The Walking Dead season finale recap: Season 4 finale recap
Terminus! Reunions! Blood! What more could you ask for in a season 4 finale? I could have used about an hour’s worth of more content, but we can’t always get what we want. Let’s dive right into the action-packed ending to one of the most thoughtful and non-action-packed seasons of The Walking Dead to date. For more thoughts on the season finale, check out Dalton Ross’ initial post.
The season finale starts in an unexpected place — the Prison, before it all went wrong. Fresh off what they think was their final confrontation with the Governor, the Prison community is two months into its development. Everyone is together. No one has a mystery flu virus. Life, for once, is hopeful.
Rick, Maggie, and Glenn return from a run, greeting their respective families. That means we see Hershel alive and well, save for missing part of his leg. He’s the real “sight for sore eyes” — I may not miss the Prison community much, but I do miss Hershel.
Cut to: It’s the post-Prison present. Rick’s hands are red and shaking. His face is also stained with blood as he sits next to a broken-down truck. What happened? Why is Rick covered in blood? After a season marked by an ambitious manipulation of time, the season finale is no different.
Now it’s the post-Prison, pre-bloody Rick present. Still en route to Terminus, Rick, Michonne, and Carl are running low on supplies but remain optimistic. As a de facto family, they leave their camp to check on Rick’s snare.
Carl asks Rick and Michonne upon arrival at Terminus if they’re going to tell the others about “everything that’s happened” to them and all that they’ve done. Rick replies, “We’re going to tell them who we are.” Carl responds, “Who are we?” Season 4 theme alert!
At the trap, Rick collects a small rabbit and explains how the snare works. He places the snare in front of a funnel-like trail, leading unsuspecting prey into the trap. What else has resembled a trail leading to a trap throughout the back half of this season? Hmm…
Suddenly, a man’s voice cries out for help in the distance. Without hesitation, Carl runs towards the voice. (Goddammit Carl!) Rick and Michonne trail behind him. Carl discovers the cries come from a bespectacled man surrounded by Walkers. Carl raises his gun to shoot the Walkers — and waste even more bullets that he inexplicably still has — but Rick pulls him back. They can’t help Four Eyes — the commotion will only attract the Walkers towards them. Nevertheless, a few Walkers from the edge of the horde spot them. Rick, Michonne, and Carl head back to the tracks only to find more Walkers digging into another meal.
As Rick delivers a blow to the first Walker in his path, we flashback again, this time to Hershel waking Rick up at the Prison. He wants his help with something — something for which he doesn’t need his gun. “It’ll just get in the way,” Hershel insists.
With his gun sorely needed and used, Rick along with Michonne and Carl are back on the road. They find an abandoned truck, the same seen in the opening sequence, and settle there for the night.
After dark, Rick and Michonne talk by the fire as Carl naps in the truck. About a day out from Terminus, Rick suggests the community must be strong and have a system to invite others. Michonne “wonder[s] if the whole thing’s legit.” Just then, they hear a branch break in the woods. Not seeing anything, they relax and continue their conversation. That is, until Joe places a gun on Rick’s temple. The not-so-merry band of marauders have caught up with the “walking piece of fecal matter” that killed Lou, and they’re out for blood.
NEXT: Nobody puts Rick in a corner
Joe proclaims that they’re in for a reckoning, a balancing of the universe on “New Year’s Day” — but to me it looks more like a bloodthirsty group of men on the brink of torture, rape, and murder. Before Joe can finish his NYE countdown, Daryl the straggler arrives on the scene and interrupts him.
Fulfilling his development into a true honorable hero, Daryl tells Joe to let Rick, Michonne, and Carl go because they are “good people.” In full heroic sacrifice mode, Daryl offers himself up instead of the trio. Joe is disappointed — Daryl broke the Rule, lying about his friends being “good people.” He must suffer the punishment of liars. Joe sicks two of his men on the newly crowned Sir Honor Before Reason. The lead marauder then returns his attention to Rick, taunting him. As nonchalant as a murderous, vindictive psychopath can be, Joe quips, “First we’re going to beat Daryl to death. Then we’ll have the girl. Then the boy. Then, I’ll shoot you. And then we’ll be square.” Then he laughs in that eerie, sinister way only Jeff Kober can. Dan the marauder grins as he pins Carl to the ground, creating yet another horrific image involving a child featured this season.
With his friends and most importantly his son in peril, Rick goes on the offensive. He head butts Joe, deflecting the gun away from him as it fires close to his ear — but not in his ear. Joe and Rick scuffle, but Rick is once again thrown to the ground. Daryl is still suffering blows. Michonne is still in the sights of Tony’s gun. Carl is still pinned down by Dan. (Even the implication that the show might “go there” shocked me more than anything else during the season finale.)
