Blooded after the hunt?
This Sunday brings us the Season Four Finale of The Walking Dead. What with the mid-season hiatus that has been the norm since Season Two, we did get a stretch run of sixteen shows over a twenty-four week period. The fact that TWD runs for almost half a year, however, doesn’t mean that the next six months until October are going to pass any faster. Previous finales have ended on a note of completion, giving us more answers than questions – even the subtle pan up from Rick and the group after their near-disaster at the end of Season Two, made it pretty clear what the direction of Season Three was going to be. This time around, however, we have a situation with so many unresolved issues, and with members so widely dispersed, that I suspect we’re going to be getting less a sense of completion this week, and more of a mid-season type cliffhanger. The question is: how cruel will Scott Gimple be to his loyal viewers? I have some new ideas that include a couple of shockers, and some suggestions that may ring bells with readers of the comic (although I won’t specify which of those they are, so as not to spoil the comic for anyone not caught up). Click after the break to watch the Sneak Peek and Promo videos, and to get my take on possible directions for this season’s climactic chapter.
<<Spoiler Alert: This Sneak Peek of The Walking Dead Episode 416 “A” will discuss events from earlier episodes in the series, as well as discussing events that may be upcoming. Read only if you’re all caught up!>>
The episode write-up says: “Rick and the others begin to reunite at Terminus, soon realizing that the marauders are closing in, and that the so-called sanctuary is not exactly what it seems to be.” There will be, in the words of Joe, a “reckoning” on this week’s episode.
Before I get into my prognostications, we’ll begin with AMC’s official Sneak Peek video:
Rick, Michonne, and Carl approach a snare in a small clearing. A rabbit is caught in it, and Rick says, “It’s a small one. It’ll do.” He puts it away in a shoulder bag, and then explains to Carl how snare traps work. The key, he says, is to funnel animals “right into the trap.” By camouflaging the noose under leaves and sticks, the animal doesn’t even realize it’s a trap until they’re caught in it – at which point it’s too late. Just as Rick tightens the noose on his own wrist as a demonstration, a voice yells in the near distance: “Help!” Carl, not stopping to think, takes off in the direction of the yells, which change to, “Stop! Stop!” Rick and Michonne take off after Carl, Rick yelling at him to stop; but Carl isn’t listening, barreling headlong into the woods. Cut to title.
I don’t think the writers could be any more direct in their metaphor here: Terminus is the trap, the railroad tracks everyone is following are the funnels. “EVERYONE WHO ARRIVES SURVIVES.” Yes, insofar as they get to Terminus, but there are no guarantees for after they get there. The question is: what kind of trap is Terminus? I’ll discuss this further in the last couple of paragraphs below. There is also the secondary symbolism of the trap: what is it that Carl is running headlong into? He’s young and impulsive, yes, but he’s had enough experience at this point that running blindly forward should definitely not be his first reaction. Now, if the voice were familiar, say Glen or one of the others from the original group, then yes, by all means get up there and help. But their experiences with strangers have been mixed at best, and always entered into with a strong sense of caution. Carl in this scene reminds me strongly of Justin Chatwin as Robbie in War of the Worlds (2005), as he runs uphill toward a tank battle, wearing nothing but his street clothes and not carrying a weapon. You just know it’s a bad idea, and isn’t likely to turn out well. Even if the yelling voice isn’t being disingenuous, trying to trap whomever is listening, it sure doesn’t sound like its possessor is in a good situation – this is a grown man, who has been resourceful enough to survive to this point in the zombie apocalypse, pleading for help; what can Carl possibly do but get himself into a bad situation?
