The Walking Dead Season Finale will likely be one of the most watched events in cable television. According to Forbes, millions of viewers are expected to to tune in for the finale of a series that has become a cultural touchstone not only in television, but in video games and the original black & white comics. The Hollywood Reporter has shown ratings that solidify the shows lead not only in cable, but in network television demographic battles. While we wondered who would survive or perish, tonight’s episode saw the end of the group’s Governor forced exile as they converge on Terminus where there is, “sanctuary for all.”
WARNING – Spoilers of the Season 4 Finale Ahead. Read on at your own risk.
The Walking Dead season finale plays as a juxtaposition of Rick’s character arc in the 4th season. Rick has wrestled with his anger and almost savage side during the beginning of the season after a near fatal beating of Tyreese. As the season progressed Rick worked hard to become more of a home maker rather than a leader with Hershel’s guidance. Despite having achieved a modicum of success, good times were not to last and at the end of the first half of the season after The Governor decimated the prison.
Since the beginning of the second half of The Walking Dead‘s fourth season we have been witness to the crew making their way to Terminus, a supposed safe haven where the railroad tracks converge somewhere in central Georgia. 8 of the survivors had already made it: Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, Bob, and the new members of the group arrive at place with gardens, a grill and an idyllic setting that gave haunting parallels to Woodbury’s picture perfect utopia.
The first half of the series finale concentrates on the journey of Rick, Carl and Michonne making their way to Terminus, but not before the murderous group of ruffians Daryl has fallen in with catches up to Rick and company in the middle of the night. And it is here that The Walking Dead takes viewers to a very dark and disturbing place.
We have seen our share of gruesome deaths at the hands of the walkers as they eat people while still alive, humans beating another human to death, and other brutal survival scenarios. However the situation Rick, Carl and Michonne find themselves in is something no one was prepared for. While Rick and Michonne are held at gunpoint while Daryl is being beat to death for sticking up for his former companions, one of the band of merry thugs drags Carl to the ground with the intent to rape him. Rick head buts the ringleader holding him at gunpoint and in the resulting struggle ends up locked face to face with the grey haired man who asks, “What are you going to do now?” In answer Rick sinks his teeth deep into the man’s throat and rips it apart much to everyone’s astonishment.
Darryl and Michonne are able to overpower the rest of the murderous gang while they are stunned at Rick’s savagery and Rick takes the would be rapist who is left standing and rips him from crotch to throat with his knife with Carl watching while being held by Michonne.
Interspersed through the episode are flashbacks to the prison. The flashbacks chronicle Rick’s growth into a man of peace, putting aside his sword (or gun in this case) for a plowshare under the encouragement of Hershel (played by Scott Greene who returned to film the season finale). All of this is shown in contrast to Rick’s descent into his most savage display of violence yet in the defense of his son. It is in this season finale that Rick finally comes to term with this bestial side of himself and realizes he can not fight it any longer.
The last half of The Walking Dead season finale ends with the arrival at Terminus. Upon arrival everything seems peaceful and ideal until Rick makes an unwelcome discovery. Herschel’s watch is in the pocket of their tour guide. Looking around, the prison riot gear is visible on another as is Maggie’s poncho. Holding their tour guide hostage, Rick and crew are outnumbered and outgunned and a wild chase through the compound of terminus beings.
What follows is a fast on foot chase through the complex in which the four survivors are literally herded into a train car, not before running through a room full of candles dedicated to people who have been killed by outsiders and a pile of still fresh bones and rent flesh. In the train car is Glenn, Maggie and the others who ended up in Terminus in the prior episode. Rick ends the episode stating that Terminus is messing with the wrong people.
The Walking Dead season finale continues the trend that the living are often more frightening than the dead. Hope is fleeting and trust is hard earned. The Walking Dead has never been afraid to push the envelope and with an attempted child molestation and savage throat rending that would make Hannibal Lector proud, AMC has shown that the series has plenty of surprises left. The Walking Dead season finally leave Rick and the crew in a very tight spot, while leaving a few points which will keep us wondering until the fall when the show returns for season five. Where is Beth? What will happen when Tyreese and Carol arrive with baby Judith?
The Walking Dead will return in October of 2014 with season 5.