Courtesy of AMC

After The Walking Dead‘s monumental and destructive midseason finale, where does the show go from here?

Announcing a new series here on Holygrenade — Three Big Questions! Whenever a game comes out or a serious TV finale happens, I’ll posit three major questions about the experience and speculate going forward. It’ll be fun, I promise.

The Walking Dead is a show that’s easy to follow. As the fan base often jokes, if a character shows progression in an episode or over a series of episodes, they’re gone. Dale had the fatherly bonding with Andrea before his death; Andrea herself had the Woodbury debacle before her demise; and Carol, never the fool, burned Karen’s and the no-name’s diseased bodies only to have Rick make a tough decision. The AMC show seems to play this up almost comically. That was no apparent than in season 4, episode 8, titled “Too Far Gone”, with “Brian” slashing Hershel’s neck.

Considered the group’s patriarch, Hershel had some notable character progression before the midseason finale. His devotion to caring for the sick and wounded had been his trademark through three seasons, starting with treating Carl. But recent events put his skills to test, and through the adversity he shined. This speech was the defining moment of Hershel’s life on the show, but rather mockingly, it also sentenced him to death.

The creators timed this perfectly. To coincide with a pivotal battle in the comics, where most of Rick’s group died, Hershel was a great choice. It was appropriate for a foundation of the group to fall; the gravity of this moment weighed down on the audience as Michonne’s katana went into Hershel’s neck. The episode, too, retained its satisfaction when Michonne stabbed a reformed “Brian” with the same blade. Later, Lilly casually strides over and blows his brains out, again emulating a powerful scene in the comics.

So where does The Walking Dead go from here? An anchor of the group is gone, and everyone is scattered. I have three questions.

1. Where is Carol? When Carol admitted to burning the two bodies, it was a huge break for her character. Three episodes away, Carol may resurface soon. I would assume Tyreese and the kids discover her on the roadside somewhere, car broken down, with little food left. The Walking Dead has never had characters leave alive voluntarily. But imagine Carol bringing up Karen’s death with Tyreese before Rick had a chance to say so. How his character would respond remains a mystery–could he kill Carol? And was Carol even responsible or was she covering up for someone in the prison?

Based on what Tyreese found early in the episode, anything is plausible. The zombie feeding apparently did not stop after Carol left, which if Tyreese’s logic is correct, means Carol may not be responsible for the murders. I’m personally waiting for this storyline to unravel in the latter half of season four. Unfortunately, no CSI-style technology exists in or around the prison.

2. Where’s home? The next preview showed walkers inundating the prison. With the fences down and the prison walls blown to smithereens, the group couldn’t conceivably return. The Walking Dead did need a slight change of pace, though. Season two had the group stay at Hershel’s farm far too long, ending in a zombie horde and a fiery barn. And those cataclysmic moments happen only during finales. In the comics, after the prison, Rick and gang go up to Washington, D.C. Production and relocation costs might restrict the show from moving outside Georgia, and the announced spinoff plans to convey a life of survival somewhere outside the Southern states. From where everyone stands, the show might pace itself and allow characters to regroup before moving forward.

I would like to see the gang veer in a completely different direction. Find an enclosed section of buildings out of state, maybe, like the Alexandria Safe Zone, but not in Virginia. In one episode, Michonne focused on a map of Macon–possibly a nod to Telltale’s game–or a hint to where the series is heading. Revolving in the same universe, we could even see Lee’s family pharmacy somewhere or the motel.

3. Who’s next? One strong point of The Walking Dead is its brazenness. Any major character death is unfortunate, but with Hershel dead, the show loses its emotional rock. If Scott Gimple (current showrunner) wants to startle the audience, he’ll need to pull off some unbelievable character twists. What about Glenn and Maggie going out in a blaze of glory together? Season 2, episode 4 had T-Dog and Lori perish in the same episode; taking risks is one of the show’s primary strengths. New characters dying won’t instill the level of emotion as, let’s say, Rick or Carl. I don’t believe Glenn, Maggie or even Beth are in the endgame plans, so killing off one or all three would be the next best choice. If the second half of season four follows the comics, we might not wait long.

The episode overall was dramatic and satisfying. Michonne stabbing the Governor was a perennial moment for her character and the series as a whole, demonstrating its prolonged storylines can still have acceptable conclusions. What The Walking Dead continues to stress over four seasons: No place is safe.

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  • http://www.dregstudios.com Brandt Hardin

    It was a shocker beheading one of the main characters but I’m just glad we’re finally moving on from the Prison. The show needs more variety in it’s settings- the prison was the new farm from Season 2. Keep your appetite for zombies full until the 2nd half of this season with some zombie art and the Top 10 Zombie Movies of All Time at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/05/top-10-zombie-movies-of-all-time-with.html

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