Disclaimer: This wrap up will ONLY cover the second half of Season 4 of The Walking Dead. If you want to read my thoughts on the first half, shuffle your undead feed to this post!
That’s it folks! We have now reached the hell hole known as Terminus. It sure has been a long and winding road hasn’t it? For the past eight episodes, The Walking Dead broke its own formula. Even though the show is about the survival of a group of separate individuals, it’s very much been the story of how Rick Grimes survives in the world. The people he meets and his many trials have always been front and center. There were a few episodes in the past that didn’t feature Rick at all, but those were always done to focus on The Governor (David Morrissey). Any focus on our main protagonists would always happen within the shadow of the top-billed star Andrew Lincoln. The mid-season finale “Too Far Gone” changed that status quo significantly as all of our heroes were split up into much smaller groups. I theorized in my mid-season recap that, if the show wanted to get into the real focus of Season 4, it had to convey what every other character could do without Rick present. Sure enough, it did that in spades, delivering us more character focused episodes than you could have ever imagined.
I originally thought we’d get a couple episodes focusing on separate groups and then suddenly everyone would come together. Looking back on it, I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I’m thankful for that. These past eight episodes have given so many characters their necessary due diligence and proved that this show can be carried on the backs of its supporting cast. It allowed us to better understand characters that wouldn’t have had a chance to get some necessary depth otherwise. Three characters that especially benefited from this were Michonne (Danai Gurira), Beth (Emily Kinney) and Tyreese (Chad Coleman). Beth has been around for two seasons now and she never got a chance to show her true colors, and Michonne and Tyreese were too new to get a ton of insight. Yet now that this season is over, I find myself appreciating these characters even more and finding them infinitely more endearing. This also gave us the opportunity to meet comic book favorites Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene (Josh McDermott), and Rosita (Christian Serratos). While it took them time to actually find their places, these three are perfect live action representations of characters previously only seen in the books.
Emotions really ran high throughout this half, leading to some truly heartwarming or tragic moments. Naturally everyone is on edge following the Prison’s collapse, but how everyone dealt with it depended on their individual characteristics. Rick went into a brief coma from his injuries. Carl (Chandler Riggs) vehemently blamed his father for what happened. Daryl (Norman Reedus) openly blamed himself and Beth had an emotional break. People like Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) kept their heads up despite all the shit they experienced. There were moments when everything worked, such as Glenn reuniting with Maggie. Who couldn’t love that? It suddenly made everything okay. Then there were moments like Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) murdering her sister Mika (Kyla Kenedy) and then getting executed by Carol (Melissa McBride). As much as this half wanted to make you happy, it also wanted to completely ruin you. This all lead to some of the most engaging episodes to date.
We have that insane reveal of Terminus too. I’m sure we all expected it to be a total lie right? If there’s one thing poor Beth proved it’s that the kindness of strangers is exceptionally rare. Gareth (Andrew J. West) is a total unknown for Rick and his group, yet he wants nothing more than to destroy them. Terminus is a game changer for the show and I expect it to lead to some absolutely insane moments in Season 5. Unlike their conflict with The Governor, Rick and his group have no means of retaliation. We last saw them locked in an empty train car. They are animals trapped in the clutches of Gareth, just like the rabbit Rick caught in “A.” But one of the defining laws of nature is that, when the only other outcome is complete destruction, animals will revert to their ferocious instincts to ensure survival. We first saw this with Rick biting off Joe’s (Jeff Kober) neck in the finale. Now that Rick and his group are trapped, we can probably expect at least a handful to revert to their animalistic instincts. If anything, the truth of Terminus will lead to one brutal and bloody Season 5 (or as much as AMC is willing to allow, wish is surprisingly a lot).
Of course this season wasn’t without some massive flaws. While it was great to get some truly phenomenal character focused episodes, the show at times suffered with an incredibly plodding pace. The midseason premiere “After” especially had this issue with “The Grove” and “Alone” close behind. Clearly the writers wanted to give each character their own focus, which is a credible endeavor. We’re supposed to care about every character on the show but so many were left in the shadows of the other more popular ones. Look at Carol! Season 4 made her so much cooler and it took three seasons to get there. Yet some stories simply didn’t have enough content to completely fill up an hour. To occupy the time we got scenes like Carl eating pudding, Beth playing the piano, more time of Rick under a bed than necessary, and one to many moments of Tyreese having a heart to heart with Carol before the “big one.” Yes, every scene fulfilled a purpose, but it’s obvious that these were stretched out to fill time.
The season finale still leaves me with a sense of wanting. While it makes sense for the fifth season to be about Terminus with the group traveling in this second half, plots that began here are still unresolved. Beth is missing, which no one apparently cares about including Daryl and Maggie, and there was zero resolution on Carol, Tyreese, and Judith. Sure, it’s possible they’re all in Terminus already, but why even leave that as an open question? The ending really felt premature. I honestly thought Terminus was going to come and go this season too. Seeing as we only had eight episodes to spare, I realize that probably wouldn’t have worked. It still doesn’t change the fact that the finale came and went with some pretty glaring mysteries.
Season 4.5 obviously wasn’t perfect, but it gave us a completely different Walking Dead. Rick Grimes wasn’t the star anymore. Tyreese, Carol, Beth, Daryl, Glenn, and others all got their chance in the limelight. The group separation was the perfect excuse to do this and each character benefited from it. I know I’ll still remember Lizzie killing Mika, Rick killing Joe, Daryl opening up to Beth, and Tyreese forgiving Carol no matter how many more seasons go by. The set designers also did a phenomenal job turning Terminus into the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing. Yet the occasional slow pacing brought these episodes down something fierce, and the finale lacked the appropriate punch it needed. “Too Far Gone,” the mid-season finale, was much better in that regard.
Season 4.5 Rating: 8.5/10
Full Season 4 Rating: 9/10