Spoiler Alert: I’m giving away big reveals in my review.
‘The Walking Dead’ has a problem keeping its equilibrium this season, but that’s the norm for a wildly uneven series.
But the season four finale ‘A’ which aired March 30, 2014 matched the mid-season finale by raising a bar of excellence that one wishes the show could maintain.
Season four’s splintered storyline was frustrating at times. We’re so used to seeing the group as an ensemble that being stuck with a handful or characters can backfire, or occasionally add new dimension to its threadbare character development.
But what fans of the show want is action. When the show amps up the suspense things go well, and with ‘A’, it had often unbearable moments of tension.
The show opened with a flashback of Rick and Herschel. The kindly doctor wanted Rick to drop his guard, tend the land, and try to retain his humanity.
Herschel always sought to dull Rick’s rough edges, and what ‘A’ proved, is that Rick is ‘dull’ with dull edges. He excels as a character when he rises to the occasion and lashes out in rightful anger. And it’s this unrelenting drive, that has kept him (unlike Herschel) alive.
When the flashback ends we see Rick caked in blood, and shivering. Alone. Where were Michonne and Carl? It was clear misdirection to make us worry they had met foul play. And they almost did.
The trio stopped to rest on their way towards Terminus. But that rest is short-lived. as they’re ambushed by Joe and his group of brutes, who vowed revenge upon Rick for killing one of their own in the episode ‘Claimed.’
It’s at this point in the story, that ‘The Walking Dead’ makes a clear parallel with Cormac McCarthy’s brutal novel ‘The Road.’ In it, a father and son travel a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and one of the biggest threats to the two are brutish hordes who want to rape his child.
And in ‘A’, a very harrowing moment came when a truly grotesque minion of Joe’s held Carl down. Michonne was also pinned down and Joe intoned that both would be brutalized before Rick’s eyes.
At this point Darryl catches up to Joe’s group (who he joined up with last episode). In trying to defend Rick, he offers himself as a target so that the trio could be spared. This gets him beaten, but the threat still looms.
And at this moment, Rick turns into a beast, literally ripping Joe’s throat out with his teeth, and saving Carl, Michonne and Darryl from the thugs before they come to further harm. And while Carl was spared a full-fledged assault, he internalizes his pain with anger, and identifies with his father’s rage, even if he’s frightened by it.
The scene was truly unsettling, and rivals the controversial ‘Grove’ episode for bleak storytelling.
As the quartet bear down on Terminus. They are equal parts optimistic and scared. Will it be a paradise, a refuge from the zombie onslaught, or will it be another trap, where they’re at the mercies of savages as bad as the Governor or Joe’s crew?
Upon arriving at Terminus, they’re taken with that they see. A group of people who seem compassionate, and ofter food and shelter.
But as they’re take on a tour of the facilities, Rick notices a member with the pocket-watch that Herschel gave Glen, and he snaps to action. He knows his people have arrived, but they’re nowhere to be found?
As his group engages in combat with the armed Terminus staff, they run past a collection of human bones that finalize that Terminus isn’t a sanctuary. It’s a giant butcher shop, stocking meats of the human variety.
Eventually surrounded and outgunned, they’re forced into a giant container, where they’re reunited with Glen and Maggie, Abraham, Tara, Eugene and Cassie. The group look defeated and scared, but not Rick. He’s just getting started; “They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out…they’re screwing with the wrong people.”
And that’s it for season four. Plenty of questions remain; where’s Carol, Tyreese and Judith? Have they made it Terminus yet and are imprisoned in a different spot, or will they arrive with street smarts and guns blazing? Where did Beth run off to? We’ll just have to wait until season five.
What did you think of the ‘Walking Dead’ finale? Tell us in the comments.