As The Walking Dead rounded up for its mid-season finale, it tied together the biggest battle of human vs. human that we’ve ever seen yet, complete with blood, sweat, and tears.
The episode begins at the cliffhanger from last week, where the Governor finds Michonne and Hershel in the woods near the prison. Since then, he’s captured them as hostages, and is now intent on convincing the rest of the camp to force Rick’s group at the prison out, and taking it as their new home. Eventually everyone agrees.
Lily approaches the Governor separately and questions his intentions, specifically about the possibility of killing humans. He assures her that it’s “killing killers” and that his only aim is to protect her and Megan. Lily remains skeptical, but allows the Governor to carry on (Lily, trust your instincts).
Inside one of the trailer, the Governor talks to Michonne and Hershel and allows them to give suggestions on how to usurp the prison from Rick. Hershel tells the Governor that they live together; on the other hand, Michonne says she’ll kill him. The Governor, as expected, rejects both offers.
Meanwhile, at the prison, Maggie enjoyed her reunion with a much-healthier Glenn, while Daryl is angered with Rick regarding his actions banishing Carol. While they go down to tell Tyreese, Tyreese instead stops them and leads them to an extremely grotesque block of wood, where a rat has been nailed with its skin opened up. Just as Rick is about to explain who might have killed Karen and David, they hear a loud explosive sound from outside.
Running to the perimeter, they find the Governor with his crew, complete with a couple of trucks, arms, and tanks. Sitting in the front are Michonne and Hershel, pushing Maggie and Beth to scream out in horror when they see the latter. The Governor calls out for Rick to come over and talk, and announces an ultimatum: leave the prison, or he’ll kill Michonne and Hershel. Meanwhile, Daryl carefully arms everyone with guns, and gives the plan of escaping on the school bus if all fails.
Over at the lake, where the camp temporarily moved locations, Lily is perched on top of the RV overlooking the lake while Megan plays in the dirt, a couple of hundred feet away. Not exactly the safest configuration for the mother-daughter duo. While Megan calls out to her mother for help digging up something, Lily is distracted by the sight of a walker in the lake, who seems to be swimming towards them. Shocked, Lily ignores the sound of her daughter and the calls for help turns to screams. She turns around in horror to find that a walker had emerged from the mud where little Megan was playing, and bit her shoulder.
Back at the prison, Rick tries giving a motivational, inspiring speech toward the Governor and his crew. He urges for them to live peacefully with each other at the prison, where they could stay in separate cell blocks and not have to see each other. He even tries to appeal to the Governor’s crew, and explains that the former leaders of Woodbury became his honored leaders at the prison. “Everyone has made it this far. We’ve done the worst kinds of things to survive. We can still come back. We’re not too far gone. We can all change.”
Everyone seems to be taking in this information quite well, including Tara (who has remained skeptical of the Governor’s motives like her sister). The Governor, who had taken one of Michonne’s katana blades and had it placed right at Hershel’s head, lifts the sword away, as if he too has been affected by Rick’s words. Hershel smiles at Rick, approving his morally-conscious actions.
Then, The Governor looks at Rick with overcast eyes and mutters “liar” before swinging the sword and cutting right into Hershel’s neck.
At that point, all hell breaks loose. Upon seeing their father get murdered, Maggie, Beth, and the rest of the prison-folk begin firing at the Governor and his crew. The tanks and trucks roll right through the perimeter, breaking through the defense and allowing walkers to enter. Michonne is able to free herself amongst the chaos.
Right when we thought things couldn’t get worse, the Governor fully beheads Hershel. As he finishes, he looks up to find Lily carrying Megan’s dead body. Maybe the sight of Megan would be enough to stop the Governor in his tracks. Maybe. But alas, it appears that the Governor has reverted completely back to his psychotic behavior as he takes Megan in his arms and coldly shoots her right in the head.
Heavy warfare ensues in the courtyard of the prison. A separate group from the cell blocks run outside and into the school bus, including Glenn. Maggie tries to find Beth and runs back into the chaos, while Beth herself has gone after Judith. Unfortunately, she cannot find her and is urged by Daryl to retreat.
Tyreese is cornered at a separate part of the prison by two of the Governors’ people, including Alicia. Just as he is about to be slaughtered, he is saved by none other than Lizzie and her gang of kid-heroes, who have taken up arms on account of Carol and her motto of “staying strong.”
In the meantime, Rick is nearly choked to death by the Governor before we see a sword cut right through the Governor’s chest, as Michonne appears from behind him. She leaves him to bleed out.
Severely crippled by his fight with the Governor, Rick struggles toward the prison courtyard, screaming Carl’s name. Thankfully, he sees that his son has been doing just fine. Together, they both look for little Judith, until they come across an empty baby carriage. Though it’s uncertain if someone took her to safety, they both assume the worst and begin to weep.
While the Governor lays in the grass, Lily walks over – facing the man who has basically destroyed any chance for her to have a somewhat happy life – and shoots him right in the head. The “pale king” is finally dead.
As the episode comes to a close, Rick and Carl stagger out into the forest, leaving behind a walker-ridden, now-dilapidated prison, as Rick holds Carl’s head and keeps muttering “don’t look back.”
I think I can speak for the entire TWD audience when I say that on Sunday, we, not unlike a certain character, lost our minds completely. After growing to love the warm, brave, and intelligent character of Hershel, it was definitely a complete shock to say goodbye to him so suddenly. If there’s one good thing that can come out of this episode, it’s that the chapter on the Governor is finally closed. With the groups scattered completely, the prison ruined, certain people missing altogether, and the unsolved mystery of what’s going down with the rats, it’ll be a tough wait till February 9th.