The Walking Dead season 4 finale review: A

Review Ron Hogan 31 Mar 2014 - 07:15

The Walking Dead's fourth season reaches a characteristically bloody finale...

This review contains spoilers.

4.15 A

When a show does foreshadowing, the payoff can be either good or bad. Sometimes, it's subtle enough that it's only caught by the viewer on a second or third viewing, or once the trap has been sprung. Other times, it's blatant enough to give the audience a warning about what's coming up, so the surprise isn't all that surprising to the home viewing audience. The Walking Dead is a show completely incapable of subtlety, but when it's time to delivery a blow to the viewing audience, the blows land like hammer falls, one after the other.

That's a good description of tonight's episode of The Walking Dead - a series of punches each more violent than the last, countered with lulls that last just long enough to remind you how long it's been since something happened to the core trio of Rick, Carl, and Michonne. Each event, from the gnawing hunger to the maze-like chase, only serves to increase the tension throughout the episode, and the cuts back to a more idyllic past (something that has never been said about time spent locked in a prison) only serve to make that tension even more profound. In a fight, there's getting hit, and then there's waiting to be hit.

That's the beauty of Michelle MacLaren's direction on this finale episode. There's tension that builds until it bubbles over into an expression of spectacular violence, but that violence doesn't feel like a blow-off moment; it's simply adding to the bubbling pot. For example, Rick and company set a trap for a rabbit, and after they fetch dinner, they find themselves pursued by a surprisingly large and determined group of walkers. They escape them somehow, only to find themselves camping out in a wrecked car until, out of nowhere, Joe and his gang overtake Rick and have them held at gunpoint while Joe rails on and on about how much fun it's going to be to get revenge on Rick for their dead friend.

One of the defining characteristics of Rick Grimes is his single-minded dedication to keep his son safe. That's been Rick's only real motivation this entire time. That and his struggles with his own baser instincts. They make a point of mentioning that later in the episode, but right now, Rick has a gun to his head while a gang of men are threatening to beat Daryl to death, rape both Michonne and Carl, and then finally execute Rick. Rick is in an impossible situation, so he takes a hero's action and it fails pretty spectacularly.

That was a brilliant move on the part of episode writers Scott Gimple and Angela Kang. Rick tries to be a hero and fails. Rick goes to fight with Joe and understandably gets punched down—Rick's still nursing his injuries from his beating at the hands of the Governor. Daryl tries to fight off two guys and he's getting beaten to death, too. Carl can't get to a knife just inches away. Michonne tries a hero move and it doesn't work, either, until Rick decides to give into his baser instincts once the ravagers threaten to have their way with Carl's youthful body. It wasn't that Rick so much gave in, but that he snapped and tore Joe's throat out with his teeth during a hug (amazing work by the special effects team this week, both on the throat-ripping AND the eyeball gag on the eyeglasses guy who gets torn apart by walkers).

In a moment of sick, crazed, desperation, Rick does the only thing he can do: survive. He survives, and that allows the rest of his group to survive. He might have taken a swing at normalcy during the farm earlier in the season at Hershel's insistence (I'd say as much for himself as for Carl, with Hershel serving as a necessary spiritual adviser for the broken Grimes family). Call it a necessary respite, much like the one it provides during the episode, and it's clearly something Rick can keep to himself as a reminder that while he's capable of impressive brutality, he can also grow his own cucumbers. Rick seems to come to that realization as the episode goes on, much the same way Carl figures out that he's not going to be a disappointment to his father for his violence provided he doesn't completely surrender his morality in exchange for a delicious meaty plate of “food” and a life of leisurely slaughter.

The Walking Dead is very much a show about people in a hopeless situation who simply refuse to give up hope despite all the trauma and failing and disasters that have befallen them. Rick's ruined two strongholds, yet he's still hopeful for more normalcy. Michonne has been there for the deaths of her family and loved ones, yet she still hopes for something normal. Rick has run from himself before, but it seems like, when he arrives at the storage boxcar full of the only friends he's got left in the world, he's done running. Indeed, it seems that being cornered and captured might be what turns Rick's resolve into steel.

