'Walking Dead' Season 4 Finale: Trapped at Terminus

The AMC zombie drama ends its season with a massive cliffhanger, as the fates of several characters remains in limbo.
"The Walking Dead"

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from "A," the season-four finale of AMC's The Walking Dead as well as the comics it is based on.]

AMC's The Walking Dead capped its fourth season with a bloodbath that answered one major question and set up a slew of new ones as the truth of Terminus was finally revealed.

The episode cut back and forth between the start of the season -- explaining how Andrew Lincoln's former cop became "Farmer Rick" -- and present day when he, Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) are making their way toward Terminus, scavenging for the smallest of animals as they're all desperate for food.

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After Carl hears screams in the distance and moves to help a stranger being attacked by walkers, Rick pulls him back, leaving the poor guy to be completely consumed in an effort to protect his son. The trio makes camp for the night at an abandoned SUV before heading on the home stretch into Terminus -- allowing Rick a bit of extra time to recover from the brutal beating he took from The Governor.

As they're relaxing for the night, Joe (Jeff Kober) crosses paths with Rick and holds a gun to his head while the rest of his band of Claimers guard Carl and Michonne. It's then that Daryl (Norman Reedus) stops Joe -- who was moments away from killing Rick as payback for killing his friend Lou at the house in the midseason premiere. Daryl tells Joe that Rick is a good man, and Joe accuses his group's newest member of lying and orders the rest of his gang of gross guys to basically kill him.

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In the meantime, one of the Claimers pins Carl to the ground and is poised to rape the boy. Enraged at what he sees being done to his son, Rick head-butts Joe and savagely bites the leader of the Claimers in the neck, leaving him to bleed to death. It's then that Rick goes after Carl's attacker and repeatedly stabs him to death in one of the most brutal scenes the zombie drama has featured of human-on-human violence. Worse: Carl watches with a hint of delight as his father exacts revenge on his attacker.

Afterward, Michonne consoles Carl -- who explains he wasn't afraid of seeing what his father did but instead explains that he is most worried that he's becoming a monster, enjoying scenes like what he just witnessed. As for Daryl and Rick, the former helps his old friend clean up after the bloody attack, and Rick reveals that he sees Daryl as a brother and reinforces that he hasn't become this violent person but instead was a father doing whatever it took to protect his son.

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The trio then head to Terminus, approaching the gated community with extreme caution and burying their extra weapons in the dirt outside the fence. They sneak in the back way and meet Gareth (Greek's Andrew J. West), who, like The Governor, seems on the surface to be a kind man and offers the trio food and shelter after they take inventory of their weapons. Gareth instructs Alex to take the three through Terminus. They meet Mary, who offers them heaping plates food.

But before anyone can get comfortable, Rick notices the pocket watch Hershel (Scott Wilson) gave to Glenn (Steven Yeun) hanging from the pants of one of the Terminus residents and demands to know where Alex got it from. Alex lies and says he ripped it off a dead person, and the other Terminus folks explain that Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) poncho and Eugene's (Josh McDermitt) riot gear were similarly pulled off dead bodies. It's then that Gareth commands one of his people to kill Rick, only they miss and kill Alex -- prompting a close-range shootout.

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The Terminus team -- who have snipers set up across the compound -- take a bazillion shots at the trio and miss at relatively close range as they're meticulously pursued through the compound, hearing screams from other shipping containers spread throughout the yard. Rick realizes they're shooting at their feet as he, Daryl and Michonne make their way through a creepy candle room that resembles a memorial, with names written on the floor next to their presumed personal belongings. Troublesome phrases --"Never again." "Never trust." "We first, always." -- are written in bold letters across the wall. As they make their way through the rail station, they pass a massive pile of what appears to be human bones -- including a very distinctive ribcage -- before our trio come to the end of the line and are forced to face Gareth.

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One by one, Gareth instructs them to make their way into a railcar marked "A" as Rick, Daryl, Michonne and Carl enter the confined space where they are reunited with Maggie, Glenn, Tara (Alanna Masterson), Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Greene), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene and Rosita (Christian Serratos). Maggie quickly explains to Daryl and Rick that Abraham, Eugene and Rosita helped save their lives. Pissed that they've encountered another psychopath, Rick delivers a version of an iconic line from the comics to end the season: "They're going to feel pretty stupid when they find out … that they're screwing with the wrong people."

[Warning: Spoilers from The Walking Dead comics follow]

There is no character named Gareth in the comics, but there is a guy named Chris, who is the leader of the so-called group of Hunters who, hungry and out of options, turns to cannibalism in order to survive after stalking their victims -- including Rick's group. Rick's and Abraham's group cross paths with the Hunters in the 63rd issue of Robert Kirkman's comic series, when they're making their way to Washington, D.C. Also notable: Rick mutters the line, "They'll feel pretty stupid when they find out they're f---ing with the wrong people," in the following issue. The comics connection would seem to give weight to the theory that Gareth and Terminus may be a remixed version of the Hunters.

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While it's unclear just what's cooking at Terminus and what they're eating to indicate that members of Gareth's group are indeed the cannibals from the comics, the writing is more than on the wall for the AMC series to be following that specific trajectory. The season finale set up a slew of questions for season five, including:

• How are they going to escape that rail container?
• What was with that dried package of milk outside the railcar?
• Where's Beth? Could she be the one who's being cooked on Mary's outdoor grill?
• What happened to everyone at Terminus that prompted them to become what they seem to be now?
• What kind of emotional toll will Carl's near rape and capture have on him?
• Are Carol, Tyreese and baby Judith still on the way to Terminus, or were those screams theirs? (And is Beth in one of the other containers?)
• How are Rick and Daryl going to fare with Abraham and Eugene?
• How evil is Gareth, and how does he compare to The Governor?
• Does the creepy candle room indicate the Cannibals have some humanity left?

What did you think of The Walking Dead's season-four finale? Do you think Gareth and company are cannibals? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Stay tuned to The Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed for more Walking Dead coverage, including multiple interviews. In the meantime, check out the cast and producers speculating on what's next, in the clip below.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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