'The Walking Dead' Season Finale Recap: Rick's Group Learns the Truth About Terminus
'The Walking Dead' Season Finale Recap: Rick's Group Learns the Truth About Terminus
Megan Cole
Megan Cole
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
When we last saw our survivors, Rick, Carl and Michonne shared a moment of joy on the tracks to Terminus. Beth was kidnapped. Glenn and Maggie were reunited, and Daryl fell in with the very bad dudes Rick ran across earlier in the season. In one of the show's most powerful episodes, Carol had to kill Lizzie after she murdered Mika. And Glenn, Maggie and the six others with them finally made it to Terminus.

In tonight's season finale, "A," Rick is pushed over the edge when his group is attacked, and we finally learn a bit more about Terminus. Read on to find out if tonight's season finale of The Walking Dead can deliver that mix of sweet zombie action and rich character development we crave.

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The Calm Before the Bloody Storm

Tonight's episode begins with a flashback to the prison days. Rick, Glenn and Maggie are welcomed back by some of the prison survivors, including Hershel. As Glenn and Maggie share a happy reunion with Maggie's dad, Rick and Carl have a chat about things getting a bit rough on the road. Then we go back to the present, where Rick is shaking and his hands are covered with blood. Clearly, a lot has changed since those peaceful prison days.

Still in the present, though before the bloody hands image, Rick's group is traveling toward Terminus. They have not eaten in a while, but Rick thinks they should stay where they are for another day or two. Michonne agrees that it is a good idea, since Rick is still healing. After they take care of a single walker, Rick decides to teach them about trapping. This moment feels oddly foreboding, like it is some kind of metaphor for Terminus. Rick explains how they use the trap to draw animals in, like maybe how the Terminus folks are drawing people in.

Alas, the trapping lesson is interrupted by a man's screams. Carl takes off to help out this stranger, and the others follow. By the time they get there, they are too late to do anything to help the guy, and they have to run before they get attacked. They try to find shelter for the night, but only come across an abadoned car. This is when things go straight to hell.

Did Rick Go Too Far?

Carl is sleeping when Rick and Michonne are surprised by the very bad dudes Daryl is with. Joe, their leader, holds Rick at gunpoint while he celebrates finding the man who killed one of his men on New Year's Eve. Before Joe can start in on Rick, Daryl walks out of the shadows and tells Joe they are going to let Rick's group go. Daryl vouches for Rick and says his group are good people. Joe decides that since Rick murdered one of his men, Daryl is lying about Rick being a good person. Joe orders some of his men to beat Daryl to death for breaking the "no lying" rule.

As Daryl gets beaten, one of Joe's men starts to attack Carl, planning to rape him. Joe lays out his plan to kill Daryl, rape Carl and Michonne, and then kill Rick. Rick screams at them to leave Carl alone, but they do not back off. Rick attacks Joe, and -- in one of the show's grossest kills -- basically rips out Joe's throat. Rick then starts picking off the rest of Joe's men, with help from Michonne and Daryl. Michonne gets the would-be rapist away from Carl, but Rick wants to be the one to do him in. Rick murders the guy in a truly brutal fashion, as Carl and the others look on.

A Brief Break from the Chaos

The next day, Rick is still recovering from what he did to Joe's men. Daryl gives Rick something to clean up with, and expresses his guilt about not knowing how bad Joe's men were. Rick tells Daryl that their actions are not on him, and he calls Daryl his brother. (Did anyone else choke up a bit in that moment?) Daryl tells Rick that what he did to Joe's men is understandable, but Rick does not agree. Rick says that brutality is just part of him now, and it is the reason he has survived this long. Carl listens as Rick tells Daryl that keeping Carl safe is all that matters.

After they clean up, the group continues on to Terminus. When they arrive, RIck says they should split up and take a good look around before they approach the place. Rick asks if Carl wants to go with him, but Carl chooses to go off with Michonne instead. She asks why he did not want to stay with Rick, and Carl remains silent. Michonne uses that moment to tell him how she lost her son.

Michonne's Story

Michonne was staying at a refugee camp with her son, her boyfriend, and their friend. Michonne came back from a run to find the fences down and everyone dead or dying. Her son was among the dead, but her boyfriend and his friend were still alive. They were high when the camp was attacked, and they did nothing to save her son. They had been bitten in the attack, but Michonne just let them turn. Then she made them into her walker pets, as a reminder of everything that happened.

Michonne tells this story because she wants Carl to know that she had become a monster after losing her son. But then she met Andrea, and Andrea started to bring back the humanity that she had lost. Michonne goes on to say that Rick and Carl also started bringing her back. She tells Carl that he does not need to be afraid of her or his father. It is a great moment, but Carl follows it up with a confession. Carl says that he is not the person Rick thinks he is. Carl says he tried to be better, but he thinks he is just another monster. Michonne hugs him, and I am so glad they have each other now.
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Yep, Terminus is Very Bad

Rick's group finally heads into Terminus -- through the back entrance, to play it safe. Once they arrive, things start to feel a bit off. They are welcomed to Terminus just like Glenn's group was in the last episode, but something still feels wrong. One of the Terminus people, Gareth, tells them that they will all get along fine as long as no one does anything stupid. He sends them over to see Mary and the rest of the welcoming committee.

Mary welcomes them to Terminus in that creepy way of hers, but before they can sit down for a meal, Rick notices something. One of the Terminus people has the watch Hershel gave to Glenn back in the day. Rick grabs the man and demands to know where he found the watch. This is when things start to spiral out of control again.

Once Rick realizes that these people are not good people, everyone draws their weapons. Gareth tries to get things under control, but Rick is not having it. The Terminus people start shooting, and our people make a run for it. Alas, everywhere they go is blocked off and they are trapped inside. Soon enough, they realize that the Terminus people outnumber them by a great deal.

Gareth tells Rick and the others to put their weapons down, and they have no choice but to comply. Once they are neutralized, Gareth orders them all into a train car, one by one. It is a very intense scene, but all four of them get into the car without being shot. As they try to process what just happened, someone says Rick's name.

Glenn and his group walk out of the shadows, all still alive, at least for the time being. Rick and the others notice some new faces among Glenn's group, but Maggie says they are all friends. Abraham wonders how long these new friendships will last, what with the terrifying Terminus people holding them all captive. But Rick is not worried. As the episode ends, Rick tells the others that the Terminus people are going to feel pretty stupid when they find out that "they're screwing with the wrong people."

Flashback Time

Tonight's season finale included several flashbacks to Rick's prison life. It is a way for us to see how far Rick has come since his days as a farmer, but it also shows us how that down-time changed him. Back during the Ricktatorship days, I do not know if Rick would have questioned his actions in defending Carl. I also don't know if he would have thought twice about how Carl saw him after the brutal killings. On the same note, Carl's confession to Michonne shows us that he has also changed.

In last season's finale, Carl shot someone in cold blood, and seemingly felt no remorse for it. Yet in tonight's season 4 finale, Carl tells Michonne that he feels intense guilt simply for the bad thoughts he sometimes has. These moments of reflection show us that both men were changed by their brief, peaceful time at the prison, and it allowed them to connect to their humanity once again.

This does not mean that they will not be pushed to extremes -- as evidenced in tonight's episode -- but it does mean that they will maintain their humanity even in the darkest situations. The prison flashbacks also give us the nice bonus of seeing Hershel again, as well as past-Beth. Since we still do not know what happened to Beth after she was taken, I was glad we at least got a glimpse of her in the finale.

Looming Questions

Tonight's season finale was the first time The Walking Dead has done a season-ending cliffhanger. What did you think of that change? We saw most of our characters reunite at Terminus, but four characters are still unaccounted for. What do you think happened to the survivors we didn't see? Did Carol, Tyreese and Judith reach Terminus before the others, or are they still on their way? What about Beth? Was she taken by the Terminus group, or did she get grabbed by someone else? And just what is Terminus? Why are the Terminus survivors holding hostages? Are they the show's version of the cannibals, or is something else going on?

What did you think of tonight's episode? Do you think season 5 will start with the resolution to that cliffhanger, or will we pick up with our missing characters first? Do you think the finale was a fitting end to the season, or did it leave you disappointed? Which moments stood out for you? I loved the confession scene between Michonne and Carl, including Michonne's Andrea shout-out. How will you survive the wait for season 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

AMC's The Walking Dead will return with season 5 later this year.

(Image courtesy of AMC)