When I woke up this morning, I thought (actually hoped) that there was a mistake.Â The season 4 finale of The Walking Dead hadn’t aired yet, and it was actually this Sunday instead of last night. Or, maybe there were ten more minutes of the episode that somehow didn’t get aired. Unfortunately, no such luck. The finale fell short of other episodes this season, and it certainly was nowhere near the quality of finales of past seasons. Here’s my analysis of things that worked and those that didn’t quite work for me:
- The Hershel Greene flashbacks
I love Hershel (Scott Wilson), and I count him as one of my favorite characters on the show. It was nice being reminded of the idyllic times when they first came to the prison, with Hershel teaching Rick (Andrew Lincoln) that he can make a true home for everyone, a shining beacon in the middle of this hell on earth that we live in now. And, it was nice while it lasted.
However, in the end, Rick learned the hard way that a Garden of Eden like that is really nothing more than a pipe dream. Yes, you can have your gardens and a semi-normal place for your family to live, but you never, ever can let your guard down and you certainly can’t trust other people. As Morgan said back in the episode “Clear,” “If you’ve got something good, then there will always be people who will want to come along and take it.”Â
- The Rick Grimes transformation
Ever since Rick killed the marauder, Lou, in the episode “Claimed” to protect Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Carl (Chandler Riggs), we knew Rick was changing and the only question was what he was changing into. For all Rick knew, everyone else at the prison had died in the battle with the Governor, including his own daughter and if history repeated itself, Rick would soon be talking on a non-working telephone and having conversations with ghosts.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen and Rick’s brutal confrontation with Joe’s (Jeff Kober) Claimers gave us a glimpse of what to expect from the new Rick 2.0. Rick 2.0 isn’t going to take any crap and if you mess with his family and friends, especially his son, you’re not going to come out of that fight a winner. The attempted rape of Carl was taken virtually verbatim from the comics, but the scenes were executed perfectly and Andrew Lincoln’s superb performance left us all shell-shocked (could we just give Lincoln an Emmy already!). Let us hope that this Rick Grimes is here to stay because this is the Rick Grimes that the group desperately needs.
Those who are familiar with the comics suspected from the very first Terminus sign that it was the home of the Hunters/Cannibals. Even if you didn’t read the comics, that creepy feeling you got when you entered the courtyard of barbecue pits grilling massive slabs of meat led most people to the same conclusion. And, for anyone else who was still undecided going into the finale, that gruesome pile of bloody human remains in the courtyard at Terminus, I think, was convincing enough. So, yes, you can probably safely bet that cannibals live in Terminus.
However, the story in the show that was created around the Hunters from the comics was brilliant. The comic Hunters were boring (and stupid). They lurked in the woods just like any other hunter, stalked their prey and they lived in a crappy, deserted subdivision. These Terminites are much more sophisticated and intelligent. The whole idea of luring their prey in with the hope of a safe haven is genius. It pretty much makes their lives simple because they don’t even have to set a foot outside — just sit back and let your food come right to you. The best part is the way they force their “prey” into a specific area by shooting at their feet (did you notice the “A” markers?), almost like corralling livestock into a particular pasture. They’ve got a system, one that works very well, and it’s obvious they’ve been doing it for a while.
I don’t know how deeply into season 5 the Terminus storyline will go, but I’m hoping we’ll get at least some backstory. Who are these people and what happened to them that was so bad to make them choose this path and way of life?
- Joe’s Claimers were killed too soon
It was advertised pretty heavily that there was going to be a big showdown between Joe’s group and Rick and that it was going to be literally “savage.” It had been building up since the “Claimed” episode, and everyone expected something big. While the scenes did live up to the gruesomeness that had been rumored, it fell flat because Joe’s entire group was dead before 20 minutes into the episode.
That said, I don’t think it was really necessary to build up this storyline over a course of several episodes. In the comics, the Marauders was just a bad group that Rick, Abraham and Carl encountered on a supply run. One attempted to rape Carl, there was a huge fight and they were all killed in the exact same brutal fashion as in last night’s finale. Nobody knew their names. End of story. The only added benefit we got with how they handled it in the TV series is the Daryl factor (and let’s not forget that wonderful “You are my brother” moment). But, even then, all of the “bonding” we saw between Joe and Daryl over the past few episodes went straight out the window because Joe immediately dissed him.