It's rare that a show can turn a pretty resounding defeat into a moral victory, but with his friends at his side and steel at his back, it looks like a cornered Rick Grimes without a gun might be the most dangerous person in the post-apocalyptic universe. He's lost a great deal, but he still has a lot worth fighting for and he doesn't need a gun or a knife to end a life, so long as he keeps his teeth brushed and flossed for maximum deadly effect. It is as happy an ending that this show can manage.

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, Us, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan was very much impressed by the action this week, though he has to admit to being glad when the episode finally ended, if only because that meant a break from the tension. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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There will shortly be an awful lot of comments from the regulars complaining about how disappointing it was.

For once I agree with them. A few nice moments, but it didn't deliver the punch it needed after the last few weeks. And what was all that marketing nonsense about "who will survive/arrive" in the last week for?

I liked seeing the show follow the comic, and was waiting for that showdown between Rick and the nonces, it didn't disappoint. As for the season as a whole... it was better than the Little House on the Prairie season.

I enjoyed it. The ending was a bit tame, but sets up the next season nicely.
The build to Rick becoming as base as the walkers themselves was great, the peak of the episode. Anyone with kids will probably be more freaked with that sequence than those without - I would literally do anything to keep my boys safe.

I mean to be racist or nothin but... Fajitas de Rosita, anyone? And were Tyrese and Carol (and Judith) the appetizers, or will they show up with to-go boxes and save the day?

That was rather unexpected, after building up to Terminus as a huge finale we get 10 minutes of the storyline going nowhere (yet). It was almost as if AMC have been marketing a completely different show for the last week. It's a shame that the second half of the episode felt like such a dud given how excellent the first half was.

On another note, I'm not sure how effective the flashbacks used throughout the episode were. I understand why they were used, and the juxtaposition between them and the events of the present was interesting (also it was nice to see Hershel again), but they seemed to repeat things we know already. Rick wants what's best for his son, we know that; Rick was planning a better life at the prison at one point, we know that; Carl acts older than his age sometimes, we know that. Instead of just reiterating things we already know the screen time would have been used far better if it were used on making the Terminus storyline go a little further, instead of simply having Rick and co. arrive.

The one thing I really appreciated from this episode was Rick and the Hunters' encounter. I've always felt that even at its most shocking, the show has never reached the brutality and pure darkness of the comics, so it was hard to be surprised. It finally did that in that scene and, even though it was taken straight from the comics, the fact that the writers took that risk, alongside the fantastic direction, made it a truly shocking and unexpected moment.

It's almost like these shows are made for 8 years from now, when we can marathon watch 12 seasons., As a serial, with a few months of weekly shows then long months with nothing it's a little slow.

Still one of my favorite shows on and I watch it every week but the development is a bit slow and the climax are few per season - not every episode has a payoff it seems, several episodes build and develop for the payoff in one episode.

Good episode but felt like a 'part one' of what could've been a two-episode finale. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the original intention but once TWD got commissioned for another season, they decided to use the 'part two' as the first episode of season five to draw viewers back.

Well I was happy they didn't kill someone off, just for the sake of killing someone off. That's getting old. I was pleasantly surprised & happy to see everyone still standing at the end. And they found their pals, minus just a few. SO glad Badass Rick is back. Thought the long shot of the powdered milk trash was a bit of foreshadowing (Oh No not Judith!!). Cause Carol & Tyreese will probably be involved with saving them, but how they gonna do that holding a baby? And I fear Beth is on the grill already.

