The Walking Dead, Season 3
The governor has to die. So does Hershel.
Photo by Gene Page/AMC
“Arrow in the Doorpost” was a bridge episode, but it’s a bridge that leads to an exciting place: the season finale. So, as we approach the final weeks of the season, what do the tea leaves tell us?
In Season 3, The Walking Dead has taken the kid gloves off. After Lori’s unexpected demise, nearly everyone seems vulnerable to a Woodburian bullet or a zombie bite. There are some exceptions. Killing Rick, as useless as he’s become, would be too unconventional. Despite Sophia's death, killing Carl would be way too heartless even for this brutal show. Michonne is only just coming out of her shell and, well, is the Terminator, so she won’t be dying off anytime soon, even if Rick gives her up to the Governor. Glenn or Maggie are possible, though either death would make The Walking Dead seem very hostile to love.
Rick, Carl, and Michonne are safe. Andrea is probably hoping for too much. Most of the others Grimers are “maybes.” Maybe Carol. The only loose end for her is the attraction between Daryl and her, which the series seems unwilling to commit to after two seasons. Maybe Daryl. His death would both shock fans (i.e., he may be a little too cool to survive) and allow Tyreese to become Rick’s right-hand man. Maybe Merle. His death, probably to save Daryl, would wrap up the brothers’ subplot this season, though it would be a waste of the most interesting character on the show.
There’s no way I can see the Grimes group retaining the prison without The Walking Dead turning into Big Brother: Zombie Edition. As one Slate commenter wrote, “In order for the show to progress, they *must* leave the prison. Huck Finn is much easier to read than Kafka's The Trial.” The Grimes group will either overthrow the Governor and join Woodbury or the conflict will compromise both strongholds and send the Grimers back on the road, toward whatever new adventures and threats they will face in Season 4.
If that happens, shedding Hershel from the group seems the only way the group can plausibly move on. His crippled condition unsustainably burdens the plot. Every time the Grimes group needs to run from zombies, the writers will have to come up for some way for Hershel to survive. Judith also necessitates a less nomadic lifestyle, but at least somebody can pick her up and run (carefully) with her, at least for now. As much as I hate to say this about the group elder, Hershel also seems to be the most expendable; right now his only apparent role in the group is to voice alternative options that are never taken, a role anyone can fulfill. In fact, people who have fulfilled this role in the past have almost invariably died; see Shane, Lori, and Dale.
Whatever happens to the Grimes group, there seems too much buildup for the Governor, and probably a few or all of his henchmen, not to die. The Walking Dead has milked the “ruthless madman” trope; it’s too depleted for another full season of the Governor’s tyranny, yet he’s too big a baddy to die midseason, so expect Rick to shoot him or Michonne to decapitate him or Andrea to tearfully stab him or Glenn to smash his head in with a boot. That, at least, remains a mystery to me—who will get the glory of taking down the Governor?
Of course, the true glory will go to the Slate commenters who make the best predictions. Will Maggie and Merle fall in love? Will Beth’s singing career finally lift off? Will Rick find out that Michonne is a cyborg? Place your bets below!
Correction, March 13: This article originally called Sophia, Carol's ill-fated daughter, by the name of "Susan."
Chris Kirk is Slate's Interactives Editor.