Here’s where our various groups stood after last week’s episode going into last night’s fourth season finale:
- Daryl has fallen in with the group of people who make you nervous when their table is near yours at Waffle House. They want to kill Rick for killing one of their crew (Daryl doesn’t know that Rick is their target) and are headed towards Terminus.
- Beth is cooking over an open grill while being slathered in barbeque sauce missing.
- Rick, Michonne, and Carl are also headed towards Terminus.
- Glenn (main character), Tara (reformed villain), Eugene (mullet), Abraham (ginger viking), and Rosita (hot chick with guns) finally meet up with Maggie, Sasha, and Bob. After a tearful (and fairly contrived) reunion, the newly combined group makes their way to Terminus, where a creepy lady named Mary offers a warm welcome along with a plate of Barbequed Beth food.
Will the fourth season finale see our group jump from the fire into the frying pan…and is it good?
The episode begins with a flashback to happier times back at the prison. A not-decapitated Hershel begins the process of helping Rick go from an unhinged lunatic to a sanguine farmer.
Back in the present, Carl asks Rick and Michonne if they will tell whoever meets them at Terminus about their past. Carl’s question of “who are we?” is answered when a very unlucky zombie wanders into the trio’s path, leading all four to draw their weapons and mercilessly kick its ass.
Later, while Rick is teaching Carl how to trap food (FORESHADOWING ALERT), a man crying for help can be heard in the distance. Carl goes running off to play hero, but is stopped by Rick before he can fire his weapon. Rick tersely explains that there is nothing they can do for the stupid man, who seems to have forgotten how to run in a different direction than impending danger.
As Rick and Carl watch the man die, we get a much clearer answer to Carl’s “who are we?” question. Rick’s willingness to watch another man die to protect themselves shows just how much he’s changed from his farmer/provider days of before.
Later that night, Rick and Michonne are ambushed by Joe and the Sons of Anarchy. Daryl steps in and tries to explain to his new crew that Rick and Michonne are good people, even going so far as to offer himself as a sacrifice to keep his friends alive.
Unfortunately, this merely results in Daryl getting his ass kicked. Joe then explains to Rick that after he and Daryl have been killed, his crew is going to “have” Michonne and Carl. Good lord, I really hope that doesn’t mean what I think it does.
Thankfully, we don’t have time to find out. Rick snaps and attacks Joe, finishing him off with a gruesome, walker-inspired throat bite. Michonne and Daryl pick off the rest Joe’s crew, but leave the big creepy one who’d been trying to “attack” Carl to Rick. The enraged and protective father stabs his son’s attacker repeatedly while Carl looks on in a state of dead eyed shock.
Like (mentally scarred) father, like (mentally scarred) son
As if to drive home the point that Carl is learning how to be ruthless from his father, we again flashback to the happier prison times, where Hershel is telling Rick that it’s important he teach his son how to be human beyond just basic survival.
Back in the present, Rick is understandably shaken by the previous night’s encounter. Daryl joins in on the grieving, expressing guilt over how he unknowingly led the Redneck Rapists right to them. Rick responds by saying it wasn’t his fault and that he considers Daryl his brother (AWWWWWW). Daryl then ratchets up the bromance another level, telling Rick that he’s not really the man who did those gruesome things the night before. Rick, however, seems to feel otherwise.
As the group gets started walking through the woods again, the already mentally scarred Carl has another load of anguish dumped on him by Michonne. She explains that the two zombies she used to drag around everywhere were her boyfriend and his friend (duh). They had been getting high when they were supposed to stand watch, which allowed her son to get killed (oh snap!). She then allowed them to turn, hacked off their jaws, and carried them around as a form of self- punishment for not being able to protect her child (yikes).
The point of her telling Carl all of this was that finding Rick’s group…and becoming Carl’s caretaker…had turned her back from being a monster into a person. Carl, however, drops a bombshell of his own, explaining that he is not the man his father hopes him to be. Instead, he also considers himself to be just another survival focused “monster” like everyone else.
