I’d intended on having this post up hours ago, but got a little sidetracked dealing with health insurance enrollment. You know, something else I’d intended to have done sooner. Oh well, better late than never! Normally, I would include a link where readers could go and get a concise play by play of the episode in question. Not this time! I have too much ground to cover, so we’re going in feet first. Haven’t watched the season finale yet? Then, I advise you to leave this page and do not return until you’ve finished viewing!
I was disappointed upon initial viewing of the finale simply because I had let myself fall victim to the rumors that swirled around the internet in the weeks leading up to it. I had, as you’ve read week after week, devised theories and had high expectations for an elevated fear level and some gore, along with at least 1-2 deaths of major characters. You can imagine my reaction when none of that happened. It took 3 full viewings to truly appreciate what I had just witnessed.
“What way are you going to show him? What’s his life going to be? What’s yours?”~Hershel
The episode did a nice job of bringing Rick back into the story. For the first half of the season, he was about as useful as Andrea. And he was all but non-existent in the second half. The finale was split between Rick’s current storyline and flashbacks with Hershel at the prison, two months after they’d brought the Woodbury people to live with them (roughly 4-5 months prior to the start of Season 4). At the start of the episode, Carl poses an interesting question to Rick: who/what are we? At that moment, a walker comes at them. Without missing a beat, Carl, Rick and Michonne each turn towards the walker and grin as they simultaneously draw their weapons. That, my dear Carl, is who you are. There was no thought, no discussion; just pure rhythm.
I felt sorry for Hershel. He was doing the best the he could to “save” Rick. Think back on season 3. Rick lost Lori without ever having resolved anything or offering forgiveness. He went on a trip to crazy town. And then he was attacked by the Governor. He spent a great deal of time, at first, neglecting his children, and then ignoring them so that he could protect the prison. Hershel counseled Rick as only he could. As it turns out, the pigs and horses, the garden, all of it….that was Hershel’s doing. He suggests all of it to Rick and guides him through the process. “The war is over, Rick. I mean you,” he said.
Sadly, some months later Hershel would come to regret his decision. Clearly there is no middle ground for Rick. Hey Hershel, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You wanted him to be a farmer, that’s what you got. You domesticated him for Carl’s sake and still you lost him. So, it stings a little bit when you think of how season 4 began; how many ways could Rick have assisted the rest of the prison group had he just put the garden tools down. Seeing this flashback goes a long way towards explaining Rick’s attitude towards Hershel at the start of the season. And it makes the moment that led up to Hershel’s death all the more poignant.
Speaking of those moments…let’s side track slightly. There was a moment this season where the Governor “Brian” sets out with Martinez and his new pals on a supply run. They hold up in a cabin over night, remember? But when they first find the cabin, they discover a corpse that had been beheaded; a sign on it read “Liar“. Brian seemed fascinated by this. Later, just as he is about to behead Hershel, the Governor utters one word: “Liar“. No, I am not suggesting that he’d had anything to do with killing the people at that cabin. I just look at it as yet another way of tying things together. The Governor was a dishonest man. Joe is a dishonest man. Yet both men held lying as an actionable offense. There’s something poetic to that entire situation. I still miss the Governor and I’m sorry we’ve lost Joe. I was fascinated by him and saw a lot of potential for a story there. Which leads us to the fall of Joe.
“It’s always right now,” ~Hershel
“The thing about nowadays is we got nothing but time,”~Joe
Rick, Carl and Michonne have settled into a camp in the woods. Rick shows the other two how to expertly set a trap for small animals using a noose that has been rigged in a tunneled out section of ground. You lead the prey into tighter quarters leaving it no option but to go in the direction you’ve set forth. For weeks I’ve mentioned them maneuvering about like rats in a labyrinth. Remember the games being played? The trio gets distracted by a man screaming for help. Rick stops Carl short of rushing into a herd of walkers, “We can’t save him.” Carl watches, mesmerized by the sacrifice he is witnessing. They run away to avoid being eaten themselves. Come evening time, the trio takes shelter in an abandoned SUV. Carl is sleeping in the vehicle while the adults are having a chat. Joe and his band of merry men get the jump on them and things get pretty crazy!
Joe has Rick at gunpoint. Michonne is in the same position nearby. Pedophile guy is harassing Carl in the vehicle. Suddenly, Daryl walks up, looking just as shocked as Rick when they spot one another. Daryl tries to stop Joe, even offering himself up as a sacrifice. Joe calls Daryl a “Liar” and instructs his boys to “teach him all the way” as they proceed to put a beating on Mr. Dixon. Pedophile guy drags Carl out and onto the ground, being all handsy and gross about it. I do not think that Carl was actually raped, though it was a pretty damn close call. His hands were bloodied, as was his face where the man had flipped him over and pressed his cheek into the ground, pinning him there forcibly. The man was on top of Carl and you could hear the sound of him undoing his belt buckle and pants over the sound of Carl crying. Seriously, Daryl should have just walked up and yelled “CLAIMED” for the 3 of them. I wonder what Joe’s reaction would have been, haha.
