Episode Review: The Walking Dead Season 3 Finale

  • Publish Date: April 1, 2013
  • Comments: ↓ 6 user comments

The Walking Dead, Episode 316: "Welcome to the Tombs"
Original airdate: March 31, 2013 on AMC

Written by exiting producer Glen Mazzara, this season's finale managed to eliminate some regulars—though season 3 newcomer The Governor was not one of them; David Morrissey will return as a regular next season. (The Walking Dead will return for a fourth season this fall, albeit with yet another new showrunner, Scott Gimple.) Below, we sample the response of professional critics and TV bloggers to last night's episode, though, as a group, they seemed to like the third season as a whole more than they did its final episode in particular.

Great Extremely positive reviews

93 "What we all assumed would be the final showdown between Rick and The Governor was full of surprises."

— Josh Jackson / Paste

94 "It felt like things were happening, the characters all getting their moments to shine (I mean Beth was even killing walkers!), and the story wasn't dragging it's feet anymore. I even appreciated the quiet, hopeful end of the hour, rather than some wild cliffhanger."

— Sean McKenna / TV Fanatic

Positive Positive reviews

83 "It wasn't a perfect hour, and once again there are characters behaving in ways that should've have been better established over the course of the entire season, rather than just randomly getting pulled out of a hat in the last hour. But it still holds together, and makes the arc of the season seem cleaner in retrospect."

— Zack Handlen / A.V. Club

80 "Occasional overlong scenes aside, this was a very good season finale. It didn't have the incensed walker horde descending on Hershel's farm factor that brought so much chaos and carnage to the end of season two, but "Welcome to the Tombs" was more than exciting enough in its own twisted way."

— Danielle Gillette / Blast Magazine

70 "As a finale, 'Welcome to the Tombs' kicked off with the tension that has been building up all season but fizzled out when the overwhelming forces of Woodbury got scared off by some pyrotechnics and a few well-placed sharpshooters."

— Dave Trumbore / Collider

"The Walking Dead is very much a show made by its cinematography and special effects, and both were on display this week. "

— Ron Hogan / Den of Geek

"While it wasn't the best of the three (so far) season finales of The Walking Dead, it was still a must watch episode. ... Honestly, I was expecting a little bit more from tonight’s episode; it was a bit anticlimactic. Sure, the action was great, and there were a few character deaths, but there really wasn’t a big cliffhanger like there was with the season one and season two finales."

Den of Geek (US)

73 "The Walking Dead finale had a lot to deal with and there were certainly some exciting and crowd pleasing moments. But it also suffered from some dramatic missteps and off moments that ultimately made it good but not great."

— Eric Goldman / IGN

"Last night's season 3 finale didn't pack a similar punch [to Season 2's finale]. In fact, the ending was a bit slow, if decently dramatic. Forgoing the (literal) fiery finish of last year's season, the producers chose to tie up some loose ends, focus on character development, and cruise into blackout."

— Nate Rawlings / Time

"A good episode full of the post-apocalyptic platitudes but a lot of senseless death, and it tied a ribbon on the season quite nicely."

— Nick Campbell / TV.com

"If there's one thing I can say about the end of The Walking Dead season three, it's definitely that it was…unexpected. This whole season seemed to be leading up to a big showdown between The Governor and Rick, and fans of the comic book are all looking forward to a very big moment in their relationship that I've been anticipating seeing how they'll handle on the show, so the fact that this whole thing fizzled out was really a bit of a letdown for me."

— Luke Gelineau / TV Equals

"While this season was far from perfect — starting with the "Rick goes crazy, starts seeing dead wife" interlude, which went on far too long — the finale continued to exhibit the show's enormous guts in terms of shedding significant characters and relying upon new ones."

— Brian Lowry / Variety

"There was more than enough blood-splattered action to satisfy thrill seekers, but also enough substance for those looking for more than a live action video game."

— Geoff Berkshire / Zap2It

Mixed Mixed/neutral reviews

"I haven't been the biggest fan of this half-season. But I was excited about the season finale. Because The Walking Dead has always stuck the landing. ... This time, it didn't. The third season finale had a couple bulletstorms and a few explosions; it killed off one main character, about which more later. But as a longtime fan of the show -- a skeptical fan, but a fan nevertheless -- I couldn't help walking away from the season finale feeling a bit disappointed. This was not a Killing-level catastrophe, and it wasn't it a Breaking Bad-level event. (It had elements of both, though -- which is a compliment and a criticism.) The finale was a bloodless blood opera, filled with action and weirdly static. It ended the Glen Mazzara era with a bang and a whimper, and it gave very little indication of what lies ahead in season 4."

— Darren Franich / Entertainment Weekly

"Great character moments coexisted alongside questionable storytelling decisions — sometimes in the same scene. ... If you're going to spend the back half of your season going in circles so the big showdown happens in the finale, and then the big showdown only partially occurs (Woodbury is routed, but Rick has nothing to do with a good chunk of it, and the Governor is just in the wind), then that's not a way to make the audience feel like that time was well-spent."

— Alan Sepinwall / HitFix

"'Welcome To The Tombs' was third season show runner Glen Mazzara's swan song on the show, and it seemed at times as if he was intent on putting a button on every single relationship and character arc he'd built in his time on the show. This worked beautifully in some instances, felt forced in others, and occasionally seemed to be both at the same time. It was a weird episode of television, but not an ineffective one."

