Spoilers if you haven't seen the Season 4 finale of The Walking Dead ("A")!
Rick Grimes has proven in the past that he's willing to cross the line for the sake of survival. And now it seems he's finally willing to accept that reality for what it is. If someone tries to kill him or his people, he tries to kill them back even harder. And so far, he's coming out on top. But is this a one-way trip for him? Or can he accept the necessary violence and occasional brutality that comes with facing the darker side of humanity and also maintain his own humanity? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Tonight's episode didn't bring the whole group back together, but it did reunite some of them. We didn't have to wait long to see the vengeful Joe and his guys come upon Rick, Michonne and Carl, ready to pay them back for what Rick did to their friend. Joe may be good at making up rules for his band of angry men, but he's terrible at holding a gun to someone's head, as are the rest of his guys. I mean, honestly, talk about an epic fail. In addition to losing the upper hand, Joe also overestimated Rick's ability to keep his cool when watching a man prepare to sexually assault his son. If biting through the neck of a man is good enough for a walker, it's good enough for Rick, who head-butted Joe and then when they were face to face, used the only weapons he had on him to kill him - his teeth.
Daryl scores points for essentially offering himself up to Joe in exchange for Rick's life. And for remaining one of the best characters currently on this series, along with Michonne, who scores points for disarming and taking down the guy who was holding her hostage. And Rick gets scary points for tearing Joe's throat out and then brutally butchering his son's would-be rapist.
The bright side to that horrifying mess was that it reunited Daryl with Rick and Michonne. And it gave Michonne an excuse to have another heart-to-heart with Carl while Daryl and Rick caught up. Michonne opened up a bit more about losing her son, her boyfriend and his friend. She became a monster after her son died and her guys turned. She turned them into her pets and wandered through the apocalypse on her own until Andrea found her and saved her. And Rick saved her.
I like that Michonne's there to offer some perspective to Carl. It's perspective he might not be able to acquire on his own for a long time and it may be the thing that helps Carl understand his father and the things he's had to do.
Terminus is the worst.
Terminus is a bad place! Go figure. Rick hid some of their weapons in the dirt outside the fence before he, Carl, Daryl and Michonne went into the compound, climbing over the fence and sneaking into the warehouse where a woman was reading out the creepy "welcome" message and others prepared more signs or did whatever they were doing. Rick and his people were tentatively welcomed after their weapons were checked, and then offered food from the grill. That's when Rick noticed Hershel's pocket watch chain on one of the guys and things got tense.
One of the guys signaled for the rest to attack that wasn't really an attack, it seems. Rick and his people ended up running around through the compound, just steps ahead of sprays of bullets, which either meant these snipers with machine guns were really bad shots, or more than likely, they were trying to lead Rick and his people toward a specific spot.
The run-for-your-life tour of Terminus revealed a few strong indications that the theories about these people being cannibals may be true. Factor in the plentiful meat on the grill -- no tiny rabbits to share for these folks -- the giant pile of bones on the ground, and the words "Never again. Never Trust. Us First, Always" painted on the wall in the candle room (where names and ages were painted on the floor) and it seems evident that at the very least, something sinister is afoot here.
Rick and his group were forced to drop their weapons and told to enter a train car, where they found Glenn and Maggie's group. That includes Sasha, Bob, Tara, Eugene and the other new people. So they're all reunited but weaponless and very possibly the next meal for anyone who qualifies as "Us" in the "Us First, Always."
They may have had an easy time luring Rick and the rest of the group into their quarters, but if they underestimate Rick, they may be in for a shock. Rick will do whatever he needs to do at this point, and by the way he looked at his friends tonight, it seems like he realizes that. It's on.
And that's where Season 4 of The Walking Dead leaves us, with Rick finally seeming ready to assume the role of leader to these people, just when they all need it most. The series continues to demonstrate that this story has become much less about the threat that zombies pose to the living and more about the state of humanity in the wake of this apocalypse and the dangers the living pose to one another. Everyone has different rules and survival codes, some more brutal than others. The writing is literally on the wall at Terminus. Whoever these people are and whatever they're doing, it seems like they have a reason. They have their own story. And I'm not saying it justifies what they may be doing in order to survive, but it's one more example of a group of people that's been driven to their own dark choices.
Where are Carol, Tyreese, Judith and Beth? The finale offered no answers there. The former three are presumably still on their way to Terminus and hopefully they'll be cautious about that place if and when they arrive. Beth? Who knows. That may be linked to something completely unrelated to Terminus, but hopefully she's still alive. I can't imagine she'd be dragged off like that only to meet her demise without us ever getting any closure, but we'll have to wait and see.