Now, I don’t know how many of you are parents, but I can tell you this: If anyone were to come at my child with bad intentions, I would rip them apart with my bare hands. There is something raw and animalistic about the mama-bear gene that kicks in whenever my cub is threatened. In that situation–the one which I’m sure Kirkman was referencing when he said the episode was “savage“–I would have done the same thing, if not worse. I would have fed someone their own pecker. Sorry, but it’s true. Rick pulled off two of my personal favorite moves in that fight. First, he employed the backward thrust head butt, smashing in Joe’s face, but also causing him to fire his gun next to Rick’s ear. Before the ringing had stopped, Rick got up and continued to fight. Joe had the upper hand and was winning. And that’s when Rick’s animal instincts took control. Every member of my household screamed and fist pumped the air and yelled various expletives at the television as Rick bit a chunk of Joe’s neck out and spit it everywhere. The shocking sight allowed for just enough distraction to enable Michonne and Daryl to free themselves from their attackers. Rick, covered in blood, used Joe’s knife to come after Pedophile guy. Michonne held on to Carl, trying to shield him, but Carl once again watched in horror and awe. Here’s where Rick used favorite fight move number two: “Bowels to the Jowels” as my husband always called it. He fileted that man and then continued to rapidly stab him long after he was down.
There’s something very intimate and very personal about stabbing. More so than merely shooting a person. Fist fighting is one thing; I mean, presumably the fight can go either direction depending upon the circumstances. But with a stabbing, someone always has the power and the control. My sister and I had a conversation about this regarding a few episodes of The Following this season. It is much more horrifying to watch someone be stabbed like that. It takes things to a new level. And Rick just kept going there over and over. The next morning, Daryl tried to console Rick. He then tells him about losing Beth and it is evident that he feels responsible. Rick absolves him in the same way Daryl had absolved Rick, adding, “You’re my brother.” Remember that time in season 3 when Daryl said to Rick, “You’re family, too.” Sigh.
“Something happened. That ain’t you.”~Daryl on Rick’s handling of the Joe situation.
“That’s her, but that ain’t her.”~Daryl on Carol’s handling of the Karen situation.
Sometimes I think Daryl understands necessity more than anyone else. He knows full well that there are times in life when circumstances cause you to say and do things that you wouldn’t normally do otherwise. It’s the story of his life. Beth helped him to learn to forgive himself those moments and let go of the past. Daryl gets it. He needs to proceed with caution, though. As Chris Hardwick pointed out, anyone that becomes a “moral compass” on the series usually ends up dead.
Oh! And what did Carl do? Or, what is it that he thinks he has done? After a heart-wrenching personal confession by Michonne, meant to ease Carl’s fears, he tells her, “I’m not who he [Rick] thinks I am. I’m just another monster, too.” Is he talking about having to put down his own mother? Or how about when he shot that kid in the woods? Or–grasping at straws to keep this theory alive–Is Carol still lying about killing Karen and was she protecting Carl all along. He as awfully quick with the lighter when they needed to burn down the pig pen. Just saying…
Eventually, our brave foursome finds Terminus. They approach cautiously from the woods, choosing to hop a fence rather than use the main entrance, just in case. Rick even goes so far as to bury the bulk of their weapons and supplies in a duffel bag just over the fence line. The fence line, which by the way, was entirely unguarded when they arrived. Yet later on while under attack we can see at least 3-5 heavily armed men and women on the outside of the fences aiming in. Rick and company begin to sweep a building and find a handful of very calm and creepy individuals who do not look at all surprised to see them. Gareth, greets them as the ‘voice’ of the room. He is smarmy. I know eventually, I’ll warm up to him as he conveys a smart, serial killer personality and lord knows I love that type. But for now, he has not shown the charisma of the Governor or Joe. He is merely cold and calculated.
