In the midseason finale of the fourth season of The Walking Dead, the premise of the show completely shifted from a band of good guys trying to rebuild society in the zombie apocalypse to a scattered group of ragged survivors running for their lives. This shift was more than welcome, and the show’s February return suddenly feels very far away.
One of the criticisms of the first half of Season 4 has been the continual lessening of suspense. The ravaging flu and encroaching hordes were nerve-wracking when first introduced, but the lack of main character deaths—and the increasing sense of contrivance as nameless extras died in droves—diminished any real sense of urgency. The show was beginning to feel awfully static.
Well, “Too Far Gone” took care of that. Hershel died. The Governor died. Meghan died. Poor baby Judith may have been devoured. By the midpoint of the episode, even the characters with the most secure plot armor—such as Daryl and Rick—felt like they had every chance of not making it to the end of the hour alive. The episode obliterated any sense of stasis that had developed over the first seven episodes of the season…and the devastation did not stop there. The major deaths were not the only aspect of “Too Far Gone” to leave viewers shellshocked.
With the destruction of the prison, the entire dynamic of the show changed. Every surviving main character suffered a terrible loss of some sort. Rick lost the daughter for whom his wife had died. Carl lost his sister. The Greene girls lost their father…and then each other. Glenn lost Maggie. Tyreese lost Sasha. Daryl lost his poncho. The only relationships that remained intact were Rick/Carl and Daryl/Crossbow.
Of course, there were flaws in the episode. The unquestioning obedience of the Governor’s new followers felt completely contrived. Viewers who had seen Season 3 would not have been surprised by his psychosis, but it is difficult to believe that all but one of the Governor’s inexperienced mob would be eager to attack the inhabitants and endanger the fortifications of the prison without provocation. Furthermore, as the Walkers had been threatening to bring down the fences by sheer mass all season, their absence in the beginning of “Too Far Gone” was conspicuous.
Flaws aside, “Too Far Gone” was pretty great. It struck a balance of action, plot, and character development, and—unlike with the midseason finales of Seasons 2 and 3—there’s really no predicting where the second half of Season 4 will pick up. The prison is gone. Glenn’s been shipped off with a bus full of redshirts. Rick has been shot and beaten half to death. Maggie ended up with the wounded Bob and the still-weak Sasha. Tyreese is running around with a band of feral children. The unlikely duo of Daryl and Beth made their escape together, which is frankly a great turn of luck for Beth but may not work out so well for Daryl. The wait for the next episode will not be an easy one.