Was the most emotionally draining thing I have ever watched on screen. Wow.
A lot of people complained about the slow pace of season 4 to date (until the mid-season finale, that is). Not enough action, slow, boring, etc. It was what I call a “slow-burn”. A culture steeped in Transformer style non-stop action probably cannot tolerate such a thing as build up. All seven of the episodes leading to the finale structured the finale. If they did not do that by design, the show boasts some of the best by pantser writers ever.
I love build up. It requires skill to build up to any degree and then pay-off. The more build up the harder it is to pay off.
The mid-season finale spoilers! saw the loss of the most beloved character on the show, Hershel played by the very talented Scott Wilson.
Hershel’s function on the show was as the group’s moral center. In particular he was the person who kept Rick Grimes together. A man of strong faith, Hershel instilled in Rick over the last 3 seasons that no matter what horrible place he had to go, no matter what horrible thing he had to do, he could always come back. That he could save himself as a person.
At the stand off at the prison gates the Governor has an overwhelming force ready to take over the prison by force. Only Rick is on the other side of the gate to negotiate. The Governor, having kidnapped Hershel, has Hershel on his knees with a sword at his neck. Rick is desperate to convince the Governor that they can all live together in peace. The Governor is hearing none of it. They have until sundown or die.
Then the horrid moment (last spoiler warning folks). Rick starts to tell the Governor (who has done some very horrible things) that he can come back no matter what he’s done, that he can save himself. He is now speaking the lesson that Hershel had been giving him over the last three seasons. Hershel, on his knees, is smiling up at Rick with a tear in his eye, proud that Rick has seen the truth of his words.
-I jump up in my seat – “No!” The camera flashes to the Governor’s hate filled face, “liar” he sneers, and delivers the blow to Hershel’s neck in a really horrible (and great) scene.
Thus explodes probably the best 10 minutes of a season ender ever recorded.
The scene kind of reminded me of the scene in the original Star Wars when Luke Skywalker comes out onto the landing pad to return with the others to the Millennium Falcon. He stops and sees in a parallel corridor his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting Darth Vader. You know when Obi-Wan sees Luke he is going to sacrifice himself. They both have that suspended moment of knowing in the look of the mentor or moral character.
The Hershel scene has much deeper impact. Man, I am going to miss that character.