Review: The Walking Dead – Season 4 Finale

- The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Readers should be warned that this review contains graphic details of the episode’s plot.

This season of The Walking Dead has without question provided the fans with enough gory pleasures to satisfy its constantly growing horror fan base, and has maintained its reputation for shock twists and brutal killings of its beloved characters. Yet since the blood soaked mid-season finale, which saw the beheading of Hershel, the sweet and caring grandfather figure of the survivors, the final gruesome demise of the surely hated Governor, and the resulting flee from the prison complex, the series took down the pace, stemmed the flow of blood (slightly) and allowed room for the characters to grow and mature on screen during their wanderings towards the sanctuary ‘Terminus’. The finale saw the culmination of these character pieces, with Rick, Carl and Michonne finally reaching Terminus, and upping the shocking gore in the process. 

The evolution of the show’s figurehead Rick Grimes has been a twisted one throughout the series’ current 51 episodes, and it’s hard not to feel for him. Throughout the series Rick has been shot, stabbed, chased, had his best friend tried to kill him, lost his wife and nearly lost his sanity, but the producers and star Andrew Lincoln clearly show no sign of slowing this chap down. After several episodes of pure humanism (and killing children) it’s natural that the shock value is elevated once more for a big finish, and it certainly proves satisfying for lovers of gore to see Rick tear out a guy’s neck with his teeth and mutilate another for putting a knife to Carl’s throat. Rick’s role in the finale worked very well; we discover what kind of man he can be, and that is whatever the situation requires him to be, plus it’s very nice to see this intertwined with flashbacks to life in the prison, where Rick decided to hang up the .44 Magnum and put a shovel in the ground, watched over by Hershel, a face that will be truly missed.

What came as a mild surprise from the finale was no major characters being killed off, a first for the series. Granted the butchering of Joe’s renegade group that Daryl (or now maybe ‘The Archer’) was a part of was a big and deserving blow, yet no one we loved was killed, despite fearing the worst when Rick, Michonne, Carl and Daryl arrived to find Terminus’ residents bearing Glenn, Maggie and Bob’s attire. Instead of a major death, the writers chose to end on a rather staggering cliff hanger, the group being trapped in Terminus in a containment hanger, with Rick vowing that Terminus ‘had messed with the wrong people’. So what may this mean for series five? We can predict several things – undoubtedly Rick’s statement will be proven correct in what is bound to be a bloody means, and we’ll hopefully find out just who the people of Terminus are. The idea of cannibals has been floating around internet forums, and the brief glimpse of a pile of bloody bones as our heroes are chased through the settlement (a process which very aptly mimics that of Rick’s description of a snare trap early on) does point to this. Regardless of their intentions, I’m sure many will be hoping Carol shows up and asks them all to look at the flowers.

It may be argued that the lack of character death may lessen the impact of the finale’s cliff hanger, but let’s consider the implications for series five. In series three T-Dog and Lori were killed off within three episodes, could this be replicated in Terminus? Would perhaps the death of a now more fleshed out character mid-season prove to be more moving and brutal? It’s all up for debate, but for gore enthusiasts and character lovers, that scenario could hit hard at this stage.

Season four of this beloved zombie extravaganza has been a rough and uneven ride, we’ve seen more gore than ever, more death than ever, but most importantly we’ve seen a lot of time devoted to the development of the survivors, and the humanism that is sustaining them. The cliff hanger ending will far from alienate, but bring audiences back, desperate to satisfy their cravings that the show has expertly cooked up. Bring it on.

9/10

Ellis Whitehouse