They have made so many pointless episodes this last half of the season - just trying to drag the show on as long as possible. They could have concluded things much quicker but its their way of making sure people watch season 5

Rick isn't exactly my favourite character as I find his never ending focus on high morals tedious - but I was shouting him on when he did his walker impersonation! . I didn't get Carl's heart to heart with Michonne though where he said 'I'm not what he thinks I am', very few teenagers do tend to turn out how their parents think they will, so that's kind of obvious unless Carl meant something specifically?, I would think it far more realistic that Carl would not to deal with the awkward situation of hanging around with his dad after very nearly being raped by another man and might have said so to Michonne, who is turning out to be a mother figure for him. I thought the ending was a little anti-climactic but was also pleased just about everyone is accounted for, so that they can carry on with the exciting stuff! I haven't read the comic but I'm predicting Beth is going to have been brainwashed into some kind of villain that is completely opposite from her initial character.

The general feeling I have with this finale
is disappointment. One good scene, no real cliffhanger and more stupid
make-no-sense decisions, no development on the whereabouts of Beth or Carol’s
group, no real confirmation that Mary and Garret’s band are cannibals.

I was expecting a payoff and a major
cliffhanger, instead I got a standard episode for this second half season.

Seriously, they are camping in the middle
of a deserted street, sitting around a fire, and NO ONE noticed six guys in
leathers and chains with guns walk up to them? And none of them noticed those
guys on the roof weren’t shooting at them? That they were led around like
cattle? Why the hell bury a bag of guns, “just in case”? What good did it do to
leave them when they were ambushed by snipers?

Who else now thinks Carol and Tyreese got to
Terminus first, and baby Judith is being fed Carol bits cuz they ran out of
Baby formula? Finally, I think Beth is alive and with that Gabriel priest dude.

Didn’t feel like a finale. At all.

I seriously thought Carl was going to lose his eye or die in this episode. After the ring-leader, samurai and archer were sent to the container, they let Carl stay there for noticeably longer amount of time. The camera shots and the way Carl was just staring at the ground, frightened, really would've made that scene truly horrific, and would've made an otherwise (kinda) disappointing cliffhanger much more tense.

The bag with guns? it has paid off for that ''just in case moment'' in the next season, the part with the hunters was taken straight out the comics and fitted in nicely. yes there is a lot of dumb moments like your cattle term and it didn't feel like a finale but the next season is going to start off ruff and rugged with a lot of action at hand

I don't think there was ever any danger of The Walking Dead not getting recommissioned.

"they decided to use the 'part two' as the first episode of season five to draw viewers back" Surely that's just a standard cliffhanger like most shows use?

The guys outside will feel pretty stupid , just from this line i hope season 5 will be more action, dont need anymore slow moving plots and time wasting scenes.

The Hunters came at them from the trees. There was that bit with the snapping branch that Michonne and Rick reacted to before deciding it was safe and sitting back down with the trees to their back. It would seem that the Hunters were moving slowly through the trees to flank them, made a noise and then waited for them to settle again before moving up. The others moved up behind the SUV, which was a blind spot that Rick and Michonne were stupid enough to ignore.

The bag of guns makes sense in that they had all the weapons they could carry into a fight on their person. The bag of guns and ammo would just have slowed them down if they needed to fight and if they had the weapons they carried taken from them then they at least have a cache nearby if/when they escape. Best case scenario was that Terminus was friendly and they ended up bringing the bag in to share, laess good scenario is Terminus is unfriendly but they escape and don't have to scrounge for weapons in the dangerous world they live in, worst case scenario they all end up dead, but at least their killers don't get their hands on all the weaponry they carried.

I agree about it not feeling like a finale, though. I had to check to make sure there wasn't another episode next week. That ending just felt so bad as a final scene, very much a Matrix Reloaded style affair.

This felt like a good mid season episode but not a great finale. I was left feeling a little cheated. The mid season finale was way more satisfying.

I had to laugh at that final line, shame really as I liked the episode. If you dont like Rick then you will be dissapointed in the next 3 or 4 years, dependant on how long they broadcast it for.

I don't think she is. See the flashback where Rick puts his hat on Beth and says to her, "There's a new Sherrif in town." They spent too long building up Darryl and Beth's relationship to kill her off screen. I imagine that's what the writers want us to think, but I think she might be the one who saves them.

I thought the episode and the whole series was fantastic. Clever how they separated everyone, so it meant something when they got back together again - war!

