The manner which The Walking Dead kills off main characters makes The Hunger Games look like Full House. For one and a half seasons Rick Grimes and his group of survivors came to know the prison as home. Lives were still in peril there, but it had walls and fences to keep the walker-filled world outside.
On their first trek into the prison’s tombs, Hershel was bitten by a walker and Rick saved his life by brutally hacking off his lower leg. On Sunday night’s fourth mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, which drew 12.1 million viewers, The Governor set the next phase of the series in motiob by using Michonne's katana to slice off his head in an act of retribution. With the extra time Rick brought him, Hershel became the wise elder of the group and was Rick’s moral compass after he lost himself in the aftermath of his wife’s death.
For two episodes The Walking Dead retraced The Governor’s path after we last saw him in all his madness in the season three finale. We watched him find a new family, new camp and finally observed him slowly convert good people into ruthless marauders. The Governor returned to the prison, now inhabited by many of his former followers, with an armed militia and a tank while most of the prison’s residents recovered from a sickness.
Rick attempted to appeal to the prison crew that fans came to know by channeling Hershel with his best “Live Together or Die Alone” speech. Unfortunately, his attempt at negotiating a peace treaty dissolved with one swing of a blade toward Hershel’s neck by The Governor. The raid left the prison a smoldering wreckage that was ultimately left uninhabitable.
Eventually, for his insolence, The Governor met his death on the end of Michonne’s katana.While he writhed in substantal pain and bled out, his girlfriend Lilly finished him off with a bullet to the head. Hershel’s death was the most memorable scene of the night, but he wasn’t the only one lost and questions were left unanswered.
For one, Tyreese’s discovery of a mutilated rat, as the The Governor's arrival interrupted his exposition, hinted to us that the mystery of who was feeding the walkers outside the prison’s fences will be a pivotal factor in the second half of season four's storyline (my money is on Bob).
While The Governor, who now prefers to go by Brian, was away waging his unnecessary war, his “adopted” daughter, Megan was bitten by a walker that was buried underneath wet soil. It's another reminder that they are never safe. His thirst for power also led to him breakig his promise to keep his family safe. Her mother, Lilly, brought her lifeless body to The Governor as the bullets began flying at the prison. He stoically shot Megan in the head and said goodbye to what was left of his humanity to prevent her from turning into a walker like his own daughter.
Meanwhile, the fate of Rick’s daughter Judith was also left uncertain. In the comics, baby Judith is killed along with Rick’s wife Lori during The Governor’s assault on the prison. In the series, Lori died in season two giving birth to Judith while another outsider sabotaged their tranquility by slipping walkers behind the prison’s defenses.
In the midst of the prison assault, multiple characters went searching for the toddler, who was inexplicably left unattended. But Rick found her blood-stained car seat in the carnage surrounded by walkers.
I’m still not sure whether that was a subtle way of offing the kid because even The Walking Dead’s brilliant writers weren’t deranged enough to kill a one-year-old on-screen, or use the mourning of her gory death as a red herring.
I have a theory that the ex-communicated Carol will return in some capacity and that the kids whom Tyreese chased after, saved her life. After all, why was the car seat left outside of the giant hole in the prison’s walls? Then again, maybe that's just wishful thinking. It was established in season two that having a baby on the road with walkers abound amounted to a death sentence. Perhaps this was inevitable.
The Walking Dead will return in February with the group fractured and lacking safe quarters. For a while it appeared, they’d be able to find relief in the prison. The mid-season finale was a reminder that at some point they will all probably die. It’s just a matter of what they do with the lives they have left.