The Walking Dead 4.16: “We first, always”
The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 16 recap
It’s the season finale, so beware the SPOILERS.
This episode started out very promising, and then just did nothing. It encapsulates the best and the worst of The Walking Dead—the best being the gore and the tension and the clash of wills that results whenever Rick meets another alpha male, the worst being the fact that NOTHING HAPPENS. For an episode in which some stuff happened, ultimately, NOTHING HAPPENED.
We open with a flashback to the early days at the prison, and throughout the episode we cut back to scenes of Rick and Hershel establishing their new life. It’s supposed to show us just how far Rick has come since those days—how feral he’s become—but really all it does is waste time. By the end of the finale I felt like those prison scenes were taking away from the far more compelling here and now. I’m saying it: Farmer Rick is the worst thing that’s ever happened to this show. He’s worse than Hershel’s farm, the sh*tty writing that plagued characters like Lori, Shane and Andrea, and the fact that the show threw away interesting characterization for the Governor not once but twice. Farmer Rick = THE WORST.
Before we deal with the tremendous cock-block that is Terminus, though, we need to talk about Joe and the Hunters. Rick, Michonne and Carl are getting along okay, but then Joe gets the drop on Rick one night and what follows is Rick’s greatest moment as a father and a man, bar none. Forget those fishing trips to the lake, the way to win Father of the Year is to save your son from child rape by tearing out a man’s jugular with your teeth and then carving out his assailant’s heart with your bare hands.
Andrew Lincoln gets credit for playing Rick perfectly during Joe’s nighttime attack. We know Rick is not the mood for being ambushed as Lincoln deploys a facial tic that only gets worse as Joe enumerates all the awful things he’s going to do to Rick’s family, and Daryl who steps in to try and save Rick only to have Joe turn on him. Then when Rick moves, he doesn’t hesitate. There is no struggle with Joe—Rick goes straight for his jugular, LITERALLY. It’s a brutal moment, but it also serves to give Michonne and Daryl the upper hand and they take care of the rest of the Hunters as Rick makes confetti out of the guy who attacked Carl.
Of course Carl has mixed feelings about what Rick did—though he could also just be in shock from seeing Rick do anything of significance at all—but Daryl and Michonne have no doubts. And Michonne, who finally reveals the awful truth of how her son died, understands the kind of brutality protecting a child brings out. She has a nice bonding moment with Carl, who is still a terrible actor but his relationship with surrogate-mom Michonne has developed nicely. Rick also has a nice moment with Daryl, putting them on equal footing by acknowledging Daryl as his brother.
And then they arrive at Terminus. We’ve been doubting and mistrustful of Terminus all along, and sure enough, they are probably cannibals. We meet Gareth, who appears to be in charge, and it doesn’t take Rick long to spy folks around the barbecue wearing clothes—and riot gear—from the other prison survivors. He demands answers at the end of a gun, and things don’t go well. The people of Terminus outnumber them, they’re better armed and they clearly have a plan to corral and contain threats. So you’re thinking—Oh man, this is getting good! What’s Rick going to do next?! Then the episode ends. Gareth orders Rick and the others into a train car, and they find Glenn, Maggie, et al already trapped inside. The season finale closes with Rick looking crazy and making threatening statements about the Trouble To Come.
Obviously we’re setting up Terminus as the site for season five, but if we’re really not going to do anything there, why bother having Rick actually enter the compound? Why not just end the episode as season two ended, with Rick overlooking a potential new home? Rick finally arriving at Terminus should be an entire episode unto itself, not the third act of an episode that really wants to be about Rick and Carl and how they’ve grown apart since the prison. But because they do actually enter Terminus, the episode ends up being all set up, no follow through. Which, actually, describes the show as a whole. It’s a perpetual cock-block followed by a six month wait for resolution.
Rick – Father of the Year.
Daryl, Michonne, Carl, Maggie, Glenn, Abraham, et al – Trapped with a merciless Rick.
Beth – Possibly eaten by the Terminus cannibals?
Tyreese, Carol and Judith – In the wind.
Terminus – Y’all don’t even know how f*cked you are.
Worst thing seen/heard this episode: The attempted child rape was pretty rough, but I’m going with the zombie eating that random guy’s eyeball.
Zombie kill of the week: Supplanted in favor of Rick tearing Joe’s jugular out with his teeth. I mean God DAMN, Rick.