Now the Promo video:
Much darker. The music alone sets a pretty ominous tone, with lots of heavy industrial reverb set against dense bass throbbing atonally (the sound actually reminds me a little of AWOL Nation). We start with a close up of Rick’s face, just his eyes and the bridge of his nose. He is shaking slightly, covered in blood, and his eyes look haunted. He looks down; we see his hands hanging, his arms draped over his bent knees – his hands are covered in blood and shaking. A woman’s voice, sounding as though it’s coming down a long tunnel, saying, “Sanctuary for all.” Cut to Carl running through the woods from the Sneak Peek video, as the voice continues: “Community for all.” Michonne laying into what appears to be a horde of walkers, as the voice says, “Terminus.” She echoes “Terminus” seven more times as we smash cut through: a walker lying in what appears to be the oozing remains of its own body, just one arm and its head still mobile; Rick in silhouette opening a door; Carl raising his pistol and sighting down it; Daryl in close-up looking shocked or – dare I say it? – afraid; close-up then distance shot of Michonne, with a look of condolence on her face, pulling Carl in for a hug in the woods; what appears to Rick’s hand (it has a wedding ring) reaching for a pistol; Michonne, Carl, and Rick entering a room filled with lit candles and small statues (one looks like the Virgin Mary), what appears to be the word “ALWAYS” hand painted in large letters on the wall behind Carl; close-up on the hands again, this time loading the gun; a small horde of walkers taking down an unfamiliar man in the middle of a clearing; Michonne and Rick, Carl behind them, coming to a stop with a look of either horror or surprise on their faces; a woman’s scream, as the screen goes black, and then focuses in on Rick’s bloody face once more, his hand visible and shaking as he continues to stare forward with a haunted look, and the woman’s voice continues, sounding now less like it’s coming through a tunnel, and more like a PA system: “Those who arrive, survive,” and ends on one more iteration of “Terminus.”
Intense. First thoughts: the man we see going down is the man Carl hears yelling in the Sneak Peek video, and Michonne hugging him is to offer condolences that he was unable to help or save the man. They build this up for us a bit, but I think it’s a red herring overall. The woman whose voice we hear is bound to be the woman who welcomed Glen, Maggie, and the group at the end of last week’s episode, and the tinny sound is likely because she is actually using a PA system – the terminal would be set up with one, so all they need is the electricity. The real questions arise from the condition we see Rick in at the beginning and end of the Promo, the look on Daryl’s face (and what context we’re seeing him in), and the meaning of the room with all the candles. Rick’s condition indicates that he is covered in someone else’s blood. He doesn’t look injured – physically; however, his shaking and his haunted look suggest that he has either seen something horrific, or that he has had to do something equally horrifying. Considering the things he has seen and done in the past four seasons, this suggests something new, something surprising. I’ll get into my thoughts on that when I discuss my theories on Terminus below. Daryl – I suspect that this is when he either a) realizes it’s Rick they’re hunting (which I personally doubt, as I think the chocolate bar wrapper and the description of it being a man – thus a man whom Michonne would trust enough to travel with – means he already likely knows this); or b) he sees something about Terminus, about Joe’s group, or about Rick that he wasn’t expecting. Daryl is a man usually prepared for anything – look at how well he integrated with a bunch of killers, knowing exactly what to do by instinct – so it’s going to have to be something pretty shocking. The candle room – this is just plain creepy, and has a definite religious or cultish connotation to it. I’ll discuss that again at the end of my preview.
Next, I have a copy of the New Zealand Promo video – it has a bunch of new information, and is pretty exciting. My apologies for the fact this is a hand held film taken off of a TV, but it was the only version I could find:
We hear the woman saying, “Sanctuary for all” again, as we look at the large building with Terminus written across it through a chain link fence; Rick, Carl, and Michonne join our perspective, also peeking through the bushes climbing up the fence, as the voice continues, “Community for all.” We shift to a view of what looks like a bunch of office furniture in a large open room brightened with natural lighting, as the voice says, “Those who arrive, survive.” A foot steps into frame. We then see Michonne, Carl, and Rick being led by a smiling man, an unidentified woman bringing up the rear, a man’s voice in voice-over saying, “Welcome to Terminus” with a rather chirpy air. The man we see leading them is played by actor Andrew J. West, meaning that he is a new character named Gareth. According to Hollywood Reporter, “West will appear in the second half of The Walking Dead’s fourth season and play Gareth.” (Click on the red text to read the full article.) They appear to be taking them to Mary the woman from the end of last week’s episode, who we see in front of Rick, as the camera pans across his out-of-focus face in left profile. The tension ramps up: Rick looking concerned, then cut to Carl holding his pistol, Michonne behind him with katana at the ready, and a voice saying, “We’re all people.” It could be Rick, it could be Gareth, it’s impossible to tell in the brief soundbite. We see Gareth holding his hand up in an apparent attempt to calm Rick, who is holding a gun to someone’s head, using them as a shield. Camera jumps back, and Gareth closes his hand into a fist; overhead shot of an alley, with what looks like Glen and Maggie running; back on Rick, as bullets land around he, Carl, and Michonne, and Rick points up toward the rooftops; a sniper with an automatic rifle and a huge scope, firing down; Joe, in blue light, mouth agape, as he says in voice-over “You screwed up, ya hear me?”; Daryl, also in blue light, with one of the marauders behind him out of focus, rifle up and aimed – but not at Daryl; Rick, looking like a deer in the headlights, also in blue light – it’s him the marauder is pointing the gun at; three men fighting, one of whom may be Daryl, but who is in and out of frame so fast it’s hard to tell; Carl, blue light, looking from concealment; Michonne in close-up, mouth open, fear in her eyes; Joe, repeating “you screwed up,” as he leans down to speak into Michonne’s ear, continuing “Today’s a day of reckoning, sir” followed by malicious laughter, as we cut to a close-up of Rick’s eyes, darting to the left; Daryl, open hands up in a fighting stance; one of the marauders approaching a car, Carl inside – he’s no longer concealed, and the marauder has a decidedly sick grin on his face; Michonne, gritting her teeth and about to attack in classic Michonne mode; Joe looking up, face in light, looking almost beatific; and Rick, raising his head, looking as though’s he’s just been struck.
