“The Walking Dead” recap (4.16): “A”

As the season finale of The Walking Dead begins we’re taken back to the prison, and Hershel is still alive, having a chat with Rick. After a few seconds, it’s clear—it’s a flashback to happier times, when the gang thought life in the prison would be OK, and they let down their walls (so to speak) just for a moment. Hershel is teaching Rick about living, not just guarding, or making runs, or hunting, but planting and harvesting.

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Not only did the lead-up to the finale this season pave so many questions about who would survive, who could be trusted, and if they’d find sanctuary, but each episode really took a fine look at the psyche growing and changing with this new world in each individual character. Anticipation was about as thick as Hershel’s beautiful white beard in the finale, and I’m glad we got to see him serving up some wise advice, if only in memory. In a flash, Rick is leaning up against a car, his face bloody, and it’s present day.

Rick, Carl and Michonne will be the last to reach Terminus, we think. As they plan the trek ahead, a night in the forest is interrupted by, why—yes, Daryl and his new gang of boys. Joe is all smiles because they’ve found their man. It’s Rick who killed their friend in the house they took over. Daryl tells Joe, “These are good people.” Joe isn’t buying it. “First we’re gonna beat Daryl to death, then we’re gonna take the girl, and the boy, before we kill you.” What does he mean “take”? Is he saying Michonne and Carl are going to be sexually violated? I can’t wait for Rick to pull a fast one on him. His throat is throbbing in anger, Michonne next to him, fuming.

Rick manages to get out of Joe’s line of fire, and in a moment of complete animal kingdom realness, chews off Joe’s neck, guts and blood spilling out everywhere.

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Somewhere in the distance, I suspect a group of walkers, gnawing on plants and squirrel feel a twinge of confusion. Humans are eating other humans? Is this some other kind of apocalypse we didn’t sign up for? Or since this show is so good at giving us little signs and hints when we least expect it, is this just a little bit of foreshadowing?

Rick kills Joe and the rest of the bandits, charging ahead toward the man attacking Carl and muttering under his breath, “He’s mine” before killing him, too. He stabs him over and over, Carl looking on in shock. I watch a lot of Law & Order: SVU but this is wild.

At daybreak, the gang is ready for Terminus, and Rick tells Daryl he’s his brother. (I almost cried.) Many of you made comments after last week’s episode across social media that there were rumors of something really suspicious and sadistic possibly taking place at Terminus — cannibalism, which made me eager for what lay ahead. Also, since this episode was titled “A,” I decided to do a little search, and discovered anthropophagy, a person who eats human flesh. Is that the “A”?

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After finding their way in through a back door, Rick and crew stumble upon a group of worker: One is recording a welcoming tape in a creepy monotone, others are creating maps, like the ones the group saw on the tracks pointing them to Terminus. Apparently this is the part where “All who arrive, survive” because that’s what these sign-makers are claiming, right?

The dudes who sit up to introduce themselves seem nice enough, but almost too nice. And Rick knows it. I find myself getting worried now, because I notice there’s only about five minutes left in the episode. We’ve seen a lot of really endearing flashbacks, like previously mentioned, at the prison, with Hershel alive, and the baby in Beth’s arms, Rick and Carl having father-son moments. Then there was that heart-to-heart Michonne had with Carl out on the parameter of Terminus right before they went in. It seemed like they were saying much more.

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But most important was the flashback to Rick showing Carl how to trap an animal with a noose. He shows him the path the animals scurry down, which will always lead them straight to their trap and inevitable death. Carl is amused by his dad’s smarts. It makes sense, that animals follow a path if a path is already set for them, unaware of the possible dangers ahead. Same could be said for Rick and the others who all found Terminus because they simple stuck to the path, or in this case, the tracks, and the signs. Is it all a trap?

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At the front gates of Terminus, we see hazy-eyed grill master Mary again, manning the grill. WHAT IS SHE COOKING? Right? Those are some huge hunks of meat. I’m starting to wonder if the rumors are true: Are these people cannibals? Don’t eat that BBQ, guys. Don’t do it!

Rick begins looking around to observe the other guests of this mysterious sanctuary. His eyes flash to a girl in a poncho, a man in prison armor, and a guy with a pocket watch on a silver chain. He reaches over and grabs it from out of the man’s pocket. It can’t be, but it is. It’s Hershel’s beloved pocket watch. Remember in one of the flashbacks when Rick and Hershel are seen talking in the prison cell about time? Rick is woken up and asks Hershel what time it is. Hershel responds that he doesn’t keep track of time anymore — that it’s early. When we first met Hershel, that pocket watch was his companion, and he still believed there was hope, even for his zombie family in the barn.

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One thing leads to another and total chaos erupts. At first, there’s a moment of confusion. And then it hits. That was Maggie’s Poncho, and that guy over there is wearing the armor Glenn and Dr. Porter were wearing. This cannot be good. “Where are our people?” Rick screams.

As Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl make a run, they find their way inside, into a room filled with lit candles. FILLED. There are cryptic signs painted on the walls in huge lettering that say: “Never Trust” and “We First, Always.” What was written on the floor in that huge circle? Whoa. It didn’t look good. OK, show me the torture chambers. I know they’re here somewhere. Then there just happens to be a big pile of (possible) people bones on the ground. Yep, this is not good.

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The snipers on the roof suck at shooting our group, which makes me wonder what’s up even more. Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl are forced to enter into a railroad car by the Terminus people who’ve now surrounded them. Up they go, into the dark, with who-knows-what awaiting them. Oh. My. God. There’s only two minutes left in the season. Are they going to be eaten by walkers? Is this where the acts of cannibalism take place? If so, is this what the world has come to? Because I’d still like to know why the zombies are here, thank you.

Out from the shadows (just like last week) emerges Glenn, Maggie, our girl Tara, Sasha, Bob, Dr. Porter, Abraham and Rosita. “You’re here. You’re all here,” says Rick, the heartfelt music swelling, and swelling, and swelling. Glenn tells Rick that Abraham and the others saved them. The group that’s more like family is open arms to new friends if Glenn says so, but their fate remains in the hands of these Terminus crazies. (I’m assuming they have to be crazy—they’ve been keeping half the group locked up and they’re wearing their things like they’re never coming back.

Abraham steps forward after Daryl tells them they’re friends of theirs then too. “Yeah, for however how long that’ll be,” says Abraham. Of course, this is no time for hugs and small talk. We have no clue what’s about to happen, we just know that Rick has that certain look on his face, per usual, that tells us he has a plan. “No,” he says back calmly, the music swelling even deeper. One last flashback erupts again: Rick, Carl, Hershel, Beth and the baby gardening in the prison yard. They’re all giggling, balmy from the afternoon sun. “It can be like this always,” says Hershel, grinning that perfect smile we all certainly miss. Rick responds, “It’s like this right now. That’s enough.” For just a second, I fear the worst. Is someone about to die? TWD finales are notorious for killing off loved characters. Is it about to happen again?

“They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out…” Rick says with a smirking Daryl standing in the background, Rick peering out the side flap. “Find out what?” asks Abraham.

“They’re screwing with the wrong people,” finishes Rick.

Was that a lackluster way to end things? Did you expect differently? What happened to Carol, Tyreese, Beth, and Baby Judith? What do you want answered in Season 5? There is nothing I would love more than to see Carol rescue everyone and meet eyes with Daryl while a jealous Beth looks on in bewilderment. Sound off in the comments, or tweet me @the_hoff.

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