When tonight’s season finale of The Walking Dead ended, I definitely had to take a few deep breaths before I could sit down and write this review. The thing is, I’m torn between applauding the writers and producers for making such brave choices and railing at them for taking some things more than a bit too far.
First of all, while I understand the purpose of the prison flashbacks, I still have trouble understanding why they just can’t give that place up. Thankfully it was a quick (yet seemingly pointless) scene before we flash forward to Rick, who is bloody and obviously in shock.
After the opening theme, it seems that we’ve jumped back to a time between the two opening scenes. Rick, Michonne, and Carl are still on their way to Terminus and discussing what they will tell them – but their conversation is interrupted when they hear someone yelling for help. I was actually surprised that Carl ran off to help, without question, but not so shocked that Rick held his son back, knowing that there were too many zombies for them to be able to save the stranger. My question is, since when are zombies so easily distracted when there’s still fresh meat to be had? I know it’s just one guy, but remember that horse in the first season? It kept three times as many walkers busy for a hell of a lot longer.
Don’t worry about that plot hole though, because we’re back at the prison again! Seriously, about the only thing that kept me going through these flashbacks was the fact that they showed Hershel again. Otherwise, it seemed like gratuitous prison footage.
Back in real time, Rick, Michonne, and Carl arrive at the truck that we saw in the opening. I did enjoy Rick’s comment about how all they talk about anymore is food – because yeah, I picked that up a couple of weeks ago and have been connecting it with Terminus theories more than any normal person should. Thankfully my musings on food theories were cut short when the “Claimed” group attacked – because my first thought was “Holy crap, where’s Daryl?!” Thankfully he was there, and stood up for his friends – at which point Joe ‘claimed’ that they were going to beat him to death.
Did anyone else know at this point that these guys were screwed? I mean, did they actually think that they could beat Daryl to death? As soon as this happened, I couldn’t help but think that this had to be the scene that Andrew Lincoln mentioned in the Walker Stalker Con roundtable last November – a scene that he was actually nervous about filming. Sure enough, Walking Dead took things quite a bit farther than I thought they would. Not just with Rick ‘taking a bite out of crime’, but with Carl’s Deliverance-style moment and Rick’s stabbing Carl’s attacker over and over and over…and over.
We were graced with yet another prison flashback before finally seeing opening scene Rick again. Obviously at first we were supposed to think that he was alone, but Michonne and Carl are resting in the truck – and Daryl isn’t far away either. It was rough listening to Daryl explain how he’d ended up with those guys, but at the same time it’s hard to blame him – as he said, they had a code. It was ‘simple, stupid’ – but ‘it was something’.
Thankfully, despite the fact that Rick has clearly crossed some line in terms of sanity, he brushes Daryl’s concerns aside, saying that Daryl being back with them is everything. “You’re my brother,” Rick tells him – and according to Andrew Lincoln, this is “the most profound thing an alpha male could say to another alpha male”.
They continue on toward Terminus, and as they get close Rick insists that they sneak up through the woods, because they don’t know these people – a far cry from last week when Glenn, Maggie, and the crew walked in through the front gates as if they were children blindly following a “Free Candy” sign (pre-apocalypse, of course).
As Rick, Michonne, Carl, and Daryl check out the Terminus perimeter, we are graced with more of Michonne’s backstory. Unfortunately, it’s actually been pretty obvious for some time that her pet walkers were her boyfriend and his friend, and I think this reveal would have been better served several episodes ago. And Rick witnessing Michonne and Carl’s ‘touching moment’ was definitely unnecessary in terms of the current storyline.
But from the moment they entered Terminus, I was on the edge of my seat. I expected that they would get caught trying to sneak in through the back door, but apparently it’s totally normal that they showed up undetected because “Albert” was on perimeter watch. Still, when Rick admits, “We wanted to see you before you saw us”, I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s what the people of Terminus wanted them to think. For a moment it seems legit – Rick and company have to lay down their weapons, but they’re allowed to keep them – and as they walk through Terminus, it seems just as pleasant as it did at the end of last week’s episode.
Until Rick recognizes Hershel’s watch. I almost feel bad admitting that at first I didn’t think about what this might mean for Glenn – but I suppose I just still can’t believe that he would be killed off on the show any more than Daryl would. And even though the awkward prison flashback featuring Legos and farming was inserted in the middle of their Terminus standoff, when we’re brought back to the present A really comes to its climax. It’s pretty obvious that Rick, Michonne, Carl, and Daryl are being kept alive – every single rooftop sniper hits the ground around them, over and over again. The courtyard area full of bones certainly gave me pause, but soon after that Rick and company are essentially cornered.
The “Ringleader”, “Archer”, “Samurai” nicknames would have been amusing if it weren’t for the fact that I was wondering what was in the boxcar that Rick, Daryl, and Michonne were being forced into on threat of Carl’s death. When they entered it and found Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, Bob, and the others alive and well, admittedly I was relieved – but at the same time this relief was tempered by yet another prison flashback. I was actually worried for a moment that they would finish this season with a prison scene, and grateful when we were at least given Rick’s last stand.
But are they really screwing with the wrong people, Rick? Are they? After all, you’re the ones trapped in a boxcar without any weapons to speak of…
As a whole, this fourth season of The Walking Dead was in my opinion the strongest since season one. It had its low points (Governor-centric episode, anyone?), but in terms of action and moving the general plot of the show forward, it got more done than the past two seasons. It also took a few turns that were, to say the least, shocking for a network like AMC – I mean, we’re not watching HBO or Starz here, folks. Personally, having read the comics and played the game, I wonder just how far they’re going to take it next season. We may have been left with nothing more than a few minor cliffhangers in tonight’s finale, nor were we forced to witness any major character deaths…but to me that just says that The Walking Dead doesn’t need to use such devices – this show is truly in it for the long haul.
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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