A totally different focus from the North American Promo, as here we see three things we don’t see in the others: Gareth at Terminus, a fight at the so-called sanctuary, and Rick’s run-in with Joe. Rick has done some dumb things in the past, but I can’t imagine him taking someone at gunpoint without good reason. Terminus is definitely not what it represents itself as being, and Rick is apparently on to this; however, he isn’t prepared for a gunfight with snipers, so I’m hoping they’re all able to get out of that situation alive. We do see all three of them – Rick, Michonne, and Carl – in both scenes, so the question becomes, which comes first? I suspect the meeting with Joe’s marauders does, in which case we can ascertain two things: they’ll survive, and we don’t know if Daryl does. We don’t see him in the Terminus sections, although that doesn’t mean a whole lot, being that these promos and sneak peeks are carefully edited together, but I can’t help but find it a little bit ominous that he’s obviously fighting in the promo clip, but not around in any of the (presumably) later scenes.
Rick will be facing hard choices on Sunday
My overall thoughts: I believe that Rick, Michonne, and Carl will have their confrontation with Joe and his gang, and all three will come out alive. Further, I believe it will be Carl that will turn the tables, as the marauder approaching his hiding spot is treating it like a game of cat and mouse – only, this mouse has a pretty good gun and dead-eye aim. I really hope that Daryl survives the inevitable “reckoning.” Yes, it would be gutsy of Gimple to kill off the series’ most popular character, but does he really need to? I don’t think it moves the narrative forward in any meaningful way to do so, so unless it’s due to a contract issue, I don’t see Daryl dying. I don’t, however, think that Joe’s gang of marauders will come out of this looking too well.
And what about Terminus? Mary looked so welcoming when Glenn, Maggie, and the rest arrived last week, and Gareth seems like such a pleasant guy. Why, then, all the shooting and menacing? I think that Rick and co stumble onto something before meeting Gareth, when they enter the room with all of the candles. This room is a strong indication that there is a religious bent to the folks at Terminus, but I truly believe it isn’t going to be your typical get dressed up on Sundays, tea and crumpets kind of affair; no, I suspect their religiosity to much darker in nature. In addition, I think that we’re going to find out what happened to Beth, good or bad, as the car that took her away did seem to have a cross in the back window. To be honest, I don’t think they’d kill her off-stage, but they might just do it, if the result is shocking enough (finding her head on a stake, for example?). Furthermore, I think that the darker nature of the Terminus group may just be that one taboo the series hasn’t touched on yet: cannibalism. From Soylent Green (1973) (based on the novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison), through The Road (2009) (based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy), post-apocalyptic film has often turned to anthrophagites to up the ante and increase both the fear and gross-out factors. Now that Gimple has dealt with one of TV’s other great taboos, child killing, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this is the direction we’re headed this Sunday.
So that leaves us wondering where the rest of our groups are. I’m pretty sure we see Glenn and Maggie from above in the one short scene, but no hint of Bob or Sasha, nor of Abraham’s group, nor of Tara for that matter. Beth is a question mark, though as I’ve indicated I believe we’ll resolve her issue this episode. And Carol and Tyreese are a wildcard that could show up in the nick of time, either in the Marauders situation, or at Terminus itself – but remember, they’re carrying Judith, so not primed for battle. Regardless of how things end this Sunday, one thing remains certain: fans of the show will have a long six months waiting for Season Five to start up in October. I’ll end with a poll: what do you think Terminus is going to end up being?
Bonus Note: According to IMDB, Lennie James – better known to fans as Morgan Jones – is listed in the cast for Episode 416. Is it possible we’re going to see a reunion between him and Rick?