Mid-season finale - since when is that a thing? - and I'm sorry, but this whole episode feels like it should have taken place during S3E16.
The Governor has captured Herschel and Michonne and brought them back to his camp. He stands up in front of the people of the camp and orates a bit, talking them into helping him attack and take over the prison. "They have walls, fences, plots of land for farmin' ... we could live there - if we're willin' to take it from them." He has a plan to take the prison without bloodshed [HAHAHA YEAH RIGHT]. "We don't need to kill anyone ... but we need to be prepared to." Most people seem dubious at first (except for Mitch who's gun-ho for some shooting) but the Governor has a golden tongue and soon the group is on board, desperate for a secure place to live. Lily is reluctant, however, not liking people killing people. He promises that he will keep her safe, keep Megan safe. He tells her that he loves her. Lily: "I don't know who you are." But resistance is futile and she goes to pack their things.
The Governor goes to the RV where he's holding Herschel and Michonne. He's pretty calm and claims that he doesn't want to hurt anyone: he has people he wants to keep safe and he needs the prison. Herschel suggests that perhaps the two groups can learn to live together. The Governor is all, Rick and I, Michonne and I, we'll never live together. Michonne just glares at him and promises that she's going to kill him. The Governor is all, if we can do this without bloodshed we will, but I am going to have that prison.
The Governor has Lily and the children stay in the RVs, parked alongside a river. The fast-flowing river should keep the walkers at bay. Lily is not happy about this at all. The Governor gives Megan a big hug and then heads out to attack the prison.
Rick and Daryl finally have their "WTF happened to Carol?" talk and it is markedly anticlimactic. Daryl is very angry, of course, snarling that Rick could have waited until they got back [so Daryl could have said goodbye, I guess, or gone with her]. But he calms down quickly and doesn't make much of a fuss, instead wondering what will happen to the two little girls Carol had taken care of. Rick mentions that he hasn't talked to Tyrese yet and Daryl steps up and says, let's go do it. They find Tyrese down in the tunnels. He's found a vivisected rabbit nailed to a board and he's connected it to the half-eaten rats they found at the fences. "We got a pyschopath here ..." Rick breaks in to tell him that whoever did this is not who killed Karen and the other guy. But before he can explain to Tyrese what he means, an explosion rocks the prison. Everyone who is not still weak from the plague runs out to the prison yard where they are shocked to see the Governor with his tank, a bunch of gunmen and Herschel and Michonne out beyond the fences. The Governor is all, hey, Rick, why don't you come down here so we can talk.
Rick does go down to the fence and they talk and talk and talk. The Governor says that Rick's group has until sundown to clear out: if they pack up now, he'll let them go. Rick pleads that there are sick people and children who may not survive out in the world. But the Governor is resolute and means to have the prison. Meanwhile, back up in the prison, Daryl starts surreptitiously handing out guns. He spreads the word that if things start to go south, everyone should head for the escape bus, as planned. Rick suggests that the two groups share the prison but the Governor refuses. Rick then points out that if it comes to a fight, if the Governor attacks the prison and pulls down the fences, the prison is worthless: "We can all live in the prison or none of us can." The Governor is all, dude, get your people out.
Back at the river, Lily watches an approaching zombie try to cross the river and get swept away. What she doesn't see is her daughter playing on the muddy bank and a zombie rearing up out of the mud to batten onto Megan's neck. Lily runs up and shoots the zombie but it is too late: Megan gets bitten badly.
Up in the prison, the non-fighters start loading onto the bus. The little girls carry baby Judith out into the yard, heading to the bus, but then Lizzie says that they should get guns and help fight too. Down at the fences, the Governor gets more and more annoyed with Rick's refusal to just roll over. He grabs Michonne's sword and lays it against Herschel's neck. Rick, panicking, pleads with the Governor's people, asking if this is what they really want, promising that they can live together without anyone getting killed.
The Governor has Had Enough, however, and hacks hard at Herschel's neck. It isn't a clean kill, though, and poor Herschel just collapses. Rick screams, Maggie screams, Beth screams. And then the carnage begins. Michonne drops to the ground and rolls out of the way as the bullets fly. Herschel tries to crawl away and the Governor goes after him, hacking and hacking and hacking until Herschel's head comes off. He looks up to see Lily walking towards him, the bloody Megan in her arms. He walks up to her, takes the little girl and shoots her in the head. Then he turns back to his people: Take your cars through the fences - kill them all.
And then it's just shooting and shooting and shooting. Except for Rick and the Governor who start beating the crap out of each other. It's difficult to tell who is who. Beth goes to help load people onto the bus. Maggie goes into the prison to get Glenn. Tyrese gets pinned down and almost killed by a couple of the Governor's people but Lizzie comes up behind and shoot them, saving him. Bob takes a bullet in the chest. Rick takes a bullet in the leg. Daryl is an effing machine, of course, except that zombies have started to swarm, attracted by all the noise, and one comes up close behind him. [At which point I shout NO! at the television. Of course, if they're going to kill Daryl - AND THEY BETTER NOT - it will be dramatic and not by a stealth zombie.] He stuffs a grenade down the tank's gun barrel, destroying it, and then plants a crossbow bolt in Mitch's chest. The Governor is totally kicking Rick's ass and almost chokes him to death, until Michonne comes up from out of nowhere (where has she been during this fight?) and runs him through the chest with his sword. The fight is all but over now and she helps him back up to the prison. The Governor rolls on the ground, gasping, and Lily walks up to him and shoots him in the head. Now he's done. And he's caused her nothing but grief ever since he staggered into her life.
Rick lurches into the prison yard (where did Michonne go?), hollering for Carl. Carl comes up, shoots a couple of walkers and hugs his dad. Neither of them knows where baby Judith is. They walk through the yard and, horror of horrors, find Judith's empty, bloodsoaked car seat. They gasp and howl and sob. This has been a very bad day for them.
This has been a bad day for everyone. They're all scattered now: Glenn and the weaklings driven off on the bus; Maggie, Bob and Sasha on their own; Tyrese, Lizzie and Lizzie's little sister on their own; Daryl and Beth alone together; Michonne god knows where. Rick and Carl stagger through the woods, Rick telling his son not to look back - there's nothing left for them there.
I don't recall the comics all that well but I'm pretty sure that how this episode ends is more in line with how the book's battle with the Governor ends, with the baby killed and everyone scattered to the winds. Of course, in the comics there was only ONE battle at the prison against the Governor, not two. Yes, this battle was tense and grim and horrible and we lost some people. Herschel's death was sad and awful and I'm glad that he got to be a hero during the plague. But Judith was a nonentity character-wise (leaving out the fact that killing off a baby, even a fictional one, is just horrific); losing Megan was bad too but we'd only known her for two episodes; and the rest of the cannon fodder we neither knew/recognized or cared about. Those two Governor-centric episodes were just a waste of time because he ended up the exact same monster he was in Woodbury. What was the point? Ugh. This show is just so frustrating what with the trite dialogue, repetitive plotting and thin characters. Daryl and Michonne's badassery and the zombies - that's what keeps me coming back, I guess.
Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead
14 hours ago