Joe locks Rick into his arms, mocking him, “What are you gonna do now, sport?” Oh, nothing…except for RIPPING OUT YOUR JUGULAR WITH MY TEETH. Using the distraction of a man biting into the neck of another man, Michonne turns Tony’s gun towards him and fires. Daryl kills his attackers. Dan draws a knife on Carl — Rick is undeterred. He grabs Joe’s knife and stabs Dan, Carl’s would-be rapist, again. And again. And again. Michonne holds Carl close as the boy watches, never losing sight of his father.
So, that’s why Rick is covered in blood.
back at the ranch in the past, Hershel is intent on teaching Rick to be a farmer — domesticate pigs and horses, grow plants, and build a new life for Carl and himself. “He needs his father to show him the way,” Hershel insists. “What way are you going to show him?” Rick did show Carl the farming way. He truly did. It just didn’t last that long. Now, he’s showing him the rip-out-evil-men’s-jugular-veins-if-they-threaten-you-and-your-people way.
We’ve now caught up to bloody Rick — he sits by the truck, still stunned and shaken after the previous night’s events. Inside the truck, Michonne lies awake with Carl resting on her lap. She brushes his hair to the side and holds him, looking at him as if he’s her own child. Daryl joins Rick outside, catching him up to his story since the fall of the Prison. He talks of Beth, eventually stating, “She’s just gone.” (Is that his way of saying he gave up looking for her?) Daryl also explains why he stuck with the marauders, feeling guilty for not knowing the extent of their cruelty. Rick assures him that he has no need to feel guilty, calling Daryl his brother.
After everything they’ve been through together, Daryl and Rick are brothers — they’re family. For Rick, family is all that matters. Having undergone a trial by blood against the marauders, Rick finally understands the lengths he will go to ensure the safety and survival of his family. Violence and brutality along with compassion and love are a part of Zombiepocalypse Rick Grimes — and for the first time, he has come to terms with both sides.
NEXT: You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave
The Grimes/Dixon/Michonne’s Last Name blended family returns to the tracks towards to Terminus. Finding another sign to Terminus, Rick decides to continue the hike in the woods in order to stake out the sanctuary before entering it. Reaching Terminus’ perimeter, they spread out to make sure it’s safe. To be honest, I didn’t really understand their reasoning for splitting up. If they wanted to ensure Terminus is safe, why didn’t they stake out the grounds for an extended period? I guess hunger makes you do weird things.
Anyway, Carl tags along with Michonne instead of Rick. Thinking Carl is afraid of the violence his father is capable of, Michonne sheds light on her violent past. She explains that at the onset of the outbreak, her son Andre, Andre’s father and her boyfriend Mike, their friend Terry, and she moved to a refugee camp. Despite the growing desperation of their situation, Michonne and her family stayed at the camp. One day, upon her return from a run, she found the camp’s fences broken. Andre was gone, presumably killed by Walkers. Mike and Terry were high during the attack and were bit by Walkers. Rather than killing them, Michonne let them turn. She snapped, cutting off their arms and mouths. That’s when she decided to drag them along with her as a reminder of “what she deserved.” It was only later that she realized that they acted as a shield to other Walkers, and she was “just another monster” to them.
“I was gone for a long time,” she says. “But then Andrea brought me back. Your dad brought me back. You did.” Michonne assures Carl that he doesn’t have to be afraid of her or his father for their actions. They’re not monsters even if it seems like they once were. But he isn’t afraid of them — he’s afraid of not being what his father thinks he is. “I’m just another monster, too,” Carl confesses. Michonne hugs him as Rick looks on, out of sight. Rick has reconciled with the extremes within himself, but his next goal is to help Carl do the same for himself. Season 5 theme, perhaps?
Apparently their perimeter check goes well, and the group decides to enter Terminus. Before storming the back entrance, Rick buries a bag full of other guns and ammo “just in case.” This is The Walking Dead — there is a slim chance that there won’t be a “just in case” situation warranting the retrieval of that bag.
With their limited weapons, the group enters Terminus, discovering people making more Terminus road signs and an old woman reciting the radio announcement heard during the meds run. What do you say after you’ve dropped in on a mysterious base you’ve spent weeks journeying to? Rick sticks to the basics, offering an anti-climactic “Hullo.”
The residents of Terminus are surprised but not frightened. A young man sighs and responds, “Well, I bet Albert is out on perimeter watch.” (Albert must be the Carl of Terminus.) Exasperated but not unfriendly, the young man welcomes them to Terminus and offers his name, Gareth. Gareth repeats Mary’s sentiments on how it looks like they’ve been on the road for some time. Actually, he follows the exact same process as Mary did in “Us.” Gareth has Alex help him check them for weapons and escort them to the Welcome Wagon.
Alex explains that Terminus has been around since almost the start of the outbreak — people followed the tracks “almost on instinct” and found it. You know what other animals follow on instinct? Funnel-like trails that lead to slipknot snares.
