I hate cliffhangers. I really do, because no matter how angry I get at the rest of the season, cliffhanger endings actually make me want to tune in for the next season. Season 4 has left me feeling very ambivalent about this show. There are parts of it that I really did not like—such as the Governor’s storyline and ending—and there have been other parts of it that I loved.
Spoilers and a trigger warning for rape ahead.
Ever since the midseason finale, our survivors have been traveling in separate groups to a place called Terminus. We don’t actually see Terminus until the end of the second-to-last episode, but there are signs up for it everywhere proclaiming the words “Those who arrive survive”.
In our finale, Rick, Michonne, and Carl reunite with Daryl, and together they make it to Terminus. But surprise! Terminus turns out to be a terrible place. The people there are cultists who have been luring the other survivors into a trap so they can eat them. And considering that Beth was kidnapped by an unnamed someone a few episodes earlier, I’m very wary of who is actually on that barbeque.
Also trapped at Terminus are Glenn, Maggie, Tara, Sasha, Bob, and three characters who are new to the show this season. One of those characters is also a scientist who knows what started the zombie apocalypse and how to stop it, though he has yet to say anything else on the matter since “it’s classified”. So he is the one character that no one can afford to lose—but this is The Walking Dead, so he’s probably going to die anyway. Now that most of our characters are together in this horrible situation, Rick says that their captors are going to feel really stupid when they figure out that they’re “messing with the wrong people”. And thus our season ends with everyone about to be killed and barbequed.
A lot of things happened this episode, but that is the gist of it. Our characters make it to Terminus, and they learn that Terminus is a terrible place. That’s it, so let’s talk about the second half of the season as a whole. The past so many episodes have been entirely character-driven, and since our characters are separated from each other for most of it, different episodes focused on different characters. Because of this, we were really able to delve into and spend more time learning about certain characters that we didn’t know all too well before.
Beth, for instance, is a character whose very little screen time I have long lamented. Though I do worry that she is probably dead, the time we spent with her and Daryl was great. Beth came from a wealthy family: she had everything before the apocalypse and then lost it, whereas Daryl had nothing and then gained everything. Daryl had nothing but his survival skills, and a post-apocalyptic world is a place that he fits in and is needed. Beth, however, knows her days are numbered and that she’s going to die someday, but we learn that she just wants to enjoy the time she has left. “Still” focuses solely on these characters, and it was certainly one of the better episodes in the show. It takes the time to flesh out both Beth and Daryl and juxtapose their characters against each other, before finally having them come to terms with what happened back at the prison and their need for each other’s companionship.
However, I think “The Grove” is probably The Walking Dead’s best episode to date. “The Grove” is when we discover that the young girl Lizzie is the sociopath who was feeding the walkers and butchering small animals around the prison for fun. This episode focused on Carol, Tyreese, Lizzie, her sister Mika, and baby Judith. It was also one of the more emotional and feel-inducing episodes. I was sad for days after watching it, and though I want to rewatch it, I’m not sure I could handle it. But one of the reasons this episode sticks out to me is how Lizzie was written. She’s a sociopath who views the walkers as people she can befriend. She endangers the other members of the group and even kills her own sister so she will turn, because Lizzie wants to prove to Carol and Tyreese that walkers are people too and not monsters they should put down. The episode ends with Carol shooting Lizzie in the back of the head, because “she can’t be around people”, and then Carol admits to Tyreese that she is the one responsible for Karen’s death. Thankfully, Tyreese forgives Carol, though he promises that he won’t forget what she did, and the two of them head off to Terminus together with Baby Judith. So I hope they’re not the ones being barbequed.
Anyway, “The Grove” had one horrible thing after another, and even though it ends with Carol tearfully and regretfully killing Lizzie, I think it did a great job of displaying mental disorders, which the show has kind of failed at before.
The Walking Dead has introduced numerous sociopaths, the Governor being the most prominent. But where the show portrayed the Governor as evil and needing to be killed, it uses Lizzie’s character to show why mental disorders are sad and terrible. It’s hard to watch “The Grove” and not feel bad for Lizzie, to not be upset that this little girl has such a serious problem and that no one knows how to help her. Mika’s death at her hands was shocking and horrible, but it still wasn’t something to hate Lizzie for. It was something that was just plain sad to watch.
Unfortunately, there are some things that this half of the season could and should have cut out. The Marauders, for instance, ended up being completely pointless to the overall story. The Marauders are a group of horrible, murderous assholes who Daryl hooks up with for a little while after Beth’s disappearance. They’re hunting Rick down, because Rick ended up killing one of them. When they catch Rick, Daryl thankfully turns on them to help out his friends, and he, Rick, and Michonne end up killing all of the Marauders instead. Because of this, the Marauders ended up serving no point. They existed, and then they died. We’ve had dead villainous characters before, but they have had larger impacts on the story and even caused numerous character deaths. That is not true of the Marauders. They didn’t manage to kill any of our main characters, or injure them in some way. They were just some pointless drama.
One of them does attempt to rape Carl, and the others plan to rape Michonne, so we can say that Carl will end up having some long-term negative emotional consequences to the assault. I hope the show will continue to portray that. Rape is not something that is often talked about in media, let alone male rape, or sexual abuse against minors. If The Walking Dead doesn’t plan on going into what happened or showing Carl’s PTSD because of it, then that scene will unfortunately have been nothing but shock value that the show could have done without.
Overall, though, I was very happy with the second half of the season, and as I said, it had some really great episodes. “The Grove” in particular is still my favorite. Additionally, Tara is still alive, and The Walking Dead continues to address that she is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, while not stereotyping her. She’s turning into a very well-rounded character and I can only hope The Walking Dead will keep her around a while longer. And thanks to Tyreese, Sasha, Bob, and Michonne, we have at least four PoC who not only survived this season, which is more than I can say about PoC in other seasons, but are also fleshed out and given major roles. Most of the characters are still ostensibly white, but The Walking Dead has done really well with minority representation this season. We have numerous female characters, one who used to be domestically abused and another with a severe mental disorder, five people of color when we include Glenn, and even an openly queer character.
Now I eagerly await Season 5, if only because I just have to know who the hell these bastards are cooking, and who they will manage to cook before Rick ends up saving the day.