This is the final (for now) article in a continuing series. Spoiler Warning - although the comics often differ, there may be potential spoilers included.
Despite a few grievances, I am a committed fan of The Walking Dead TV series. My biggest applause for the series is how they've found a balance between staying true to the essence of the graphic novels, while also converting the stories to more compelling narratives for TV; and all the while, keeping fans of the graphic novels guessing. For the purpose of this series, we'll compare a few of the adaptations between the graphic novels and the TV series to see what has worked and what has not.
Fifth Up: The Prison vs. Woodbury Showdown.
The Prison vs. Woodbury Showdown - DIDN'T REALLY WORK - 3 out of 8 zombie heads.
Up until the season finale, "Welcome to the Tombs", the TV series had done a pretty good job overall of translating the Woodbury vs. Prison storyline from the comics to the screen. As discussed in previous articles, the series was limited in how much of the graphic content they could translate, but they still managed to create a love-to-hate Governor while building up some great suspense all season to see how the showdown would turn out. Then, the finale aired, and the showdown the series had "promised" never happened.
Maybe I was relying too much on the graphic novels to build up my expectations for an intense battle between the two groups, but the hype that the series built up with the trailers and the headlines of "27 people will die" led to a huge letdown when the Woodbury clan fled the prison in the first 10 minutes of the episode. I didn't necessarily want to see some of the prison group members die, and I would have been sad to see such a great character like the Governor go, but in a show like this, these deaths are sometimes vital to the success of the storyline. The graphic novels know this all too well, and the series has done a decent job in the past with this balancing act (Shane, Dale, Sophia); but if they weren't planning on having a showdown in the finale, then they shouldn't have built up to it all season.
The biggest problem with the finale was the same problem that the series had all season - half of the screen time was focused on Andrea and the dramatic climax of the finale was her death, rather than the showdown. Andrea is a great character in the comics, but her continual bad choices in the series made her intolerable; and her choice in "Welcome to the Tombs" to continue to talk to Milton instead of working on cutting off her handcuffs was just another reason to condemn the series for how they portrayed her character. The death of Andrea could have been a better ending for the season if it had happened as part of the fight between Woodbury and the Prison, but suffering a walker bite off-screen just felt so lackluster to me that I was still aching to see the Governor and his two remaining henchmen show up at the prison for a final fight in the last three minutes of the episode.
Not only was I hoping for an all-out brawl between the two groups, but I was also hoping that the series would wrap up the Governor storyline in the finale. While writing the comics, Robert Kirkman clearly realized what a great character the Governor was as he created the spin-off series, "Rise of the Governor" to give readers more of him. I assume the writers of the series are following this insight by keeping the Governor around longer, but after the build up to his demise all season, I think the Governor returning in Season 4 to fight the prison would just feel anti-climactic. We'll have to see what the series ends up doing with him and his story, but my fear is that they sacrificed the storyline to keep around a solid actor and one of the more interesting characters.
My biggest praise for the finale, in addition to keeping Tyreese around and Michonne's genuine thank you to Rick, was Carl's role in it. He had taken more of a back-seat this season, and it was interesting to see how he has changed over the past year of living in a zombie-overrun world. When he first shot the Woodbury boy, I thought to myself "ok, Carl really is creepy", but as he explained his reasoning to Rick, I heard a faint echo of Shane's rationale in my head and realized there was a lot of legitimacy to what he was saying. I am anxious to see how the series chooses to develop this aspect of Carl, and Rick's response to his son's attitude.
FINAL (FOR NOW) CONCLUSION:
TV Series Adaptation of Graphic Novels - WORKED - 6 out of 8 zombie heads.
I'm sure I'm not alone in my disappointment over the translation of the Woodbury vs. Prison battle, but I still believe the series has translated the comics to the screen rather successfully. I'm still looking forward to seeing what they decide to do with the characters at the prison in Season 4. In the comics, Rick Grimes' group leaves the prison after the battle with Woodbury, but it appears that they have no plans to move on a anytime soon when the show picks up next fall.
The series couldn't have done a better job at adapting Shane's story in Seasons 1 and 2, and they still have several winning characters in Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, and Rick. I can only hope that the characters who are starting to become interesting (Michonne, Tyreese) will be better developed now that half of the show won't be devoted to Andrea, and maybe they'll finally develop Carol and Carl as well.
As I've said before, translating books and comics to a film or TV show is a difficult task, and it's easy to have grievances with what they choose to change and what they choose to keep. But The Walking Dead TV show brought in 11 million viewers this season, both comic lovers and non-lovers alike, which made it the most-watched series on Sunday night television this year. From that fact alone, I would say that despite a few hiccups in character development and anticlimactic payoffs, what the TV series has done with the adaptation of the graphic novels has worked overall.
Thanks for being with us this season! If you haven't checked out the graphic novels click here to get started. And you can check out the previous entries in our series below: