The Walking Dead Season 4 Finale Review: “A”
So last night was the season 4 Finale of The Walking Dead and I’m seeing a lot of noise from people claiming it was “terrible”, “trash” and etc, etc, etc. First off, let me say I believe these folks are in the minority. I don’t see how any true fan of this show for the 3 previous seasons could be angry at that season finale. Secondly, I think this is going to a larger issue I’ve been seeing with movies and now TV Shows: Folks are only watching/tweeting about shows to get snarky comments out instead of actually watching the show and enjoying it. It’s leading to some really ridiculous claims and a level of standard for TV that would have meant none of our favorite shows in the past would ever have been able to live up to. First off, “trash” shouldn’t be used for a show like The Walking Dead and should be reserved for shows that truly are bad. Even at its worst, The Walking Dead is still one of the better written, directed and filmed TV shows on…period. I mean if the show is trash, why is it coming back for a 5th season getting bigger numbers season after season and more importantly, why are you still watching it if it’s always letting you down? I get “Hate watching” is the new thing but after 4 seasons, this is getting to be a bit much.
I don’t think some people have mastered being able to watch a show and comment on it at the same time without missing something. It’s the online equivalent of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Okay maybe it’s not that bad but when you think about it, it makes sense. If you’re too busy watching your timeline and reading the commentary, you’re probably not really watching the show and paying attention. For a show like The Walking Dead, you can’t just watch it. You have to put yourself in the same situations that they’re in to full understand the how and why things are being done the way they are. Perfect example of this is when folks were dismissive of the episodes focusing on the Governor because “he’s a bad guy and I don’t care about him.” Well, okay but, you’ve now shut yourself off from a lot of complexities to a very important character. So because of this, I’m pushing back. I was going to wait and do a whole season review for The Walking Dead but decided to make an exception and write out a review for this finale. I’m still probably going to do a whole season review later on but I really felt I needed to write about this episode in particular.
Not only did I love this finale but I think that overall Season 4 was the best season of this show. The Walking Dead has always been less about zombies and more about the people dealing with organized society effectively breaking down and being cut off from everything. You could replace the zombies with whatever your choice would be for an apocalyptic future: aliens, mutated humans, a radioactive wasteland…whatever. What actually matters and what this show is really about is the people trying to survive. Sometimes it’s from zombies but other times it’s just from others trying to survive as well. It’s easy for us to sit at home with all our comforts and question why these people let their guard down but we really need to really understand where they are coming from. Remember at the beginning of Season 3 when they were literally running from house to house, scrapping cans for any food they could get. Then they found the prison and thought they could finally let their guard down. Sure, sometimes it seems stupid to us or we know that “something bad is going to happen” because, it’s just a TV show. But from the perspective of the characters, sometimes they’re just holding on to hope because they’ve been so helpless for so long. And this episode really brought all that stuff together.
I won’t spend too much time on this whole season but they really focused on building up all the characters this season versus previous ones. Those “slow” episodes that people hated so much were crucial in getting us to the point we’re at when the Finale ends. If you really paid attention this season then Rick’s last words “They don’t know who they are messing with” isn’t some corny threat but a reality. This group is NOT to be messed with. At one point in this episode Carl Jr. asks Rick “What will we tell people when they ask who we are?” and Rick says “We’re survivors”. Because that’s what they’ve done. This group has come such a long way from the naïve group they were in Season 1. They’ve not only survived, they’ve defeated Woodbury and Woodbury 2. This group has handled so much adversity and when they were all on their own (in smaller groups) they managed to survive. Now they’re all back together and in the same place, and while they’re trapped right now…they have a much better chance now that the “band is back together”. And no, it doesn’t matter that they changed the phrase from “they don’t know who they are fucking with” to “they don’t know who they are messing with”. Sure, I would have loved the more adult “fucking” version of that dialogue but I get it…this show is already pushing the limits with its adult content. And this episode in particular was pretty graphic. You had Rick ripping a man’s throat out (with his teeth), Michonne shooting a guy in the head point blank, Carl Jr about to get raped (pretty sure this is what put them over the edge)….there was NO WAY they were going to let them get away with putting “fucking” into the dialogue for this episode. And if it means sacrificing that word in dialogue for the graphic scene with Rick & Joe then I’ll take it. They pretty much took that scene from the comics and just replaced Abraham with Daryl and added in Michonne. I’ll allow it.
Speaking of Michonne, I made a joke last week about Michonne being a better mother to Carl Jr. than Lori Grimes. I was just joking at the time but the more I look at it the more it’s true. Michonne and Carl Jr. have developed a relationship over this last season that has been subtle but pretty great. They both need each other. Michonne needed Carl Jr. to begin to open up and feel at home with this group. And Carl Jr. needs someone to recognize that while he still a young child, he’s had to grow up fast and he’s okay with that. I know folks have been saying how much they hate Carl but he’s come so far. Remember, Carl Jr. was the one that put a bullet in his zombie mom’s head. He also killed zombie Shane. And when shit went down at the prison, Rick handed his son an assault rifle and let him go to work. Carl Jr. is supposed to be 13/14 I believe. Of course he’s conflicted. He’s a child that gets tossed between doing kids stuff to being an adult at the flip of a switch. Michonne’s mothering instincts have kicked in and she recognizes this. She realizes that Carl is a little messed up after seeing his dad go off on those men and she’s there for him to explain her own story. They both needed that. Michonne has handled the balance of treating Carl like a child but also realizing he’s growing up faster than his age better than Rick has. Not a knock against Rick because he has so much pressure on him with everything else. So it’s really great that Michonne has stepped in. I really love how they’ve handled Michonne this season. I know folks complained last season about her just being an “angry black woman stereotype” with no dialogue, but after seeing this season, her behavior before makes so much sense. After her family died, she went to a really dark place, but now she’s broken through to the other side. Amazing development and growth of a character.
So let me address some of the things from this episode that I’ve seen people complain about that I don’t really understand.
I’m really glad people who hate the flashbacks on The Walking Dead don’t watch Arrow. Like Arrow, the flashbacks in the finale really gave a better look at what used to be and where people are now. Sure, at first the flashbacks threw me off a bit but as the episode goes on, the purpose becomes crystal clear. At the beginning of this season folks asked why Rick was so soft. Well, we see why now. Hershel convinced him that he could relax and start trying to be a father to his son and that they could build something special at the prison and make it their new home. This was why Rick was so desperate in his pleas to The Governor about trying to make it work. The most underrated and glossed over scene in the flashbacks was the scene where Rick sees Carl cleaning the gun. Let’s forget the snark and forget we’re watching a TV show from the comfort of our own homes and try to immerse ourselves in the world that we’re watching. We’re looking at a scene where on the one hand, you have Rick seeing an older child playing with LEGOS, trying to keep his innocence and remember a better time and forget the horribleness of the world. Then Rick sees his own son who is younger, sitting at the table…cleaning a gun. As a father Rick had to be horrified. He wants Carl Jr. to be safe, but at the same time, as a father, he wants Carl to be able to be a kid again. So he makes a decision to put his gun down and focus on being a father. Sure, from a snarky outside perspective it’s obvious that the other kid is going to die cause he’s “playing with toys while Carl is being a man” but from a reality side, when you look at the world they’re in, Rick’s reasoning for getting “soft” is completely justifiable and understandable. Folks hated that Carl Jr. was talking a back to Rick but these flashbacks really shed new light onto both sides of it. Carl Jr. has accepted that he’s young but growing up in a fucked up time and Rick wants to protect and shelter his son and to have him not grow up too fast. For all the jokes we make, I do NOT envy Rick having to make these decisions.
They never explained what happened to Beth?
This is why I think folks forget that when watching a TV show they need to watch it from the perspective of the people in the show and not as just some outsider commenting on it from Twitter. Let’s talk about Beth for a minute. First off, I find it hilarious that people hated the character and now that they didn’t get exact answers on who took Beth, they’re holding it against the Finale. But whatever. Anyway, let’s look at what actually was said in this episode. Remember, none of the other groups knows who made it out alive from the prison attack and who didn’t. Rick didn’t know that Beth was even with Daryl until Daryl told him that Beth was gone. And the reason why Rick didn’t dig into what Daryl meant by “gone” was because….he knew it was bad. Rick just ripped Joe’s throat out with his own teeth and then stabbed the man who was trying to rape his son with a knife about 100 times. He was still bathed in those men’s blood. The tone of Daryl’s voice when he said Beth was “just gone” let Rick know whatever happened was real bad and didn’t need to know anymore. At this point losing someone is routine with this group. They have to deal and not dwell. They lost so many during the last battle at the prison, in the grand scheme of all that has happened, what’s one more? It was best to just deal with who was alive and move on. Plus, Rick could tell by the way Daryl was saying it that it was something that Daryl really didn’t want to talk about. With the taste of Joe’s blood still in his mouth, I can understand why Rick just let it go. Some things just shouldn’t be talked about until a later time.
What about Carol, Tyrese & Judith?
Again, no one knows that Carol, Tyrese & Judith are still alive. Carol was kicked out by Rick before the prison was taken down. Tyrese was saved by Mika & Lizzie. And Rick & Carl Jr. both think Judith is dead after finding her baby seat with blood in it. These 3 are completely off the radar. None of the other groups really know that each other is alive. It wasn’t until Glenn found that message that he knew that Maggie was still alive with Bob & Sasha. Not only that, but if you think about it, the walkers that were on fire in the episode with Tyrese, Carol & the kids means that they weren’t that far from Beth & Daryl at the time that Beth & Daryl set that house on fire. HOWEVER, Tyrese & Carol didn’t move. They stayed at the house for at least a day maybe 2 (or longer) with the kids. So Tyrese, Carol & Judith are at least 1 maybe 2 days away from Terminus at the point of the Finale. It wouldn’t have made sense for them to catch up with the other groups. Of course, if you’re too busy getting jokes off, you wouldn’t have noticed these important details.
I think the group at Terminus is more formidable than they appeared. I know Rick’s group can take them but, I think the Terminus group is good at disguising who they really are. I too was shocked by how bad the guy on the roof was shooting………..until I realized it was on purpose. They were doing a pretty good job herding Rick & them to the exact point of the ambush they wanted. It was a pretty well thought out trap and was executed flawlessly. I’m interested in seeing what’s really going on here at Terminus. I think it’s obvious that they’re cannibals but I’m also getting a cult-like vibe to them as well. And they seem to have a fairly sizable community. I think leaving Rick & his group trapped by them was a perfect way to end this season and set up for a pretty good opening to Season 5. I also like that Rick is back to being a leader. The contrast between how Rick, Daryl, Carl Jr & Michonne approached Temrinus and the way Glenn & Maggie’s group did is telling. Rick’s paranoia is what keeps this group alive when he’s on his game. He buried weapons outside of Terminus “just in case” then entered into the back door. Then he noticed right away that something was up and spotted all the gear of his people. Oh yeah. I can’t wait for Rick to get his people together to break out. Bring on Season 5. That standoff between Rick and the Terminus people was great tension. Had me like
Again, I loved this episode and this whole season. The character development was simply outstanding. Characters I didn’t care about, mattered to me. Even the ones I hated. I hated Beth & Lizzie but that was by design. I think sometimes folks confuse hating a character with bad writing. Sometimes it’s done on purpose (For me, see Lori Grimes & Andrea). And this finale came full circle with the old Rick finally coming to terms with what he has to become to protect himself and his family (which is more than just Carl Jr. now). For folks who didn’t “get” the last scene. When Rick sees that he’s trapped but WITH his whole crew, it’s like that scene in Watchmen when Rorshcach tells the other prisoners that he’s not locked in there with them, they’re locked in there with him. Seriously, God help Terminus…they truly do NOT know who they are fucking with. Season 5 can't get here soon enough. Gonna be looking at the calendar like....
So yeah. If you STILL didn't like the finale, man I just don't know what to tell you. I'm just at a loss for words