4 out of 5 train cars for this fairly intense season finale. It was pretty much everything I was hoping for, realistically speaking given the way the second half of this season has been going, and it capped off the season with a near-perfect set-up for whatever might happen next within the creepy borders of Terminus.
I loved the way this episode used flashbacks to right before the season started. We see Hershel slowly convincing Rick to start farming and to set that kind of example for Carl over the violent one he’d been setting so far. We then flash forward to a shell-shocked Rick before the opening credits. We see this shot of him again later, which makes us remember this opening sequence and understand the impact and place of the shot as a flash forward; Rick, Carl and Michonne are finally confronted by the devious group that has been tracking him ever since his “Home Alone” episode, so to speak. The following battle is one of the bloodier, more gruesome fight scenes in the show’s history, I think. Daryl reveals himself and tries to stand up for his friends, but takes a beating for it.
Rick, throughout the episode, realizes that if he had once been able to be non-violent for the sake of his son, he can and must now revert back to extreme violence and embrace that for the sake of his son; Rick eventually defends himself by viciously biting the throat of his captor, which explains his bloody face in the flash forward. Daryl gives him a reassuring pep talk (and a wet washcloth) when we’re finally caught up with the flash forward chronologically, and Rick calls him his brother; there is still humanity to be found here in these relationships, and I thought that was really poignant in the episode. Michonne, similarly, talks to Carl in a heartbreaking scene where Carl says he is not who his father thinks he is– he’s just another monster, just like Michonne says that she had been when dragging her two former companions as walker repellent in chains, before Andrea and Rick and Carl “brought her back.”
The rest of the episode from there is a suspicious, uneasy, mysterious romp through Terminus. Rick notices Glenn’s pocket watch on another person, along with an all too recognizable poncho and riot gear also being worn by people he does not know, and snaps once more. Warfare breaks out then as he demands to know where they got the watch and these other items. Some cannibalism claims were going around the internet regarding Terminus, and seeing a flash of bones in a carcass pile during the running scene didn’t help those speculations. So my mind instantly jumped to the worst case scenario that Maggie and Glenn and the others had been killed, at the very least, and that’s why their possessions were being worn by Terminus’ main members now.
But, when the chase must finally end and our group is hopelessly cornered, they are ordered one by one to enter into an idle train car: first the ringleader (Rick), the archer (Daryl), the samurai (Michonne), and the boy (Carl). In the train car, we luckily do find our other characters– Glenn, Maggie, Bob, Sasha, Abraham, etc. But the already awkward reunion will mean nothing if they can’t get out or figure out why they’re there in the first place. The episode triumphantly ends though, with Rick– who, happy flashbacks of farming aside, is back in perfectly violent form again– saying that the Terminus people don’t know who they’re messing with. I am even more intrigued, however, about the flip side of this– who are Rick and the rest of our protagonists truly up against? I think these questions set us up for a very interesting, and hopefully more focused, season 5 indeed.