Of course it did! It set up next season perfectly. The season of Terminus. "They're screwing with the wrong people!" Epic.

I agree! Even for a cliff-hanger, the second half was really disappointing. I wasn't left feeling "I have to see what happens next", instead I felt like I was cheated into needing to see what happens next. I don't like to be forced to watch another season, I want to want to watch another season... They should have either left it that everyone was still on the cusp of getting to Terminus or they should have gotten everyone in that container halfway through the episode. It almost feels like they're imitating GoT where the second last episode is amazing (instead here it was the Carol episode 2 weeks ago) and then the finale is almost like a tag on to what should have been the finale.

I agree with the Hunters' encounter. I thought they went really dark in the Carol episode with the little girls, but this was almost uncomfortable to watch and I loved it. If the show keeps being this dark it will do well. I hope they keep it dark with the cannibal theme and don't try and sugar coat it for the studio.

Time wise, Carol and Tyrese left their hide out when Beth and Darryl's crackhouse smoke turned white, meaning Darryl had at least a day or two on them and he's only arrived there now. I can only hope that carol kicks some booty when she shows up.

But they did realise the guys on the roof weren't trying to kill them and that they were shooting at their feet. They're presumably smart enough to realise they're being guided, but by that point alternatives were a little limited.

Absolutely. I think the distinction was the emotions that I felt watching the two episodes. In Carol's episode there's obviously a huge element of sadness, both for her and the children, but I felt that we'd already seen it before with Sophia and other times where Carol has done similar acts to survive. In this episode it felt like something new, both for the show and for Rick as a character so I almost felt disgusted by it. Hopefully this continues!

Yes but even in a "part one" finale there's usually a lot more payoff.

I do wish this had happened instead though "They're going to feel real stupid..." Rick pulls out a hidden gun then slides open the door "when they realise that this door isn't locked"...

If I recall correctly, nobody from the group has ever died off-screen. I'm pretty sure Beth will still be alive. What would be truly horrific is if the Terminus guys have, say, amputated her arm and eaten that while she was still alive.

Can someone explain when it was mentioned that the terminus people are cannibals? Ive heard lots of people mention this but didn't see it myself?

That would certainly have been a more badass way to end the show, but it would put longing for the next series at fever pitch! As it is though they have no obvious weapons, they're surrounded by lots of people with automatic weapons and they've got no way of escaping, so it's essentially impossible. It sounds like a great idea for a cliffhanger until you realise that when they do get out (because they just have to) of this impossible situation it's going to seem totally gimmicky and unrealistic.

They must of cut a couple of scenes from the Fox UK broadcast as when i watched the talking dead the guy with the glasses in the field was visible from distance and not close up having his eye ripped out..

People are making this assumption based on what they know of the comics. Also, there was a line in the episode, something along the lines of "Everyone that we take inside us, makes us stronger" or something like that, which people are interpreting as a reference to eating people.

Right! I have to admit, I went to bed last night and woke up this morning hating the ending, but as the day has gone on, I've come to accept it. I agree with an earlier comment, I wish I could have discovered this show in 4 years time and just marathon watched it all.

A good, enjoyable episode, but was what Rick did to Joe REALLY that shocking?. They were telling him how they were going to rape and murder his son. Id say Joe got off lightly, I was more concerned (if that's the right word) by what was happening off screen to the last chap left standing. Desperately using whatever means are at your disposal in a state of panic is one thing, deliberate brutality is something else completely.

In the chase they run past this cage filled with stripped clean human bones. Rick notices it and the camera very deliberately pauses on it.

Technically Sophia died off-screen.

I
didn’t notice during the first viewing, but there’s apparently a blond woman
rocking in a chair during one of the scenes inside the compound. We only see
her from the back and there’s a table next to her with a can of baby formula on
it. I need to watch again to confirm.

I thought the Hunters outside the fence were using their hidden guns. Why else would they be outside the fence?

