“Today’s the day of reckoning,” as ‘The Walking Dead‘ season 4 comes to a close with finale “A,” and we finally get answers to whatever happened to Glenn’s group after he reunited with Maggie in last week’s episode, and if any of the other prison group members made it to Terminus. It’s too bad that both these answers were not satisfying enough.
The season 4 finale episode starts with a flashback of better times at the prison when Rick was doing errands with Michonne and Carl, fully recovered from his days of talking to dead phone lines and seeing his deceased wife everywhere. Hershel (R.I.P.) makes an appearance, though this fond memory is cut short as we’re thrown back to the present to see a panting Rick sitting on the ground with his back against a car and blood stains on his face. Is Crazy Rick back? (Did he ever really leave?)
After the credits, we’re shown Rick, Carl and Michonne still on the road to Terminus, though unlike Glenn, who was too tickled by the possibility of reuniting with his beloved Maggie to welcome a day’s rest, the trio are seen attempting to maintain some sense of normalcy — they’re eating around a camp fire and Rick wants to teach Carl how to make snares.
While walking in the woods, Carl asks his dad, assuming they make it to Terminus and have to interact with a whole new development, if they will be truthful and tell them who they are. Rick says they will, though Carl follows up with, “How are you gonna say that? Who are we?” (Truly deep stuff for an um-teen-year-old.) There’s no time to ruminate on this topic for too long, however, as nearby screams for help propel Carl (and Rick and Michonne following suit) to chase it. The kid comes across a man who will soon be engulfed on all sides by walkers, but before Carl can help, Rick holds him back — “We can’t help him,” he says — and the frightened man’s eye is eaten out before the walkers ultimately set their sights on the trio (how did they spot them from the woods when they’re supposed to be too hunger-blind and dimwitted to notice anything else?). And, once again, our heroes are on the run.
Shortly after, we’re treated to another Rick flashback of him waking up in the morning to chat with Hershel some more, before we see present Rick and Michonne talking around a campfire while Carl is snagging some shuteye in an abandoned car nearby.
Now, we all knew what happened next was bound to come to pass ever since we saw Daryl walk over the candy bar wrapper on the tracks with his group of roughneck hooligans in the last episode — yes, Joe and his group (who we first saw in that house as Rick hid underneath the bed) finally catch up to the man who strangled their friend in the bathroom while escaping. This moment, as Joe and his buddies point guns at “Ringleader” and “Samurai” (we’ll get to that later), kickstarted one of the episode’s two highlights, made ever more memorable with Joe reciting a phrase from every Pepto Bismol/upset stomach/acid reflux commercial: “You made a bad choice.”
With Carl quivering in the car, Joe is ready to have his men blow Rick and Michonne’s brains out, but Daryl steps in to try and quell their anger and assure Joe that “these are good people.” But remember how Joe has a thing about liars? Well, to him, Daryl is lying when he says that the man who killed one of his friends is a good person, so he has his men beat the living crap out of Daryl in order to “teach” him a lesson. You know how much Joe loves his lessons.
While that’s happening, Michonne is staring down the man aiming a gun to her head, and Rick is forced to watch, seemingly helpless, as a large and oh so creepy man is restraining Carl. Actually (and things are getting real here) it’s more like fondling, as Carl is pinned down, first on his back and then flipped over, with his assailant, a large man with crooked teeth (Hodor from ‘Game of Thrones‘ if he were a disturbed sex offender), sits on top of him with a devilishly creepy laugh. Never thought the group, let alone Rick, would live to see the day when Carl almost get molested … but that’s when Rick flips the switch and goes just-found-out-my-wife-is-dead crazy and bashes his head backwards into Joe, knocking his assailant off guard and leaving him with a nasty ringing in his ear.
But the real kicker comes when he kills Joe by biting zombie-style into his neck. That sight leaves most of the men stunned, which allows for Michonne to grab her attacker’s gun and shoot most of the men. But wait! Carl is still in trouble … until Rick pulls a “He’s mine!” and guts the would be child molester. Though, that look in Carl’s eye as he watched his dad do so makes me think he’s either truly scarred for the rest of his life (as if everything else that happened prior didn’t do that already) or he’s having a similar ‘American Psycho’ reaction as his dad.
Another flashback sees Hershel counseling Rick into taking some sort of charge in the group again, but mainly he just needs help with his gardening. Though, he does make some foreboding statements, like, “The war is over Rick … I’m talking about you,” and, “[Carl] needs his father; he needs his father to show him the way … but which way will you show him?”
Which ties us back into the scene that started the episode of Rick leaning against that car and Carl is trying to sleep off the terrors of the night before as he rests in Michonne’s lap. (It’s OK, Carl. Daddy’s just having an episode.)
With Daryl back with Rick, he tries to explain why he was with Joe’s group, even though he knew “they were bad.” In doing so, he explains that Beth is “just gone,” but the striking moment came when he almost broke down in tears when Rick called him his brother. Carl and Michonne also got to overhear Rick talking about how the only thing that matters is Carl’s safety, but seeing Daryl almost shed a tear will surely spawn more memes and gifs.
