After the Governor laid waste to the prison in the mid-season finale, the second half of the fourth season of ‘The Walking Dead’ followed the survivors of the attack as they navigated their way through some sticky situations, intensely emotional moments, and incredibly awesome character development all around. And last night it all came to an end when a record-breaking total of 15.7 million viewers tuned in for the season finale on AMC to see what Terminus is, who arrived, and who survived.
Last week, we got to see the joyous reunion of Maggie and Glenn when the two groups met up after braving a walker-filled tunnel on the way to the fabled sanctuary that everyone from the prison was headed towards. In this week’s episode, we got another reunion that didn’t exactly start out quite as happily. With only a day’s journey left until they reached the end of the line, Rick, Carl, and Michonne are reunited with Daryl Dixon. However, his new running mates aren’t exactly looking to welcome the Grimes family with open arms due to their last encounter that involved Rick killing their companion and leaving him to turn while the rest of the group ransacked the house where the trio had been staying. Now, the former prison inhabitants have their hands full before they can reach sanctuary at Terminus, which might also not be everything it’s advertised to be.
The big theme of this episode was really “Who are we?” for Rick, Carl, & Michonne. The former sheriff was the main focus as we saw a series of flashbacks that depicted Rick’s interactions with Hershel back at the prison that allowed him to let loose a little bit. But those days are long gone and Rick is forced to become hardened once again. In both instances, he shows that he’ll do whatever is necessary to protect his family and friends, especially when they’re put into a situation where it’s very possible that these main characters aren’t walking away from this. (How intense was that moment when Joe threatened that his men would rape Carl? Heavy, heavy stuff.) And as shown in the fight with Joe and the marauders, he’ll even resort to taking a page out of the walkers’ playbook, which further blurs the line of who the title of the show is actually referring to since this world is full of monsters besides the undead.
As for Carl, while it may not seem like a huge win, he goes through a parallel change that sees him go from a stone cold killer and soldier to a more sympathetic survivor who understands that tough decisions need to be made to stay alive. That’s why when Michonne tries to explain why he shouldn’t be afraid of his father, he says that he’s not. He understands him and why he does what he does. This new understanding helps him dial back from practically losing himself entirely after he murdered that boy earlier in the series. Carl has certainly come a long way from being told to stay in the house (and not listening ever).
Another thing that I’ve been finding interesting about this show since Scott M. Gimple became the showrunner is that they’ve been borrowing from the source material a lot more. One of the best instances was the introduction of Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita, but it happens a couple of times in this episode during the fight with Joe’s gang and with Rick’s last line of the season. This show is based on the acclaimed comics by Robert Kirkman, but it’s not a straight adaptation, and that’s something that I’ve always liked about it. Sure, we all got into the comics for their awesome stories, but the show offers a new and exciting layer to the ‘Walking Dead’ experience. It’s not just giving long time fans the same old stuff that they’ve seen before. The amalgamation of source material and new stuff in the same vein as the source material has found a happy medium as of late and I hope that trend continues because it has been making for some excellent episodes.
Finally, although there were a ton of amazing things about this episode due to the amount of suspense built up over the course of this half of the season, I was sort of let down when there wasn’t really a huge reveal or a heart-breaking kill of a beloved character. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for something epic, especially after Rick realized that the citizens of Terminus were sporting prized possessions of his former group like Hershel’s watch that was given to Glenn or Maggie’s poncho. At that moment, I recalled that there were cannibals in the comics that the group encountered and I went wide-eyed. I was under the impression that after Glenn, Maggie, and company arrived, they were turned into fresh meat for the grill. My suspicions were fueled when the four newcomers traveled through the complex and came across the memorial room with the words, “Never Again. Never Trust. We First, Always.” painted on the wall. It was one of those things that I didn’t want to happen, but I would have totally been blown away by the balls exhibited by this show to kill off half of their cast in one fell swoop. But then as the suspense continued to build in the final five minutes of the episode and Rick lead his group into the train car, I couldn’t help but be like, “Really?” after I caught my breath and saw everyone minus Carol, Beth, and Tyreese step out from the shadows. That was it? Then on top of that, they botched Rick’s line at the end. Yes, they’re probably not going to say “fucking” on this show even though they’ll kill just about anyone, but it would have been a much more powerful moment had he swore. Instead, even though it established Rick as a leader once again, it was kind of cheesy.
Overall, it was a good episode, but it was a bad season finale. This probably would have worked better as a mid-season finale actually. After all that build up after the prison, I was expecting something super epic, but instead we just got a small taste of what’s to come next. I mean, I could still be right about the cannibalism thing, but we won’t know until the fall. Basically, I would have much rather had this season end with a bit more finality. Not that I want any of these characters to be offed, but that might have satisfied the buildup throughout these past few excellently crafted episodes. It’s almost like we were left with the television-watching equivalent of blue balls after that season finale. However, I can’t be too disappointed because the group is together again (for the most part) and there are some exciting questions left to be answered when the show returns. I just hope that episode one of season five makes up for those anticlimactic final five minutes of season four. Even though the episode was titled ‘A’, all together it was a B-/C+ at best after that ending