— Todd VanDerWerff / Los Angeles Times

"Well, that was…anticlimactic. We appreciate the value of a good script zagging when we expect it to zig, but we can't help feeling a bit cheated that 'The Walking Dead' season 3 ends with so little punch. ... We understand that in all likelihood AMC sought to keep both the prison set and one of its most compelling villains, but 'Welcome to the Tombs' largely robbed us of any real payoff to the season."

— Kevin Fitzpatrick / Screen Crush

"In the end 'Welcome to the Tombs' worked out in much the same way as 'This Sorrowful Life' and, to a certain degree, like season 3 as a whole. About half of the season (mostly the pre-hiatus portion aside from 'Clear') was fairly strong, but those moments were mostly undone by muddied characterizations and a drawn-out conflict that, as we see here, didn't really deliver."

— Kevin Yeoman / Screen Rant

"Tonight's season finale ... was something of a disappointment. ... Was the decision not to have a full-scale Battle of Woodbury a creative one, or one decreed by budget concerns?"

— Mitch Salem / ShowBuzzDaily

"I don't hate this episode but I don't love it either. For what is a season finale, 'Welcome to the Tombs' doesn't surprise in any way."

— Ricky D / Sound on Sight

Poor Negative reviews

"An episode that really doesn't live up to many of the recent entries in Season 3, not so much because there was a great deal riding on this episode (though there was) but because the show took the easy way out and didn't give us what it's promised, at least implicitly, since we first met the Governor."

— Erik Kain / Forbes

What do you think?

What did you think of last night's finale, and of the third season as a whole? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (6)

  • TheBear  

    It really wasn't the finale we expected nor in fact wanted after a pretty strong build up. New and unused characters introduced briefly late on are suddenly brought into the spot light whilst an old one who's become so distorted by the season's writing is now expected to deserve sympathy? No it wasn't the way I would've ended the season but at least season 4 has managed to pick up the pieces somewhat.

  • Skydog  

    They show carl not giving a when he tells Rick to step down, what 13 year old is going to tell a grown man to step down if they gave a

  • Devildog26  

    Bottom line, this was a major let down of an episode, especially when compared to the season 1 and season 2 finales. The dialogue was average, the multiple characters developments in different characters happened all to soon and it almost seemed out of character. Everything happened so quickly, in a way that there could of been so much other plots they could of used, like it was a waste of time and the production team scrambled to produce a finale just because they had to, it didn't seem well thought out. All things considered, underdeveloped characters and story, not a great episode.


    Poor character development Carl's transition into some hardcore mother f****r that doesn't give a s**t about anyone else, and how he was trying to be all tough and trying to hard to be growing up. This isn't a bad character, especially considering it's a zombie apocalypse going on, but his character transition should have been eased in slower, or earlier on.

    Underdeveloped story when everyone from woodbury went from a big group of people who thought they could just go into the prison and blast the living f**k out of the place, to a group of people who wanted to run home to their moms when they realised the group at the prison actually put up a fight, what? Did they think the prison group was going to surrender to them and hand over the prison in wrapping paper and say "Merry Christmas". Next thing, they're telling the governor, "Let's just let them be" kinda thing. And then in a really underdeveloped way, the governor just shoots them all (sparing two guys, and if you count the girl who was hiding).

    Bottom line, I hope season 4 is better.

  • Qishere  

    Exceptionally entertaining, riveting in every moment, and, once again, taking the rather stale horror-zombie theme and elevating it to epic drama, the 3rd season finale left us with a bittersweet end that we won't forget and makes us long for season 4!! The production team continues to offer excellence at all levels, and in the end, we are moved, we are exhilarated for the time spent with Rick's people to survive,-- and finally, we are never disappointed in the denouements of the myriad cliff hangers. We are left with an awe for this excellent storytelling, for the masterful cinematography, and for the acting from a cast that deserves raves October can't come too soon....

  • TheQuietGamer  


    I have to say I was extremely disappointed with this episode. It didn't feel like a finale at all.
    There are so many reasons why this episode was a let down for me, and I could fill up this comment section with reasons why.

    Episode after episode they constantly built up to a big battle between the two groups only to let us down by not having any such conflict at all. Yeah the Governor and his forces storm the prison, but they never engage in any sort of conflict with Rick's group at all. But by far the worst part of this episode is how it doesn't feel like a season finale. It honestly feels like there should be another episode next Sunday, and that writers just ran out of time and couldn't finish this season so they just ended it as best they could. This leads to what feels like some bad and rushed writing.

    There are some good things about this episode. The total departure from the path the comics took impressed me and has me looking forward to where they're going to take things in season 4. Also the fact that they had the guts (get it?) to kill off a major character from the show and the comics is also impressive. It also has some interesting and intense moments, but when it comes down to it the whole episode just felt wrong for a season finale. After watching this show, and caring about the characters fates you want the season finale to provide enough closure to keep you satisfied until the next season.

    Unfortunately this "finale" is downright insulting. It makes the whole season feel incomplete. I understand that, at times, a cliffhanger season finale can be a good way to end the season, but The Walking Dead does it in the worse possible way. It left me unsatisfied, sad, and angry that the writers would end it like this. They didn't even bother telling us what happened to the Governor (although we know he is alive). So I'm unhappy with the finale. It was a good season, but I pray they NEVER close a season this poorly ever again.

  • JRath  

    This was a disappointing episode. It started off strong and kept that momentum for a little while, but the ending (i.e. the last 10 minutes) was atrocious for a plethora of reasons.

    I loved this season, but the lack of really any finality in that last 10 minutes really worries me for what Season 4 will be like. I don't see them being able to stretch out what they currently have for another season....That might just be me, but I was underwhelmed.

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