At the Welcome Wagon, which is now filled with some albeit few people, they meet Mary, who is grilling “meat.” As Mary fixes them a plate of “food,” Rick surveys the other Terminus residents. He notices a familiar orange backpack, riot gear, and poncho. Yet it’s Alex’s silver pocket watch that raises his suspicions to DEFCON 1. It’s identical to Hershel’s watch that he gifted to Glenn — most definitely not to this Alex character. Rick grabs Alex and the pocket watch, raising his gun to Alex’s temple. The others go on alert and (thankfully) don’t eat anything from Mary’s grill.
NEXT: Terminus is like Mouse Trap for cannibals
Back in the past, Beth takes care of Judith, Patrick plays with Legos (No one at any age should ever be ashamed of playing with Legos), and Carl cleans his gun. I miss crazy kid-killing Carl. He reminded me of a young Todd from Breaking Bad — sociopathic but interesting. Rick recruits his son to join him at the burgeoning farm grounds — there, he won’t need his gun, for “it will only get in the way.”
In the present, Carl definitely needs his gun. In a standoff with the well-armed Terminus residents, Rick holds Alex hostage, wanting to know how he got the watch. Alex, nervous, tells a nearby sniper to stand down and states he found it off of someone dead. Gareth reappears with more plausible (false) explanations for having the riot gear and poncho.
He asks Rick what he wants. But when he doesn’t immediately get a straight answer, Gareth signals to the sniper, who expertly shoots Alex in the head. The remaining Terminus residents scatter and hide as Rick, Michonne, Daryl, and Carl attempt to escape. More snipers fire at them and miss — on purpose. They corral the group to follow the “A” route as other Terminus residents block off any other exits outside of “A.” Like an absurdist game of Mouse Trap, the “A” route includes a warehouse garage, a courtyard that has already seen heavy gunfire (from a real gunfight or another corral?), a pile of human bones and torn plastic tarps, cries for help emanating from freight containers, and a room filled with candles, mementos, names written on the floor, and the phrases “NEVER AGAIN,” “NEVER TRUST,” and “WE, FIRST, ALWAYS” emblazoned on the walls. The route eventually leads them to another freight container/train car, labelled “A.” Finding themselves surrounded by armed Terminus residents, the group reluctantly yields and drops their weapons.
Gareth orders Rick, Daryl, Michonne, and Carl — well, technically, Ringleader, Archer, Samurai, and Kid — into the compartment. Inside, they’re greeted by some familiar faces — it’s Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, and Bob along with Tara, Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene. Most of the gang is back together!
Cornered and imprisoned, Rick is at his most optimistic. Flashing back to the good times of starting the farm land at the Prison, Rick focuses not on what he’s lost but what he’s gained — his family. Enthused, Rick asserts, “They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out.” “Find out what?” Abraham retorts.
Ringleader responds, “They’re screwin’ with the wrong people.” Gareth and the people of Terminus better watch out. Wait ’til they get a load of Rick Grimes and his family — not even cannibals can defeat/eat them all. With the close of season 4, it is on like Donkey Kong.
Walker of the week: Walkers were not the forefront of this season finale, which was more focused on the horrors of humans as opposed to the horrors of zombies. Nevertheless, the Walker horde surrounding the ill-fated bespectacled man is simultaneously frightening and frustrating. What makes such a situation even worse is the anger I would have towards myself for allowing that to happen, in addition to the fear of certain death.
Questions to consider:
Now that we’ve been introduced to Terminus and met Gareth, what is Terminus’ history? How was it formed and maintained? What are the rules of Terminus?
Who is Gareth? Why is a young man the leader? Who is Mary? Is she related in any way to Gareth?
What’s up with the creepy candle room with names inscribed on the floor? Do the names signify lost members, meals, or both?
Rick may be ready to Rick-Roll Terminus into oblivion, but how can he pull it off?
How will the new group work together? How will Rick, Daryl, Michonne, and Carl gel with Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene? Oh yeah, and Tara.
Are Gareth and the Terminus gang responsible for taking Beth? Have they eaten her? Was she taken as part of an entirely separate storyline to be explored next season? Or will it not be explored at all? Is she “just gone?!”
Where are Carol, Tyreese, and Judith? I still have a feeling the smoke they saw was not from Daryl and Beth’s cabin, but from Terminus itself. Perhaps by the time they reach Terminus, it will be in flames. Or is that merely wishful thinking?
What do you want to happen in season 5? Will the conflict at Terminus last the entire season? Will season 5 include a journey to Washington, D.C.?
And how will you survive the wait? (For me, Game of Thrones couldn’t have started on a better Sunday.)
Good luck this summer, Walking Dead Heads! May many a marathon tide you over until season 5’s feasting.
AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.