Joe proclaims that they’re in for a reckoning, a balancing of the universe on "New Year's Day" -- but to me it looks more like a bloodthirsty group of men on the brink of torture, rape, and murder. Before Joe can finish his NYE countdown, Daryl the straggler arrives on the scene and interrupts him.
Fulfilling his development into a true honorable hero, Daryl tells Joe to let Rick, Michonne, and Carl go because they are “good people.” In full heroic sacrifice mode, Daryl offers himself up instead of the trio. Joe is disappointed — Daryl broke the Rule, lying about his friends being “good people.” He must suffer the punishment of liars. Joe sicks two of his men on the newly crowned Sir Honor Before Reason. The lead marauder then returns his attention to Rick, taunting him. As nonchalant as a murderous, vindictive psychopath can be, Joe quips, “First we’re going to beat Daryl to death. Then we’ll have the girl. Then the boy. Then, I’ll shoot you. And then we’ll be square.” Then he laughs in that eerie, sinister way only Jeff Kober can. Dan the marauder grins as he pins Carl to the ground, creating yet another horrific image involving a child featured this season.
With his friends and most importantly his son in peril, Rick goes on the offensive. He head butts Joe, deflecting the gun away from him as it fires close to his ear — but not in his ear. Joe and Rick scuffle, but Rick is once again thrown to the ground. Daryl is still suffering blows. Michonne is still in the sights of Tony’s gun. Carl is still pinned down by Dan. (Even the implication that the show might "go there" shocked me more than anything else during the season finale.)
Joe locks Rick into his arms, mocking him, “What are you gonna do now, sport?” Oh, nothing…except for RIPPING OUT YOUR JUGULAR WITH MY TEETH. Using the distraction of a man biting into the neck of another man, Michonne turns Tony’s gun towards him and fires. Daryl kills his attackers. Dan draws a knife on Carl — Rick is undeterred. He grabs Joe’s knife and stabs Dan, Carl’s would-be rapist, again. And again. And again. Michonne holds Carl close as the boy watches, never losing sight of his father.
So, that’s why Rick is covered in blood.
back at the ranch in the past, Hershel is intent on teaching Rick to be a farmer — domesticate pigs and horses, grow plants, and build a new life for Carl and himself. “He needs his father to show him the way,” Hershel insists. “What way are you going to show him?” Rick did show Carl the farming way. He truly did. It just didn't last that long. Now, he's showing him the rip-out-evil-men's-jugular-veins-if-they-threaten-you-and-your-people way.
We’ve now caught up to bloody Rick — he sits by the truck, still stunned and shaken after the previous night’s events. Inside the truck, Michonne lies awake with Carl resting on her lap. She brushes his hair to the side and holds him, looking at him as if he’s her own child. Daryl joins Rick outside, catching him up to his story since the fall of the Prison. He talks of Beth, eventually stating, “She’s just gone.” (Is that his way of saying he gave up looking for her?) Daryl also explains why he stuck with the marauders, feeling guilty for not knowing the extent of their cruelty. Rick assures him that he has no need to feel guilty, calling Daryl his brother.
After everything they've been through together, Daryl and Rick are brothers — they’re family. For Rick, family is all that matters. Having undergone a trial by blood against the marauders, Rick finally understands the lengths he will go to ensure the safety and survival of his family. Violence and brutality along with compassion and love are a part of Zombiepocalypse Rick Grimes -- and for the first time, he has come to terms with both sides.
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