Previously on The Walking Dead, ‘Us’
I’m going to skip the blow-by-blow recap of this episode and save it for tonight’s podcast. By the way, if you’re not already subscribed to Podcast Fandom, you should get on that.
Instead, I’m going to speak to why last night’s season finale was the best finale The Walking Dead has ever delivered and it would not have been so without all of the wonderfully paced episodes that came before it. Yes, even ‘Still.’
I was among the many who did not want the latter half of season four to contain so many on-the-road episodes focusing on a small group of survivors at a time. I wanted our group to get back together, I wanted Rick and Carl to reunite with Judith, I wanted to find out what the hell was up with Terminus. Last night’s finale gave us some of that, but each preceding episode needed to build up our group of survivors to be the kind of people who can end the episode trapped in a rail car and leave us completely unconcerned with their safety. As Rick said, “They’re fucking with the wrong people.” Okay, he said “screwing,” but we all know what he meant!
So much of these last eight episodes have been about Hershel’s influence on the group. His legacy. It was fitting that in the finale, we get much-needed flashbacks showing us how Hershel was able to convince Rick to stop going on runs, hang up his gun belt, and be a farmer. It worked and it produced the kind of leader Rick needed to be at the time. The kind of leader who allows his son to be a teenage boy for awhile. The kind of leader who grows his own food and passes this knowledge on to his son so that they’re not just surviving, but living.
“It can be like this all the time,” said Hershel.
Hershel was wrong. It can’t be like that all the time. And when it’s not like that, when your gates are knocked down, and your walls are blown up, and there are men about to kill your friends and rape your son, you need to be that other leader. You need to tap into your inner monster and be the kind of leader who will bite into a man’s throat. That’s how you survive.
I’ve been saying all season that you need to find that balance. If you allow loud singing and piano playing to lull you into a false sense of security so that you’re not checking doors before you open them, you’ll have problems. As Carol told Rick earlier in the season, “You can be a farmer, Rick. But you can’t just be a farmer.” Last night’s episode showed Rick finally coming to terms with the side of him that will do whatever it takes to make sure his son survives.
“You okay?” he asked Michonne.
“Cause I’m okay, too.”
Carl may be a little less than okay. He’s worried that his father won’t be proud of him if he knew of the thoughts he sometimes has. Now that Rick has come to terms with what he’s willing to do to protect what’s his, it will be interesting to see how he helps Carl reconcile what happened. With the support and counsel of Michonne, I’m not worried. And he may be further along than we think. When a member of the Terminus group asked about the signs of their battle with “Did they (Joe’s group) deserve it?,” Carl answers with an unwavering “Yes.”
We did not see Carol, Tyreese, and Judith in this episode. We still don’t know what happened to Beth. She’s just gone, as Daryl said.
And we don’t know the full story on Terminus, but here’s what we do know:
- They divvied up the belongings of Glenn’s group
- They don’t want our group dead – at least not yet
- They keep people in cargo shipping containers
- They keep bones and assorted innards in a courtyard
- They seem to have A LOT of meat for grilling
- They’re making A LOT of maps
- They have trust issues: ‘Never Again. Never Trust. We First, Always’
And we know they are fucking with the wrong people. Bring on season five, Gimple.
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