The Walking Dead season finale recap: Wait 'Til They Get a Load of Rick Grimes

Rick, Carl, and Michonne reach Terminus, encountering faces new and old. The result is bloody.
Ep. 16 | Aired Mar 30, 2014

WHO AM I? | "Can I conceal myself for evermore?/ Pretend that I'm not the man I was before?" Lyrics to a song from Les Miserables may not seem like the most apropos reference for Rick Grimes, but in this case it fits. All season long, Rick has struggled with his identity. Riddled with guilt over his violent tendencies and then riddled with more guilt over his failure to survive as Farmer Rick, Rick Grimes has struggled to come to terms with his inner monster. After the confrontation with Joe and his gang, he now knows exactly who he is. "Who am I?/ Who am I?/ I am Jean Valjean Rick Grimes!"

Gene Page/AMC

Terminus! Reunions! Blood! What more could you ask for in a season 4 finale? I could have used about an hour's worth of more content, but we can't always get what we want. Let's dive right into the action-packed ending to one of the most thoughtful and non-action-packed seasons of The Walking Dead to date. For more thoughts on the season finale, check out Dalton Ross' initial post.

The season finale starts in an unexpected place — the Prison, before it all went wrong. Fresh off what they think was their final confrontation with the Governor, the Prison community is two months into its development. Everyone is together. No one has a mystery flu virus. Life, for once, is hopeful.

Rick, Maggie, and Glenn return from a run, greeting their respective families. That means we see Hershel alive and well, save for missing part of his leg. He's the real "sight for sore eyes" — I may not miss the Prison community much, but I do miss Hershel.

Cut to: It's the post-Prison present. Rick’s hands are red and shaking. His face is also stained with blood as he sits next to a broken-down truck. What happened? Why is Rick covered in blood? After a season marked by an ambitious manipulation of time, the season finale is no different.

Now it's the post-Prison, pre-bloody Rick present. Still en route to Terminus, Rick, Michonne, and Carl are running low on supplies but remain optimistic. As a de facto family, they leave their camp to check on Rick’s snare. 

Carl asks Rick and Michonne upon arrival at Terminus if they’re going to tell the others about “everything that’s happened” to them and all that they’ve done. Rick replies, “We’re going to tell them who we are.” Carl responds, “Who are we?” Season 4 theme alert!

At the trap, Rick collects a small rabbit and explains how the snare works. He places the snare in front of a funnel-like trail, leading unsuspecting prey into the trap. What else has resembled a trail leading to a trap throughout the back half of this season? Hmm...

Suddenly, a man’s voice cries out for help in the distance. Without hesitation, Carl runs towards the voice. (Goddammit Carl!) Rick and Michonne trail behind him. Carl discovers the cries come from a bespectacled man surrounded by Walkers. Carl raises his gun to shoot the Walkers — and waste even more bullets that he inexplicably still has — but Rick pulls him back. They can’t help Four Eyes — the commotion will only attract the Walkers towards them. Nevertheless, a few Walkers from the edge of the horde spot them. Rick, Michonne, and Carl head back to the tracks only to find more Walkers digging into another meal. 

As Rick delivers a blow to the first Walker in his path, we flashback again, this time to Hershel waking Rick up at the Prison. He wants his help with something — something for which he doesn’t need his gun. “It’ll just get in the way,” Hershel insists. 

With his gun sorely needed and used, Rick along with Michonne and Carl are back on the road. They find an abandoned truck, the same seen in the opening sequence, and settle there for the night.

After dark, Rick and Michonne talk by the fire as Carl naps in the truck. About a day out from Terminus, Rick suggests the community must be strong and have a system to invite others. Michonne “wonder[s] if the whole thing’s legit.” Just then, they hear a branch break in the woods. Not seeing anything, they relax and continue their conversation. That is, until Joe places a gun on Rick’s temple. The not-so-merry band of marauders have caught up with the “walking piece of fecal matter” that killed Lou, and they’re out for blood.

NEXT: Nobody puts Rick in a corner

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