Like Frodo, Like Chase Branch, I’m out BEEYOTCHES. The Walking Dead concluded its most derisive season yet, and this recap is my finale.
Today’s the day of reckoning, Sir.
For a show so caught up in exposition and “feelings, feelings, feelings, ZOMBIE!,” is it not refreshing to see the opening stinger begin with a flashback/flashforward setup to ask, “how did we get here?” Rick is covered in blood — what appears to be human blood — and we are left with silent close-ups of his shaking body as he sits alone, reflecting on what the hour will hold for the viewer.
This non-linear edit continues for the rest of the episode, and though I love any excuse to revisit Scott Greene as Hershel, I wonder if the hour would have been better suited spending time on characters in the present. Do we really need more time recapping the erstwhile cop’s journey? The opening stinger more than satisfied the idea that the hour will spell trouble for Rick, but here at The Walking Dead, we like to hit you over the head with ambiance!
Back in the present: Rick has rebooted into leader-mode as he tells his new little family, consisting of Carl and Michonne, when and how they will reach Terminus. One thing this show has done since its inception is to do right by Rick, more than any other character. He is a man that demands to be followed regardless of his willingness to lead; it’s what he is good at, and in situations such as these, leaders rise up. He fails constantly, rebuffs the idea of piloting when he is down, only to emerge again in a power vacuum. Even the strong like Daryl and Michonne bow to his will.
The three kill a random walker and catch a rabbit in a trap designed by Rick, in scenes that on their surface appear as filler and benign but most certainly are placed as foreshadowing. When Carl hears cries for help, he runs from the two adults and nearly fires his weapon to save an already-dead drifter from a zombie horde. Rick and Michonne stop him in time, but our series regulars are surrounded, having to abandon the train tracks for the road. And wouldn’t you know it…a discarded suburban lies unattended in their path. Why are the tires always left intact but the windshield cracked on these vehicles? Someone get production design on the phone so we can discuss the feasibility of abandoned-vehicle to vagrant-survivor ratio!
That night Carl sleeps in the car while, you guessed it, Rick and Michonne talk about life by the campfire. I would like to recap everything said, but I dozed off on this bit. (That was for dramatic effect – mainly, the discussion was about the possibility of food and shelter in Terminus.) Luckily, the “feelings, feelings, feelings” was quickly interrupted by Joe putting a gun to Rick’s head and the band of Merry Men invading the little camp. Joe starts counting Mississippi’s, itching to pull the trigger on the man that done him wrong, when Daryl emerges from the shadows. I completely expected to hear the word “claimed” exit our favorite smoking hillbilly’s mouth, but it weren’t so. Dude offers himself as a sacrifice in place of Rick, labeling the latter, Michonne, and Carl “good people.” But, of course, instead of taking the difficult, more interesting choice of icing Daryl right then, Joe orders the Merry Men to beat the snot out of him and lets the other three watch. Why must all the villains on this show be sadistic fuck-holes? The majority of our heroes have some sort of character flaw mixed in with their civility; and here I was so impressed with Joe the last episode and the writers went and pissed all over it. It was bound to happen, I guess. Back on point, when Rick sees Carl about to be raped – yes, AMC aired this – by the Little John of the Merry Men, he headbutts Joe and begins to row with him. No one shoots our heroes – I guess they’ve never seen a James Bond film – deciding to fist fight them instead. It is the honorable thing to do… Doesn’t work out too well for Joe, however, as Rick bites the guy’s neck off, of course giving Michonne a chance to overpower the men holding her. Rick then turns his attention to the would-be rapist and gratuitously stabs him to death. “These are good people” all right.
What do we need now? Let’s talk about building a farm! In yet another beat-you-over-the-head flashback, we see how the farm at the prison came to be as Hershel tells Rick to instruct Carl on a better way to live, in a scene directly after the boy has just seen his father go full-on Irreversible. Yes, we get it, we can’t go back, but I will give it to the writers that the simple truth is Carl would be better off without Rick. That kid has endured arguably the worst path of anyone on the show, and he is not dissecting animals like Lizzie or running off to get eaten by walkers. Somehow, against all odds, and much to my chagrin, Carl remains on the show. But as much as his father is a leader, he cannot reconcile his position with that of a father. He is spontaneous, quick to emotion, and full of contradiction.
Rick sits by the car, as he did in the opening, knowing full well that he is not right for Carl. He blames himself, and in some ways, he is right. AND WHAT THE TOLIET DO WE NEED AFTER THIS REMARKABLE IMAGE??! A re-cap scene with Daryl and Rick, of course! If my words start slurring it is because I have been beaten over the head one too many times by the Exposition Stick! Beth’s gone. Daryl joined the Merry Men. Rick understands. It’s a good thing I didn’t black out, though, because in the middle of all that nonsense we get a beautifully delivered line from Rick to Daryl, “You are my brother.”
The reunited group heads on toward Terminus, and something struck me that I’ve never noticed before. I am sure it was apparent to you, Dear Reader, but humor me. These gorgeous shots of our characters walking the train tracks, in this episode particularly, tracks that continue on toward the horizon, is a fine metaphor for this show. Survivors of this plague will inevitably follow similar paths to nowhere, always finding mirages of civilization and comfort, but never quite reaching “home.” Life is only the journey now, and it is one without clear destination. The only resolution is death. Kind of bleak but it is a subtly often lost on TWD, and for that, it should be noted and commended.
Finally reaching Terminus, the group cautiously surveys the land before rushing to another Woodbury. Rick buries a bag of guns “just in case.” Carl and Michonne discuss how the younger is turning bitter and hard, and we get more of the latter’s back story, albeit in dialogue. She details the loss of her son as a fable on how monsters can come back, how she came back from the dark side.
Instead of entering Terminus through the front door, our friends decide to hop the fence, guns hot. Seriously? That will totally endear you to a possible new home. Ridiculous. However, upon entering, Gareth, a charismatic young leader-type – I’ve already got the willies – introduces himself and tells the group they are welcome but must surrender their weapons. What, exactly, about this is different from Woodbury? Why do we trust these people? One reason? The Terminites (?) actually return the weapons to their owners after inspection, apparently just wanting an account. Seems legit…
We get a history lesson from Alex, another Terminite, who lets us know the camp has been there from almost the start of the outbreak consisting of people from other failed camps. It’s not long before Rick has a gun to Alex’s head as he sees Hershel’s watch in his pocket. Sniper bullets corral Rick and the other three exactly where the Terminites want them…caged, with no way out. So what exactly is Terminus? Terminus is the prison if our group had decided to stay. It is what can happen when society breaks down…Or, let me be more clear…Terminus is those monsters housed together. I’d like to be more specific, but the episode cut out before we find out. My theory? Cannibals…
Final Thoughts: The episode is not technically bad. Shot well, acted well, with intense scenes and an interesting presentation of horror with hope, but the inconsistencies of this season make my head spin. The lack of respect for the audience’s intelligence, the rewriting of history – if memory serves me, I believe Hershel instructed Rick to lead the group again, and now you’re telling me that it was he who pushed Rick away from the guns? And if Rick was so well-adjusted with farming, why did he seem so pained at the beginning of the season ? – and the exploitation of children between Lizzie and Micah’s deaths, and Carl nearly being raped…I just cannot recommend a show with so much potential that just fails to take the right chances and not the easy way out. If you’re still watching, do not say I didn’t warn you.
Episode: B- (downgraded for rape!)
Back half of Season Grade: C-