That is how you do a season finale. The script, by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and Angela Kang, expertly weaves flashbacks to shortly after the first attack on the prison (the Season Three finale) with the current journey to Terminus by Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs), and Michonne (Danai Gurira). In the process we not only discover (for the first time) that it was at the urging of Hershel (the always welcome Scott Wilson returning for a flashback cameo!) that Rick gave up his guns and gave farming a try. I am on record as not liking Farmer Rick and thinking that the only time he’s been an effective leader was during the break after Season Two and into the start of Season Three. Once he’d incorporated the pragmatism of Shane into his worldview, he was finally an effective leader. And he turned that group into a crack zombie-hunting unit. It wasn’t until Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) died that he really lost his way and started making bad decisions – bad decisions that carried through to the season finale (during which time Michonne and, surprisingly, Merle (Michael Rooker) become the voices of pragmatism that could have saved lives and avoided the eventual fall of the prison this season). His decision to try farming was always clearly a way of trying to keep Carl from turning into a cold-blooded killer (if he hadn’t already moved too far in that direction after killing one of the Governor’s (David Morrissey) henchmen who was ostensibly surrendering), and it was nice to finally see that it wasn’t a decision made overnight – which was kind of how it appeared when Season Four started. But he had over-course-corrected and most of this season was an exercise in frustration as Rick avoided responsibility and only stepped up to make leadership decisions at the wrong times (in my humble opinion). Well, this episode finally fixes Rick. “A” is essentially split into two parts, with the first devoted to putting Rick into a situation where his only options are bad and worse. Joe (Jeff Kober) and his band of douches finally catch up with Rick, Carl, and Michonne, taking them by surprise from out of the darkness. If you thought those awkward glimpses of forced happiness we’ve been getting from this trio over the past couple of episodes were doing anything other than setting us up a fall, you’ve been watching the wrong show. Joe reveals his true colors as he threatens to have both Michonne and Carl raped in front of Rick before putting a bullet into his head. But what about Daryl (Norman Reedus)? He was slipping away from the bad guys to go his own way and when he realized Joe’s target was Rick, he returns to talk some sense to King Douche. That goes badly. So while Daryl is getting beaten to death, the nastiest of Joe’s crew drags Carl out of the abandoned car he was sleeping in and thus begins the most uncomfortable and disturbing scene since Carol (Melissa McBride) told Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) to look at the flowers. There’s crying, struggling, and general squirminess as Carl loses a little more of his innocence, but before the deed is done, Rick embraces his inner savage and bites Joe’s throat out. Cue stunned silence from EVERYONE. ACROSS THE COUNTRY. In that moment of opportunity, Michonne grabs a gun and kills her attackers, Daryl finishes off his, and Rick steps up with a hunting knife and claims the would-be rapist as his in one of the most brutal kills in the show’s history. But the best part the episode is the aftermath as Rick worries that Carl will see him as a monster after murdering a scumbag; and Carl does seem disturbed. However, after another great scene between him and Michonne — where she confesses to her own monstrous past — it turns out that Carl was worried about something else entirely: that his dad would think he was a monster for thinking the extremely violent gutting of the henchman was justified. And with that Rick finally arrives as a character who can both accept the brutal realities of the new world and still maintain his humanity. His Bad-ass Humanity. Which leads us to the second part of the episode: their arrival at Terminus. I don’t have a lot to say about Terminus. The only real surprise would have been if it was a great place and everyone lived happily ever after. As expected, there’s something seriously wrong with Terminus. At the moment, though, we don’t know how wrong. There’s always the possibility that the new arrivals, including Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and the rest, are being kept weaponless in a locked train car for some understandable reason. Maybe as a form of quarantine or something? Nah! They’re probably getting ready to cook them. I couldn’t help but notice a big cage filled with what looked like human remains as our heroes were herded through the complex like rabbits being run into a snare (see what I did there?). That couldn’t bode well. Although the creepy candle room they were led through, does give me some hope for another, more complex, motivation. Now we just have to wait six months to find out how Carol and Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) save them! The Walking Dead 4.16 "A" SEASON FINALE4.5Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Kyle Garret Yeah, this is a nice piece of work tying together the really, really long evolution of Rick’s character. This Rick wouldn’t have kicked Carol out. Carl’s revelation was perhaps my favorite bit (after Rick calling Daryl his brother). The fact that he’s scared of what he’s becoming is great, particularly when Rick has just embraced what he is. It’s a fine line for a kid to walk. Aside from the horrible final line (and the fact that Joe seemed to develop the ability to teleport), the finale has stuck with me, perhaps more so than any of the previous 3.