Driving this point home is another flashback to the prison, where Carl is learning how to take apart and reassemble a gun rather than playing with Legos like another kid his age is doing right next to him.
Solyent Green Factory
Rick, Michonne, Carl, and Daryl sneak into Terminus. They come across an insanely creepy factory, where they are greeted by an even creepier (and way too friendly) man named Gareth.
After being frisked (but still allowed to keep their weapons), the group is lead outside to have a plate of food. Before anyone chows down, however, Rick notices that one of the Terminus people has Glenn’s pocket watch that he got from Hershel.
Rick attacks the man, demanding to know where their people are. The Terminus residents respond by firing at the group with aim would make Storm Troopers look like expert snipers. Rick and Co. run away, heading through a gauntlet of increasingly creepy sights:
- A candle lit garage with people’s names and belongings on the floor.
- A doorway with blood red letters over it stating things like “NEVER AGAIN” and “WE FIRST, ALWAYS.”
- A cage filled with human skeletal remains (HA! NAILED IT!).
At first, the shooters’ terrible aim angered me. But as the CGI bullets sprayed all around our heroes, it became clear that the shooters were actually missing on purpose. The gunmen were, in fact, herding them towards a rail car (You can’t go shooting up the meat, after all).
After being forced at multiple gun points to enter ‘Car A’ (hence where the show got its title), Rick, Michonne, Daryl, and Carl find the rest of their group inside. Everyone looks understandably frightened, but Rick confidently hisses that the Terminus residents are “screwing with the wrong group of people.”
The last line of season 4 is mirrored (and edited for basic cable) from a storyline in the comic book about a group of cannibals called ‘The Hunters.’ Combine that with the human remains we saw, and it looks like all of us who predicted that Terminus would be full of cannibals were right.
But in case you needed more proof:
- All those houses along the way to Terminus that had been stocked and taken care of were traps…
- …which is why a car just happened to be waiting outside where Beth and Daryl were bunking down to kidnap some fresh meat for the grill.
- There are no cattle or other forms of meat in sight.
- Gareth is basically a more competent version of Chris from the comic books.
- Someone else from Terminus dropped this incredibly unsubtle hint: “The more people become a part of us, we get stronger.”
- THERE WAS A HUMAN RIBCAGE IN THAT PILE OF BONES. THE PEOPLE OF TERMINUS ARE CANNIBALS!
This entire season has been built around the theme of “What would you do to survive?” Terminus is giving us a group of people who have chosen the most terrible and yet still viable option to continue living. They’ve made peace with it and even built a community around it.
It’s also important to note that the people of Terminus aren’t carrying on like the savage denizens of Barter Town from the Mad Max movies. In fact, they actually seem fairly normal at first glance (once you get past the whole eating human flesh thing). This is what they’ve chosen so that they can survive in this new and terrible world.
Beyond the Terminus revelation, however, were a few other pretty major character moments. For starters, Daryl’s willingness to sacrifice himself for Rick showed once and for all that (much to everyone’s relief) he really is a changed man.
Carl, however, is where the real toll of this season’s events took shape. Near the end of the episode, I got a little annoyed that the blood from Carl’s attacker (who Rick brutally slaughtered) was still on his cheek. You’d figure someone would wipe it off for sanitary reasons, at least. But I now think the decision to keep the blood there was deliberate.
Any remaining shred of Carl’s innocence was lost when he watched his father drive a knife into that man over and over again. While the adults on the show all have a former life to remember, Carl has grown up knowing nothing else but a constant and desperate struggle to survive. He’s far too often seen the very worst in people, while those who love and care for him have repeatedly resorted to the same type of extreme brutality to keep him safe. The blood on his cheek, much like the effects of watching his father exact bloody revenge on his attacker, isn’t going anywhere.
It all made for one pretty gripping hour of television. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of Terminus, but you can bet your left rib…along with your right flank and shoulder…that we’ll all be back in the fall to see what happens next.