That short delay got rather longer than I expected. But here we go, season finale time, and we're sent into it with a Rick quote from earlier in the season: "We've all done the worst kinds of things, just to stay alive."
Flashback. The group is at the prison, after the Woodbury folk were assimilated but before the Governor ruined everything. There's Herschel, one-legged but alive! He begins to work on convincing Rick to put down his gun and take up his cucumber patch (not a euphemism).
Now. Rick sits on the road, leaning against a derelict SUV. He seems to be alone. His hands and face are coated in blood. He is shaking, staring off into nowhere.
Flashback to slightly before now. Rick, Carl and Michonne are camping out as they continue towards Terminus. Rick teaches them how to set a snare for rabbits: you find an animal trail, where animals are used to going, make it so they have to continue along that path into the trap, set the wire and hide it with plants so they can't see it until their neck is caught in the noose. I don't suppose that's foreshadowing at all [sarcastic voice]. They hear a voice screaming for help and run to a nearby clearing where a man is surrounded by more than a dozen zombies. Carl raises his gun to help the man but Rick grabs him, pointing out that there are too many walkers - there is nothing they can do to save the man and they would only bring the small herd of zombies down on them.
The three of them continue down the road (not the railroad tracks), complaining about how hungry they are. They find that derelict SUV, dispatch the one decrepit zombie squirming nearby, and camp there for the night. After night falls, Carl gets some shut-eye in the SUV while Rick and Michonne sit by the small campfire. They discuss their hopes for Terminus, Michonne wondering if the place is really legit. I don't suppose that's foreshadowing at all either. They hear some rustling in the woods but no walkers come out at them so they settle back in ... until Joe and his hardasses sneak up on them, putting guns to their heads. Joe: "Oh dearie me, you screwed up, asshole." Rick sits there and from the look on his face, boy does he ever know it.
"Today's the day of reckoning, sir, a restitution!" Joe is eloquent and jovial, very excited to have caught the man who killed one of his crew. Then Daryl comes up, rejoining the gang. He had been lagging behind and didn't know who Joe was stalking. He pleads for his friends, saying that these are good people. He offers himself in Rick's place. Joe: "This man killed our friend [but] you say he's good people. That's a lie." And because of their code, two of Joe's gang start beating the shit out of Daryl, because lying is punishable by death. Things start to get extremely horrible and uncomfortable now. One of the men pulls a frightened Carl out of the SUV. Joe: "First we're gonna beat Daryl to death. Then we'll have the girl, then the boy. Then we shoot you and we'll be square." The man throws Carl to the ground, tells him to stop his squirming and reaches for his belt. Carl squalls. Rick headbutts Joe, whose gun goes off by Rick's ear, disorienting him. Michonne is clouted to the ground, Carl is close to getting raped, Daryl is in shambles on the ground. Joe grabs Rick in a bearhug and grins, What are you gonna do now, sport? Rick doesn't hesitate and moves his head forward, quick, latching onto Joe's neck with his teeth. He jerks his head back, tearing out Joe's throat in a splash of blood. Wow. Joe's done. The man assaulting Carl pauses, amazed. Daryl rears up and puts down the two who were beating on him. Michonne grabs a loose gun and dispatches her guy. Rick staggers over to the guy on Carl and grabs him, sinking a long-bladed knife into the man's belly over and over and over again. Michonne hugs Carl and they stare at Rick as he methodically guts the man. The sound effects are pretty effective.
Flashback. Blah blah blah, Herschel continues to try to humanize Rick and make him a farmer. They discuss how Carl needs his father to show him the way (this is right after Carl shot that kid): which way is it gonna be?
Now. In the morning/aftermath, Rick sits leaning against the SUV, bloody and shaking, while Michonne and Carl are in the car, Carl resting and Michonne watching over him. Daryl brings Rick some water, suggesting he wipe his face. "We should save it to drink," says Rick. Daryl: "You can't see yourself. They can." Rick washes his face and hands. Daryl explains how he ended up with Joe's crew - sort of glossing over what happened to Beth: "She's just gone" - and says he knew they were bad, but their simple code appealed to him. Rick doesn't begrudge him since Daryl was alone out there. "I didn't know what they could do." Rick reassures him, saying it isn't on him - and that Daryl's rejoining them is a good thing. "You're my brother," says Rick, and Daryl looks grateful for that. Daryl: "What you did last night, anybody would have done that." Rick: "No, not that." Rick acknowledges the darkness inside him and says that keeping Carl safe is all that matters. Later, as they continue walking along the road, Rick asks Michonne if she's okay. She says yes and he says that he's okay too. She says she knows. He asks how does she know? Michonne: "Because I'm okay."