Now with a substantial group in hand, these players finally make it to Terminus. Rick suggests they go around back as they don’t know these people and don’t want another Woodbury situation on their hands. As the group splits up to scout, Carl goes off with Michonne instead of with his dad, prompting her to (finally!) reveal more about her past.
Grab a tissue — Michonne ended up at a refugee camp with her son Andre, boyfriend Mike, and friend Terry when the zombie apocalypse first began, though things simply got worse and worse as people left and others gave up (suicide?). As she was coming back from a run one day, she saw the fences were down and walkers came through. Mike and Terry were high when it happened, which we’re assuming is what led her son to being killed. After Mike and Terry were bitten, Michonne was so enraged that she let them turn instead of killing them. You know the rest about how she made them her “pets.” During that time, she says, she was far gone, but it was people like Andrea and Carl who brought her back.
Then Carl made his own revelation in saying that he is very much like his dad — “I still have those thoughts [... like the one he had when he mercilessly shot that kid in the woods]. I’m not what he thinks I am.”
OK, so let’s wrap this up — before entering Terminus, Rick buries a bag of weapons in the dirt near the fence “just in case.” The quartet enter the encampment, guns drawn, to find a group of people. A representative, Gareth, seems sane enough, but after he leads the group to the main square where the woman we met at the end of the last episode is grilling meat, things go sour. Rick soon notices that these new strangers are wearing Glenn’s and others’ old clothes and equipment, which flips the Crazy Rick switch and he attempts to hold one of them at gun point until answers are given.
We get one more flashback of Patrick (the ‘Phineas and Ferb’ actor who died in the first episode of season 4) building LEGOs and Carl building his pistol, before we go back to all hell breaking loose. Shooters from the rooftops are strategically leading the group to run through Terminus, down alleys, through a ‘True Detective’ occult-like candle-lit room, and into an open space next to a red holding tank.
Once they’re cornered, Gareth commands them to drop their weapons and head on in to the holding tank (calling them “Ringleader, Archer and Samurai!” That’s where that came from). And who should also be in that holding tank already? Why, it’s Glenn, Maggie, Bob, Sasha, Tara, Abraham, Rosita and Eugene!
Oh, did I say we were done with the flashbacks? No, we get one more before episode’s end — a quick one of Rick farming with Hershel and Carl, while Beth is bouncing baby Judith in her arms. You know, happy times.
“They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out…” starts Rick, as we quickly flash forwards to the current predicament. “Find out what?” asks Abraham. “… They screwed with the wrong people.” And that’s the end!
Leading up to the ‘Walking Dead’ season 4 finale, we were getting such money quotes from interviews with Andrew Lincoln, such as that Rick would be “irrevocably changed” (a phrase I will always associate with Stephanie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ writing) after the finale episode … but let’s be real — nothing that crazy really happened! Yes, we have another Woodbury-like scenario, lots of guns blazin’ and poor Carl, but the mid-season finale was more satisfying in many ways. For as many harsh critics as that episode had, it still saw the demise of Hershel, the Governor and prison life as we knew it. The actual season finale, however, was overall duller than it should have been. For God’s sake, the episode all about Carol and Tyreese’s group was way better.
A common problem throughout ‘The Walking Dead’ season 4 (and ‘The Walking Dead’ in general) is the slow pacing. So many of the episodes were primarily focused on building characters and forgetting that sometimes the best way to liven up a show about zombies is to add some, I don’t know, zombies. The first episode of this entire cycle seemed to drag along forever, and while the finale’s flashbacks were (sometimes) a nice touch, I kept having post-traumatic stress from dull prison life. The finale suffered a similar not-much-is-really-going-on problem, though this one installment could only tackle so much in the hour, which leads me to blame the season as a whole. What were you doing all that time that left your epic finale with picking up the pieces you were dragging out all season long instead of focusing on the action? Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but I expected more entertainment (and maybe just one person to bite the dust and leave me weeping for next season to start already). Is the magic over?
Remember all those ‘Walking Dead’ season 4 finale posters going around, asking “Who Will Make It to Terminus?” That sort of seemed to imply that perhaps someone wouldn’t, right? Well, spoiler alert, everyone makes it … Well, except for Beth (but who really cares about Beth?) and Carol, Tyreese and baby Judith. But, still, basically everyone.
While we’re stuck waiting for season 5 to come this fall, we’ll leave you this one thing to think about during the summer (be wary of potential spoilers!) — when we first met Joe and his group, we immediately saw a connection to the Hunters of the comics (despite some minor alterations) who were cannibals. While we didn’t get to hang with Joe for very long, could these people at Terminus be the actual cannibals? It seems possible. After all, what kind of meat was that woman grilling? Also, what became of Tyreese, Carol and baby Judith? Will they make it to Terminus and, hopefully, save the day?