Here we go Deadites, The Walking Dead season finale. Before we say goodbye for the long hiatus to our favorite gang of survivors, let’s savor this blow by blow, because it’s going to be a while before we get to do another one. This episode is written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and Angela Kang. This is Kang’s fifth Walking Dead; she also wrote for the short-lived but much missed series Terriers. So the talent is in place, the Deadless Summer is looming, let’s do this!
The finale begins with a flashback to the prison. The sight of Hershel almost causes physical pain for a wound that is still deep. We get to start out with happier times for our survivors together, including a pre-Dr. Kevorkian Carol. This happy little scene dissolves to Rick in the present shaken and bloody like he has been through one hell of a ringer. Cue music.
The show proper begins with a nice scene of Rick, Carl, and Michonne happy as can be. The trio is getting closer to Terminus as they discuss the beginning of their new life in the promised land. Rick channels his inner scoutmaster by teaching how to build an animal trap, when blood curdling screams fill the air. Oh yeah, in case you forgot, it’s Walking Dead where every minute of contentment is paid for with mind numbing horror. Everything was happy a minute ago and now some dude is getting his eyes eaten out of his head by walkers. Our trio is pursued by the walkers and shockingly, this is really the last zombie action we will be privy to this episode, as the human evil takes center stage. As the crew loses the walkers, Michonne expresses her doubts about the legitimacy of Terminus (you and me both, sister). The debate on whether Terminus will be Disney Land or a Gulag is interrupted by Joe and the marauders. This could get really ugly, really quick.
Just as Joe and his band of not so merry men have the drop on Rick and company, Daryl reveals himself. The tension is palpable as Gimple and Kang gift us with an incredible execution of conflict while Daryl shows loyalty to his real family and stands by his old friends. The marauders seem to have the upper hand, but these guys are in trouble with Daryl and Michonne united. Things take a seriously dark turn as one of Joe’s men tries to rape Carl. Really, wow, that’s some ballsy fiction. Rick goes into a berserker rage state and bites out Joe’s throat. Rick fundamentally becomes a walker to save his son from an indiscernible fate. Michonne and Daryl do their thing and curb stomp some bitches. These marauders messed with the wrong crew! We have seen Rick try to suppress the violence, to deny the inhuman depths he must go to in order to survive, but now he has embraced the monster within, a monster that just saved his son from a horrid fate. Powerful stuff.
With all this still lingering, the show transitions to the flashback with Hershel laying out the dream of farming and domesticated animals. That’s what could have been, a rural oasis of peace and plenty…but reality has Rick, the would-be farmer ripping people’s jugular out with his teeth. The great tragedy of the season is that Hershel and the dream was destroyed by the Governor, and only conflict and violence is left, but that promise living again is why Rick fights. Did I mention he tore a dude’s throat out with his teeth? Just awesome!
Rick is shaken but accepting of the depths he had to sink. It’s bad, but at least he’s not seeing his ghost wife anymore. He’s not as alone as after the death battle with the child raping marauders, everyone has mad PTSD, but at least Daryl is back. As Daryl and Rick bask in the glory of victory, like two Spartan warriors. Rick tells Daryl—Daryl, the drifter, the displaced, the lonely—that “you’re my brother.” Excuse me, I need a hanky, but in a manly way.
Rick has grown so much as a character this season. Instead of giving into despair over losing Judith, he is beginning to accept his rage as just another weapon of survival. We’ll take Wolverine berserker Rick over crazy as a shit house squirrel Rick any day.
With Daryl rejoining Rick, Michonne, and Carl, this sub-group couldn’t be any more badass if they had Godzilla flying the Millennium Falcon with them. They arrive in Terminus and don’t just wander in like Glenn and Maggie’s crew, they sneak in, hiding the bulk of their arsenal outside. Before they go in, Michonne spells out her origin story. She relates how her son was killed and how she never gave up. She reveals how she made her boyfriend and brother her trademark zombies. It seems she did it as a penance. There is a nice callback to Andrea who gave Michonne her humanity back. Between this and the Daryl/Rick bromance scene, Gimple and Kang are laying out some major character work here, as all the major players are accepting how they now are letting go of who they used to be. That’s The Walking Dead, when it’s not dealing with serial killer children; it’s pretty heartwarming, like a Hallmark card that stabs you in the face when you read it. So with that upbeat little ditty, the crews arrives in Terminus, heavily armed and ready to deal with any Governor like shenanigans.
When they enter Terminus, they are forced to lay down their weapons which is probably a good idea, because after the Governor and the marauders, if the Terminus folk so much as fart, Rick will blow their heads off. Terminus looks nice, but where the heck are Glenn and the others? They best not be on the barbeque, you hear me Gimple?
The question is answered as Rick’s keen eyes notice one of the Terminus folk (Termites?) has the watch that Hershel gave to Glenn. At this poignant moment, we have another flashback to a more blissful time as the little Harry Potter looking dude that died of the flu in the prison is gleefully playing with Legos while Carl is playing with guns. Some effective sledgehammer symbolism there, but a reminder of where Carl was at that point.
Back to the present, things didn’t take too long to go south. The human evil is startling as the Termites reveal their true colors. Our heroes are in deep doodoo as bows and swords are good against zombies but not so much against assault weapons.
As we throttle to the climax, our crew is surrounded, forced to drop their weapons, and locked one by one in a train car. What should be a shocking defeat turns into a stirring reunion while Glenn and Maggie are inside the car with Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Tara, Sasha, and Bob, locked in a different kind of prison. It doesn’t matter though; they are together. United the group feels safer, and as we are treated to the last prison flashback, we are reminded that Rick has a dream to fight for, and that spells a potentially violent end for the people of Terminus. Rick and his family have defeated hordes of zombies, the devil himself in the Governor, and their own demons, and have come out stronger and united.
These termites don’t stand a chance!
See you in October!
Zombie kill of the week: Nothing memorable, so we’ll go with Douchebag kill of the week, which goes to Rick Grimes for ripping out Joe’s throat with his chompers.