As they get close to Terminus, they get off the road and approach through the woods, hoping to observe the place without being seen. They come up to the chainlink fence and observe for a while. Carl stays with Michonne. They have a conversation where she tells him how her son died. She, her son, her boyfriend Mike and their friend Terry all went to a refugee camp. It was grim. She came from a run and saw the camp's fences were down, everyone dead, including her son. Mike and Terry had been high when it happened. They were bitten but not dead when she found them, so she let them turn, took off their jaws and arms and dragged them around with her, as we know. "The walkers didn't see me - I was just another monster ... I was gone for a long time." But joining the group brought her back. She reassures Carl that he doesn't have to be afraid of her or his father. Carl is all, I know, but I'm just another monster too, with these thoughts that I have. You know, I'm finding Carl a lot less annoying these days.
Before they scale the fence into Terminus, Rick hides a duffle bag full of guns and arrows, "just in case." Over they go. They wander through the backside of Terminus (which is much less charming and flowery than the front entrance) and find their way into a building where a woman is broadcasting a "those who arrive survive" pro-Terminus message over a short-wave radio. Other people are milling about. Rick's all, hello? One guy (Gareth) walks forward, saying wryly, "Well, I bet Albert is on perimeter watch." Gareth introduces himself and welcomes them to Terminus. He asks them to lay down their weapons, and our group does, nervously. After a pat down (Alex saying to Daryl, I wouldn't want to see the other guy, and Rick responding, No, you wouldn't), Gareth asks "Alex" to take Rick's group out front to the Welcome Wagon. Alex hands the weapons back to our heroes and asks them to follow him. Rick starts to get just the slightest bit of hope into his expression. They go out front to the flowers and vegetable gardens, and Mary/Tasha Yar at the barbecue. Rick looks around at the others, noticing a backpack, a poncho, riot gear and a pocket watch in Alex's pocket. He lunges forward and grabs Alex by the throat. Daryl, Michonne and Carl pull their weapons and everyone gets all twitchy. "Where the hell did you get that watch?" growls Rick. He has recognized it as the watch Herschel gave to Glenn.
After a bit of a standoff, as quite a few Terminus-ers surround them with drawn weapons, Gareth has reasonable explanations on how they got that gear (poncho off a clothesline, riot gear off a dead cop). Then Rick's group runs for it. They get shot at, a lot, but the Terminus-ers are herding them down various alleyways, not actually trying to hit them. Leading them along the trail towards the snare, as it were. They run past a courtyard and Rick sees a pile of denuded skeletons: not dead zombies and not zombie-killed people, but skeletons that have been stripped of their skin and muscle. Like they've been, I don't know, butchered in the meat-packing sense of the word. AND I TOTALLY CALLED IT YOU GUYS: TERMINUS IS EATING PEOPLE. They keep running, past railroad boxcars with people inside calling out for help and into a weird shrine room, filled with lit candles and written on the walls: NEVER AGAIN, NEVER TRUST, WE FIRST ALWAYS.
They run out through the only unlocked door, finding themselves surrounded by Gareth and his now well-armed Terminus-ers, nowhere left to run. Gareth is less patient now and more bossy. Rick's group drops their weapons, as instructed, and Gareth sends them all into a boxcar marked "A." The door is slammed shut and locked behind them. As their eyes adjust to the gloom, there's movement from the far end of the boxcar. Glenn walks forward, with Maggie, Sasha, Bob, Tara, Abraham and Rosita. Everyone looks rather terrified. Glenn and Maggie explain that Abraham and Rosita saved them and are friends of theirs. Daryl says: "And now they're friends of ours." Abraham: "For however long that'll be." "No," says Rick, "They're gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out ... they're fucking with the wrong people." Well, he actually says "screwing," not "fucking," but it's clear that's what he means.
I don't exactly know why I got the feeling that they were eating people when I saw Mary grilling meat in the last episode, except that it didn't look like any cuts of meat I recognized. I guess I just got a SPOILER FOR 1987 BOOK/1991 MOVIE Fried Green Tomatoes feeling. This wasn't a subtle episode - you might have caught my issues with the foreshadowing - but it was pretty powerful, especially with the awful Joe scene and the unveiling of Terminus. And I didn't hate Rick in it, which is amazing in and of itself. 'Til next season!
Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead
22 minutes ago