- It felt more like a regular episode than a finale
Sure there was a cliffhanger, sure there was the introduction of a new potential enemy, but it didn’t seem to pack the punch of the finales of The Walking Dead past. No big walker vs. people battles, no major character deaths (actually no deaths at all except for Joe’s minions, and they really don’t count) and except for Rick’s reunion with some of his group, nothing much was resolved. Beth is still out there at heaven knows where and Tyreese, Carol, and Judith haven’t reached Terminus yet, unless they arrived first and are already dead/eaten, or waiting in that “B” container where we could hear people screaming. At the end of the day, it actually felt more like one of the character development episodes after the mid-season finale, except Rick was the focus in this one. And, the only walker attack scene we got was that lone guy with the glasses being swarmed, and it felt like its only purpose was to be able to say that someone got eaten in the finale.
Bottom line — the hype that was built for this episode was insane, and in the end, it did not deliver, at least not to the level that it should have.
- That damn final quote
In the comics, Rick Grimes says, “Theyâ€™re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out. That theyâ€™re f***ing with the wrong people.”Â This was in reference to the Hunters/Cannibals who crossed paths with Rick and Abraham in issue #64. In the finale, when Rick said the first part, “They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out,” I got really excited because I knew one of the best quotes from the comics was coming and I knew Andrew Lincoln would nail it. So, I closed my eyes and waited. Then, he said instead, “That they’re screwing with the wrong people.” I immediately opened my eyes and screamed at the TV. Who says you are being screwed with anymore?
I get that they are reluctant to use the f-word on television. Kids may be watching, they don’t want to offend people, etc. etc. etc.Â But, when the word is important to get the full impact of what was said, you need to man up and do it! And, if you cannot, then maybe you should revisit what you’re trying to say. Plus, now I’m wondering what they will do when they finally plan to introduce super-villain, Negan, from the comics. Negan comes much later in the comic book series, but because he’s so pivotal, I can’t imagine them omitting his character. To those who thought the Governor was bad, this guy makes the Governor look like Big Bird on roller skates. He loved to iron people’s faces as a method of torture, kill people with a bat wrapped in barb-wire and he dropped the F-bomb in every other sentence. The language that Negan used was integral to his character and that character will be destroyed if they deploy such a PG-13 version of him.
All in all, I thought this finale was “OK.” I’m reluctant to use words like “poor” or “very good” for a very simple reason: we don’t have enough information. We’ve just been introduced to Gareth (Andrew West) and Terminus and while we are left with this cliffhanger, we don’t know how this arc will play out when we return for season 5. If the storyline was developed and thought out well in advance, then we will probably get answers fairly quickly and it will flow well into the other arcs that the writers have in the works for season 5. But, if not and if all of this is just a big filler to the next storyline of Eugene and Abraham’s mission to Washington D.C., I won’t like it and I’m sure others won’t either.
While we wait for season 5, here are a couple of possibilities of good things to come:
1.Â Rick’s Big Showdown With the Hunters
In the comics after all of the dust had settled and Rick and Co. had won the battle with the Hunters, the Rick we saw in the finale in the confrontation with the Marauders is back for a 2nd round. Every one of the cannibals was slaughtered, gutted, dismembered — basically everything horrible you can think of, Rick and his group did. If this plays out in season 5, the run-in with Joe’s Claimers is going to seem like a schoolyard fight.
2.Â Potential for a Herd Attack on Terminus
Remember that gigantic herd (and I mean HUGE, like thousands and thousands of walkers), that Daryl, Bob, Michonne and Tyreese encountered in the episode ‘Isolation?’ Well, when that happened, a message on the radio was heard that included the words “arrive” and “survive.”Â It didn’t mean anything to us at the time, but it is clear now that the broadcast was coming from Terminus. And, that means that mega-herd is close by.
The big fire fight in the finale could very well have gotten the attention of that herd and I think it would be so poetic if it attacked Terminus, with the only safe people being the ones locked in those train cars and storage containers. We haven’t had a big herd attack since season two and I think we are well overdue for one. That big herd could just have been a red herring, but if not, the potential for some serious gore may be closer than you think.
Until we meet again in October. Have a nice summer everyone!
The Walking Dead returns for season 5 on October 12th on AMC.
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