The season finale of ‘The Walking Dead’ lived up to the hype. The episode provided plenty of tension, plenty of action, and perhaps the best season-ender we’ve seen from the series to date. It also provided the return of a much-beloved character (and, no, it’s not the one you think I mean).
As the episode begins, we’re back at the prison in flashback mode, and we get to see the return of Scott Wilson as Hershel in a number of different scenes. The flashbacks deal with the period of time when Hershel talks Rick into planting a farm and raising pigs on the prison grounds, and encourages him to pass the info along to his son. As poignant as these scenes are, Hershel’s brief return is not the person I was talking about in my introduction.
The character I’m referring to is none other than Rick Grimes himself, who has gone back and forth between passive and downright crazy the past few years, but finally finds himself in this episode, and it’s a joy to behold. However, the result is not the “Ricktator” that viewers were given at the end of Season 2, but rather a fully formed hero.
Rick, Carl and Michonne are still heading to Terminus when they come across an abandoned truck. They set up camp for the night, with Carl sleeping in the truck and Rick and Michonne tending to a fire outside. Rick hears a noise in the woods, but thinks it’s nothing. The next thing he knows, Joe’s gun is pointed at his neck. Another member of Joe’s group pulls his gun on Michonne, while yet another guards Carl inside the truck.
Daryl arrives on the scene and tries to talk Joe out of killing Rick. Joe doesn’t buy it, and has the remainder of the group give Daryl a beat-down. The guy at the truck pulls Carl out and holds a knife to his throat. Just as I literally yelled “Come on, Rick!” at my TV screen, the former sheriff finally springs into action, slamming Joe with a reverse headbutt. This causes Joe’s gun to go off right next to Rick’s ear, which stuns him momentarily.
Those few moments, however, are enough for Joe to regain control of the situation, grabbing Rick close to him and whispering in his ear, “What are you going to do now?” Rick’s response is to take a big bite out of Joe’s neck, killing him almost instantly. Michonne then takes care of her guy, while Rick stabs… and stabs… and stabs… the man who threatened to rape Carl. The rest of Joe’s gang is disposed of as well. The next morning, Daryl comes to talk to a still blood-covered Rick and tells him that he did the right thing. But Rick already knows it. He doesn’t feel conflicted or traumatized about it at all. Rick then calls Daryl his brother. It looks like ‘The Walking Dead’ has two badasses to deal with now.
The foursome heads off toward Terminus, agreeing not to go in the front entrance, but sneak in through the woods around back. While searching the fence line to Terminus, Carl pairs off with Michonne and has a conversation with her. Carl has been standoffish with his father since the killing of Joe’s gang, and Michonne thinks it’s because Carl is afraid of him. She tells Carl the story of how her son was killed by Walkers and how she let her boyfriend and another friend turn into Walkers after they got bitten. (These were the “pets” we saw with Michonne when she first appeared on the series.) Michonne wants to explain to Carl that even though she’d done bad things, she was still able to come back from them. It turns out, though, that Carl doesn’t see his father as a monster. Instead, he worries about what his father will think of him, since Carl has had to do some horrible things as well.
Before the group heads into Terminus, Rick buries some of their weapons just to be safe. They then head into the complex, making contact with a group inside a big warehouse facility. They’re greeted there by a man named Gareth (Andrew J. West), whose first request is for them to drop their weapons. Rick and the others comply, and seem surprised when they’re allowed to pick them right back up after being searched. Gareth takes them outside where Mary (Denise Crosby) is cooking at the grill and offers our heroes some food. Before anyone can take a bite, Rick sees Glenn’s watch (the one given to him by Herschel) sticking out of the pocket of one of the other men. He immediately pulls his gun on the man and gets him in a headlock. Suddenly, the group is surrounded by armed men.
A gun battle ensues, but the only casualty is the man Rick was holding at gunpoint. (Rick doesn’t kill him. One of the snipers does.) The four run, but are met with gunfire around almost every corner. It soon occurs to them that the Terminus guards aren’t trying to kill them, but rather herd them to a certain location. After passing through a number of rooms with the letter “A” (the title of the episode, by the way) painted on the wall, they’re eventually led into an open courtyard where a train car with “A” spray-painted on the side awaits. Surrounded by guns on all sides, Rick and the others have no choice but to lower their weapons.
One by one, the four are instructed to head over to the entry of the train car. Once they enter it, they get locked in. They find others already inside the car. It’s Glenn and Maggie’s group, with Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Sasha and Bob all there with them. Rick looks at the others and says, “They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out…”. “Find out what?” asks Abraham. “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” Rick replies, as the fourth season comes to an end.
This episode is all about Rick finally finding out who he is, and it’s a tougher, grittier, yet more human Rick Grimes than we’ve seen before – a fully formed man with all the violence, but all the compassion as well. It’s as if Rick has finally figured out that he can be neither a dictator nor passive, but he must be both. He’s finally a hero that fans of the series can get behind and root for.
The season finale has no signs of Carol, Tyreese or Beth, which hopefully means at least Tyreese and Carol will help break Rick and company out of Terminus at some point next season. (Beth’s fate remains a mystery.) It will also be interesting to see how Abraham responds to Rick and Daryl, now that he has to deal with two other Alpha males.
What did you think of the finale? Did it live up to your expectations? Were you disappointed that none of the main characters were killed off? What do you think of Rick’s return to heroics? I’m anxious to see your comments… and I’ll see you again in the fall for Season 5!