Our friends are led outside to the sunflower garden where Mary is still working on her barbeque, serving up Beth burgers (at least, I hope she is). Officer Friendly begins to assess their surroundings and immediately spots someone with Bob’s back pack, prison riot gear like Glenn always used, Daryl’s poncho (which Maggie ended up with), and Hershel’s watch. He immediately flips the situation and it becomes an armed stand-off. Suddenly, Terminus folk–Termites, if you will–begin popping up from all over the place, roof top to roof top, and all armed. Gareth, while talking to Rick, holds one palm up. To the lay person, it would appear as if he were holding his hand up to Rick in a gesture of “simmer down, sir”. But Rick should have known, as we did in our household, that Gareth’s hand was raised military style, his quick fist formation and hand drop the signal to open fire. The Termites begin shooting wildly as our friends run for their lives. The Termites can be heard, muffled, communicating through shots and what sounded like walkie-talkies. They never shot at Rick and company, rather they shot near them, cutting them off and guiding them through a maze. Or, if you prefer, a shallow tunnel in the leaves leading to a rabbit noose.
As they ran in and out of buildings, Daryl and Rick acknowledged a few scary hints along the way. For starters, they ran past a stack of shipping crates from which desperate cries of “Help” could be heard. Then they ran past a small fenced enclosure that was littered with human skeletons–not rotting remains as Morgan had from the Walkers–skeletons that had been stripped and chopped to nothing. They ran into one room that was filled with candles. The floor was covered with the names of deceased, painted in concentric rings, each one numbered and adorned with a personal item. On the walls were the words: NEVER AGAIN, NEVER TRUST, WE FIRST ALWAYS. Oh, by the way, not that it means anything because the last names are different, but two of the names on the floor were Glenn and Judy. Just FYI.
Finally cornered, our Ringleader, Archer, Samurai and Boy are ordered one at a time into a train box car marked with the letter A. Once locked inside, we learn that Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, Bob, Tara, Abraham, Rosita and Eugene are also locked in the car with them.
Oh, hey…Maggie…at any point, just any old point at all, if you felt like inquiring as to the whereabouts of your sister, you go right ahead and do so. Geez. All Beth could whine about at the moonshine shack was Hershel, Maggie and Glenn. Maggie hasn’t asked about her once yet. Nice.
And then we get to hear one of comic book Rick’s famous lines, albeit edited, “They’re screwing with the wrong people.”
“It could be like this all the time,”~Hershel
“It’s like this now, and that’s enough,”~Rick
This whole season was full of questions. It was full of games and puzzles, secrets/hints and easter eggs. It examined time. Some feel like they have no time. Others understand that the time is now. This season was meant for each character to explore themselves. They’ve been pushed to the limits, or what the limits are thus far. For numerous seasons we’ve posed questions about who they were prior, who they are now, and who they will become. But this has never been addressed more than it has been in season 4. From understanding the rise and fall of the Governor, to Rick’s mental journey, acceptance and forgiveness of one’s self has been crucial towards survival. It makes me wonder how the Termites became what they are. Their mantra is haunting. Who or what hurt them so badly, betrayed their trust in such a way that they would ritualistically take this “We first” stance. The cannibalism, I get that. It’s survival. It’s sick and twisted, but more than 2 years into the ZA and I imagine that some people would be pushed beyond normal limits. It’s the rest of their set up that freaks me out. And what of Carol, Tyreese and Judith? They’re were only about a day behind the rest of the group. What will happen when they arrive? Will they march up to the gates or will they come across Rick’s stash of weapons before the Termites do. And where’s Beth, if not on the grill? Imdb listed Morgan as a character this season. Could he have been the one that took her? I’m leaning towards Gabriel over Morgan. I still think Terminus will be the introduction of the Saviors. Their property is too wide open and barely secured for there to be no walkers roaming around anywhere in the vicinity like they were at the prison. I think in season 5 we will learn that the Saviors protect Terminus in exchange for food, supplies, women, and so forth. In which case, Glenn had better watch is back. Lucille is coming.
Over all, I had mixed feelings about this season. It felt disjointed. While I loved the character development and individual story lines, for some reason their 2-3 wk span of time felt like months. It was interesting watching the marathon and seeing how the show played out in the front 8 vs. the back 8 episodes. As always, the more I watch them, the more I get out of them. And then the more I cherish them. I applaud the creators, cast and crew of The Walking Dead for another great season. Normally, I’d spend all summer debating possible outcomes and “what next” scenarios following a season finale. Unfortunately, that’s not the case this time. I’m pretty much left with an image of them all crammed in a box. If there had been even one more moment, just one fleeting second in which to see something–anything–some semblance of a teaser, I would be more intrigued. Had we seen one of them prepping a human meal. Had we seen Carol and Tyreese walking up the tracks, knowing their impending danger. Had we seen any hint of something worthy of yelling Oh Snap! at the television, then and only then could I call it a cliffhanger. Without it, it merely feels like another mid-season hiatus to me. Don’t worry, my love affair with The Walking Dead is far from over. Let’s just say it’s time to break out the nutmeg.
PS. It’s rare, haha, but I love being proved wrong. Way to go, guys! You survived another season! #TeamCaryl forever!