As someone has already stated, the ending did seem tame, and wish they'd chosen to show the fruitier version of it...
This episode, in my opinion, helped establish the return of Badass Rick, but not the one who was filled with turmoil, rather one who is at peace with reality; for this, the finale has got me more excited about a following season than most of the other finales, and thus I'm not disappointed.

With hindsight the marketing seems nonsense to some, but during the last week, are you honestly telling me you weren't excited/ worried/ emotional in some way about what was to happen? And the fact there was no death was satisfying for me. Predictable marketing is not good marketing. I feel the shock factor, for a potential death in the next season, has been multiplied tenfold with everyone's survival in this finale.

That was part of the snare. They had rifles, Rick's crew didn't have rifles in the bag. They were basically there , as far as I figure, to stop the captives hopping the fence to escape. They were outside the fence, most likely, so they could stay hidden until they needed to be seen and so the captives couldn't rush them.

That would be awesome. I like the Terminus, and I can't wait to see what crazy thing they have to do to get out of it.

Seh wah?! Snap, I already deleted it off DVR!

Rosita is on the grill. Guarantee.

Oh sh*t she wasn't in the car!?

It's funny cuz the tv show could catch up to and pass up the events of the comics. Kirkman's been putting 2 out a month lately. Might have to do more than that!

Beth and Daryl stayed a few days at the funeral home. Plenty of time for Carol to kill a kid and leave for Terminus. I'm 75% SURE she got there before Glenn, Maggie and the GI Joes.

Couldn't they also be spying on Rick when he was burying the bag?

True, but they showed you what happened to her, so leaving us in no doubt that she was absolutely, categorically dead.

Same with Lizzie and Mika. You don't clearly see the moments of their deaths, but you're not left with any doubt. My money is very much on Beth being alive.

Also, Morgan is supposedly coming back into the show at some point, so I wonder if he might be in the other container.

I was looking for all 8 of that group and never saw Rosita. Plus it'd be a very good way to a) get rid of a woefully 2 dimensional character and b) give Abraham and Eugene something to avenge. You could have taken any one of the 3 and the other 2 would grow... But I wanna see Abraham have something in common with Rick, aside from previous horrors we didn't see before he met Glenn.

I had to double check myself, she is still there unfortunately!

Snap. Forget I said anything, burn all the paperwork! But I'm glad you see what I mean. It would've made sense. Just a bit disappointed now.

Possibly, but I don't think so. They were not using Rick's weapons, they seemed genuinely surprised when Rick and co. showed up and Rick made a bit of a thing of doing recon before they entered. Of course all of those things could mean nothing, but it came across to me like the guns were safe where they were.

Look again she's there...

No kidding. I mean, thanks,

Andrea died off screen. I was pissed about that I wanted to see her eaten..

I really hate the show now! I wish it would just end or at least kill annoying Rick and his "i'm the new sheriff because i wear the hat" son. I just don't feel sorry for them at all and every time someone puts a gun to Rick or his son's head I shout at the TV "PULL THE TRIGGER, KILL THEM, DO IT DO IT".

Check the running through Terminus scene...just before Rick and the gang went into that shrine, they passed by a cage full of skeletons....need more proof?

Did anyone else try to reload the web page after the initial scene with Carl and some dude opening the prison gates to a car from season 3??? Thought it was an error on couchhunter!! Otherwise a decent end...nothing to keep holding my breath until autumn but a good entertainment value for next October

Did she? I can't remember the exact specifics of how her death was shown to be honest. Perhaps what I should have said is that nobody from the group's death has ever been left ambiguous if they were actually dead.

She was tied to the dentist chair with the young doctor guy (cant remember his name) was dieing he turned into a zombie and he bit her. I think Rick gave her a gun and she shot herself..

Sorry answered on the mobile and didn't read down to find out you already knew this. See ya in October (with Rosita ;o)

Oh snap you got me

Nope, I watched it on Fox UK and it showed the whole thing.

Anyone noticed if there were names written beside the candles in the ritual room?

Very interesting and rewarding. many thanks I love it

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