Original air date: March 30, 2014

SPOILER ALERT

That was a largely decent finale for a show that missed badly at the end of Season 3. While I guess I am slightly disappointed that we didn’t get more of the story of Terminus this season, that’s more regret about what the show has stumbled around during this spring than any real misgivings about this episode.  It wasn’t perfect – and we’ll talk about the saggy parts – but it left us with a very nice sense of mystery for next season.  I’m really looking forward to Season 5 and that’s pretty amazing given how mediocre this show has been at times.

Let’s just get the bad parts out of the way first.  It seems fair since I generally liked the episode and it would be appropriate to end on a positive note…

Where this show keeps stepping in dog poop is when it gets into this whole issue of GOOD versus BAD.  It’s just highly insulting to have a show keep punching you in the face with this attitude about how Herschel was GOOD and he DIED.  Rick tried to be GOOD like Herschel, but he realized sometimes you have to be BAD to survive.  The little kid who plays with legos was GOOD and he DIED, whereas Carl is field-stripping weapons and he LIVES.  It’s just so in the face and clumsy that it’s insulting.  Any adult knows that the world is more simple than GOOD/BAD, BLACK/WHITE… Eespecially in an era of television where we have debated the morality of Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White, Jack Bauer, etc.  There was a moment early in the episode when Rick and Gang were walking down the tracks and Carl asks, “Are we going to tell the people in Terminus what we did?  I mean, all of it?”  And my first thought was, “Did what?  When?”  I honestly couldn’t think of anything truly wretched that Rick and Gang had done.

Of course, wait 5 minutes of TV time and they show you just how BAD Rick and Gang can be when they ignore the helpless man surrounded by zombies and dispose of Joe & Co. in a pretty vicious manner.  It’s like the show’s producers knew that we were wondering that maybe Maybe Rick hasn’t done anything that bad yet to be ashamed of, let’s have him stab a child rapist 50 times.  Maybe that will be something to remind the audience that sometimes GOOD people do BAD things.  Sigh…Just move on with life TWD writers.  You suck at the GOOD/BAD thing.

The other thing that kinda came off flat was the whole Darryl story.  I mean, a few episodes ago we had this thing with Beth and Darryl getting drunk that was clumsy as hell.  Then we had an episode with Darryl rolling with Joe and trying to decide if he was really bad or not.  Then Darryl shows up in this episode with Rick at gunpoint and there’s no moralizing… Darryl is good and within 5 minutes he’s part of the gang again.  It’s just so dumb to have a character who is really well established like Darryl go through this clumsy and compressed mini-arc… Especially when the experience does nothing to transform Darryl. He is the same character now as he was before.  He just ran in a bad circle for no reason.

And what a waste of Joe!  Joe was a cool character.  I liked him, he had charisma.  Would have made a decent lurking villain. Why not just bring him back once per season?  Instead, they’ll cast some Australian and give him some Southern Accent training.

Anyway, when you run into people who say, “Last night’s episode was AWESOME!” you now can play cynical hipster with them because it was not all awesome.  Much of it was very much typical TWD mediocrity.

But the episode had some really strong moments too…  One was the scene where Joe met his untimely demise.  Now, the part where Rick bit him like a zombie was more of that GOOD people having to do BAD things crap, but the rest of the scene showed the best of Andrew Lincoln.  He’s really good at the physical acting stuff– acting with his face and body.  It ruins awry the moment he goes over to explain to Carl what just happened, but when he’s actually looking anguished or stabbing a hillbilly over and over, Andrew Lincoln is very good.  Less talk, more action for him.  The whole scene had that priceless element where it continued about 30 seconds too long, which was the point.  It was supposed to make us feel uncomfortable watching Rick gut that rapist guy.

And Terminus is really cool.  I love how there are some pretty big hints of cannibalism leading to a summer of speculation that these are the Hunters from the comic book. But, even if they are cannibals, they’re nothing like The Hunters.  The Hunters were just some desperate people living in a suburban house, catching people in the woods. They didn’t have an enclave and lure people in like Terminus.  That’s fine with me.  The Hunters was a cool story in the comics, but a different interpretation of cannibalism works too.  Other hints that it might be about cannibalism was all the food chatter in this episode and this spring.  If there has been a subtle theme, it has been that food is scarce.  Lots of farming, gathering supplies, shooting deer, picking berries, gambling with the last candy bar…  It’s actually remarkably understated for this show and would be more appreciated if they would lower the volume on the GOOD/BAD thing.

There’s just lots of good mystery around Terminus.  I suspect I won’t be pleased with some of the answers, but it’s fun to wonder if they’re really cannibals, WTF was going on in the room full of candles, the weird mannerisms of the leadership.  I mean, how nice was it that those guys just seemed normal instead of strutting around with a fake southern accent and a plantation-style shooting jacket?  They’re learning to do a few things properly.  Maybe…

Other cool bits:

  • Rick noticing his friend’s items on the Terminus people.
  • The contrast between the cleanliness of the parts of Terminus for public consumption and the bullet-ridden area that they were herded through.  They run people through that area before AND they don’t care what it looks like.
  • The idea to not enter Terminus through the front gate.
  • The weird, Clockwork Orange-style PA system with the lady reading, “Welcome to Terminus…”  WTF was that?
  • The candles.  Just don’t think about where they get them and how they keep them lit.  Rendered human fat is my guess.

So, all in all, we have a lot to wonder about this summer. When will Tyreese and Carol appear?  How will Rick alert them about the bag of guns?  How excited will cannibals be by the sight of big, fat Tyreese?  Where is Beth?

Conclusion: Conclusion: Some exciting possibilities for next season, but some strong sequences were weighed down with the blatant saggy TWD moralizing. Nevertheless, we’re all looking forward to October,

Grade: B+

-Dean Stell

Grade

Conclusion