"Never again. Never trust. We first, always." Season 4 Finale: The Walking Dead.
Originally posted on the old website on March 31st, 2014.
It's no secret that I'm somewhat of an AMC's The Walking Dead fan. I've never read the comics and so anything I suggest here is purely speculation - despite that, if you haven't seen all of Season 4 yet (including the finale) there are going to be SPOILERS AHEAD!
The finale of Season 4, which aired last night, has been receiving mixed reviews. For my part, it's the first time I've actually watched an episode twice in a row back to back.
Yes, there were some issues left unresolved - but then again, isn't it Internet speculation about these unresolved issues that keeps the show alive and forefront in our minds as we wait with bated breath for October to get here?
What happened to Beth?
Daryl just tells Rick that "She's gone."
Leading up until the finale, Internet spec was pretty adamant that it might be Beth roasting on Terminus Mary's BBQ.
In preparation for something like this to be revealed in the episode, I made Tofutti and avocado lettuce wraps for dinner. Yeah, no meat for me if I was going to see one of our heroes being unwittingly consumed by her family and friends.
As it turns out, while the episode more than hinted at cannibalism, Rick prevented his crew from consuming anything when his sharp eyes picked up Hershel's watch (just by its chain!), Daryl's poncho (later worn by Maggie) and riot gear from the prison.
Rick knocked the dish of meat to the ground before anyone could have an Odysseus/Circe moment. (During his long journey back to Ithaca, Odysseus and his men find temporary 'sanctuary' with a sorceress, Circe. She turns men into swine. So when they eat the meat she offers them, they are in fact eating human flesh.)
The parallels between Classical Mythology don't end there though. Here's what wikipedia.com has to say about Terminus:
In Roman religion, Terminus was the god who protected boundary markers; his name was the Latin word for such a marker. Sacrifices were performed to sanctify each boundary stone, and landowners celebrated a festival called the "Terminalia" in Terminus' honor each year on February 23.
As Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl are corralled, much like Rick's rabbit trap demonstration had foreshadowed earlier on in the episode, by the gun fire directed at their feet, we see them pass a gory pile of human bones - with a lot more flesh on them than one would expect from cannibals. But they are also herded into and through the eerie, candle-filled, sacrifice chamber with the words "Never again. Never trust. We first, always" written on the wall.
Cannibals? Probably. Ritualistic, sacrifice-worshiping cultists? Definitely. I look forward to Season 5 for answers!
In the meantime, I don't think we've seen the last of Beth yet. There's no way a main character is going to be killed off-screen, despite budgeting issues. Also, let's not forget the prominent part Beth played in all the flashbacks to the 'happier' prison farming days. Rick puts Carl's hat on her head and says "There's a new sheriff in town." Will Beth have a part to play in the rescue? I may have found Beth annoying as a character and I may be one of the few that saw the episode with her and Daryl and the moonshine as purely a bonding (NON-romantic) moment, but I still hope we haven't seen the last of her yet.
This finale really centered around Rick and his transition back to the leader we'd seen in the early seasons. Through the flashbacks we are shown how Hershel influenced him to become the farmer and more positive role model for Carl. But in a zombie apocalypse, pacifist farmer doesn't really work. In order to survive and protect his son and posse, Rick needed to have some sense knocked into him and get his groove back. The Governor didn't do it. Losing the prison didn't do it. Seeing Hershel get his head cut off didn't do it. It was going to take something super-traumatic for this metamorphosis to happen. The writers of the show went to a place I never thought they could - a place even more horrendous than being eaten alive by walkers. The scene in which Joe's "claimers" group finally catch up to Rick, Michonne and Carl was one of the most horrific scenes in the show's history.
Daryl, after losing Beth, has become a reluctant member of this Claimers group. He has no idea that the man they're after for revenge for the death of a group member, is Rick.
When they come upon Rick, Carl and Michonne, Daryl immediately tries to stop Joe from shooting Rick in the head.
As some of the Claimers begin to beat Daryl to death, Joe makes it clear that Rick is going to die only after he has watched what they are going to do to Michonne and Carl first. As Carl is pulled from the car he's been sleeping in, it's apparent the Claimer who has him is about to rape him and it's this that causes Rick to break. As his son wrestles with his Redneck, soon-to-be rapist and Daryl is being repeatedly beaten, Rick snaps. He moves his head and knocks Joe back, causing the gun to go off right next to his ear - deafening him and disorienting him for a few seconds. He grapples with Joe and they end up in a fighting hug. "What the hell you gonna do now, Sport?" Joe asks smugly, as Carl continues to scream and we hear the sounds of the rapist unbuckling his belt.
Rick does the only thing he can do in that situation - he leans in and rips out Joe's jugular with his bare teeth - walker style. He's mirroring what our little trio had witnessed earlier that day when a herd of walkers had surrounded and killed a man they'd been unable to rescue.
But it doesn't end there. So shocked at what Rick has done, the guy holding a gun to Michonne is momentarily stunned and she's able to turn his gun back on him and shoot him in the head. Then she takes out one of Daryl's attackers as Daryl takes out the other.
The guy who has Carl pinned down is all Rick's though. Rick guts him from groin to sternum and then off to commercial break with the sound of Rick's knife stabbing his son's attacker over and over again.
Coming back from commercial, Rick sits, back against the car, drenched in blood, and coming to terms with the dark and daunting acts he had to perform the night before to protect his son. We also, in this scene, have the poignant moment where Rick tells Daryl he's his brother - and if you didn't tear up at this point, you have a heart of stone!
Another poignant moment soon follows when Michonne shares with Carl the terrible things she's had to do to survive and Carl responds by telling her he considers himself a monster too. He confesses he isn't traumatized as expected by what he witnessed his father do to the marauders the night before. In the pre-apocalyptic world he should be. In this world it's called survival.
The finale ends with Rick's group of four being rounded up and put into train car "A," the episode's title, by the "Terminites" led by the eerily handsome and charming Gareth. The railway car almost identical to the one on which they'd seen their first sign for Terminus.
Inside they are reunited with Glenn, Maggie, Bob, Sasha - and the newcomers to the group, Eugene, Abraham, Rosita and Tara. "They're our friends now," Daryl says when Maggie explains these newcomers helped them to survive. The episode ends with Rick stating: “They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out [...] They’re screwing with the wrong people.”
The other big unanswered question is where are Tyrese and Carol? Their consolation prize for having no part to play in the finale was the fact that their episode a few weeks ago, "The Grove," was probably one of the best episodes in the show's history.
From the unsettling opening scene of the kettle boiling on the stove and the sound of giggling children playing in the yard, to the camera pan to a window shot of that yard with Lizzie playing tag with a walker - that still gives me chills - to the culmination in Carol having to perform the soul-destroying task of killing Lizzie.
We haven't seen the last of Carol, Tyrese and baby Judith - that's for sure. I sincerely hope that they were hiding near by and were witness to all that went down at Terminus before they walk in and meet the same fate as the others. I predict a season opener featuring these three...or maybe Beth.
Either way, I can't wait for October 13th!