Before we learn whether Terminus really is the end of the line for the battle-scarred survivors of The Walking Dead, the fourth season finale serves us up a bloody reunion, a ghost story and a heartbreaking reminder of paradise lost. Read on, and we’ll discuss the mysteriously titled “A” from A to Z.
HERE WE HOE AGAIN | Although the hour begins with and frequently revisits the bygone days when Hershel was teaching Rick how to farm so that Carl, in turn, could learn to do more than kill, it’s just a cruel tease. “It can be like this all the time,” says Maggie and Beth’s late, lamented father. Except that it can’t be like that all the time. And, in the present, it sure as hell isn’t. Rick won’t even let Carl intervene to save a stranger from getting his face bitten off by a pack of walkers. That’s the kind of world in which they now live.
JUDGMENT DAY | That evening, while Carl makes Zs in a nearby pick-up, Rick and Michonne’s campfire chitchat is interrupted by the marauders. “Oh, dearie me,” Joe says as he points a gun at Rick’s head. “You screwed up, a–hole.” Luckily, Daryl arrives on the scene before a shot is fired (and, for that matter, before we have too long to think about how bizarre it is that a cretin like Joe has just said “dearie me” as if he were the Dowager Countess). “You want blood” as payback for Lou’s murder, Daryl suggests, putting down his crossbow. “I get it. Take it from me.” Nah, Joe replies. They’re gonna beat Daryl to death, sure, for lying that these are “good people,” but they’re still gonna have their way with both Michonne and Carl, then kill Rick, anyway. In the inevitable ensuing struggle, Joe believes that he has Rick not just beaten up but beaten. “What the hell are you gonna do now, sport?” he means to ask rhetorically. In response, Rick — not at all rhetorically — rips out Joe’s throat with his teeth! And, as Daryl and Michonne dispatch the other hooligans, Rick guts Carl’s would-be rapist and stabs him. And stabs him. And stabs him. And…
MONSTERS INC. | The following day, Daryl explains to Rick how he fell in with the marauders, how he was just about to break away from them, how he had no idea they were THAT depraved… But it’s okay. What happened, Rick assures him, “is not on you.” He even tells Daryl, “You’re my brother.” (Or, in words Joe would appreciate, “claimed.”) In the wake of Rick’s Norman Bates moment, however, things are a bit tenser between him and Carl. So, when the teen and Michonne separate from Rick and Daryl while scoping out the perimeter of Terminus, she reveals to her pseudo-son that her actual son died because her boyfriend and their pal were getting high instead of standing guard. In retaliation, she let the guys turn, whacked off their jaws and dragged them behind her on chains. Like Rick, “I was just another monster,” she says. Until Andrea — and, eventually, Rick and Carl, too — brought her back. So not only is there hope for Rick, there’s also hope for Carl, who maintains that his dark thoughts make him “just another monster, too.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT | After regrouping, jumping the fence and surprising the denizens of Terminus in what looks like a factory setting — making soylent green, perhaps? — Rick, Michonne, Daryl and Carl are frisked… but allowed by welcome wagon Gareth to keep their weapons. Strange move, considering what we soon discover. “The more people become a part of us,” says another Termite, Alex, while Mary serves the newcomers something hot off the grill, “we get stronger.” Yeah, that doesn’t sound at ALL cannibalistic. As he continues — “That’s why we put up the signs, invite people in… it’s how we survive” — Rick notices that he’s wearing the pocket watch that Hershel gave Glenn, and all hell breaks loose. After a whole lotta shooting but not a lotta hitting, it becomes clear that Terminus doesn’t actually employ the worst snipers on the planet, the gunmen are simply herding Rick and Co. around the train station through a candlelit garage decorated with messages like “Never Again,” “Never Trust” and “We First, Always” and out into the yard. There, Gareth forces the foursome to enter a scary-dark train car in which they find — hurrah! — Glenn, Maggie, Bob, Sasha, Abraham, Rosita, Eugene and Tara! (Hmm… but no Carol or Tyreese?) It’s quite a pickle they’re in. But Rick isn’t worried. (Guess once you realize you’re the type who can bite out a man’s throat, fewer things rattle you.) “They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out,” he says. “Find out what?” Abraham asks. “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” Dirty Harry Rick replies.
Okay, your turn. What did you think of the episode? Do you believe, as so many have speculated — and Alex’s dialogue hinted — that the residents of Terminus are man-eaters? Hit the comments!