the show’s characters, it’s hard for the audience to rally and regroup every time something this devastating happens. Get rid of your hopes for a happy ending at the end of this show’s run now.
“The Walking Dead” returns with the second half of Season 4 in February 2014.