updated 03/30/2014 AT 10:00 PM ET
•originally published 03/30/2014 AT 11:20 PM ET
The Walking Dead’s season-ender Sunday night led us through and past some disturbing sights – that certainly looked like a mess of human bones with bits of red meat still on them – and then into an abandoned railroad car.
Then a walker tottered in front of the camera, his bony shoulders barely able to hold up a hand-painted sandwich board that said: “THAT’S ALL FOR NOW! SEE YOU NEXT TIME!”
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead.
I made that last item up, obviously, but that was the gist of the hour. Viewers had been gripped in anticipation of the death of a major character – there had even been speculation that star Andrew Lincoln, Rick himself, might be a goner.
Instead, you could argue that the show accomplished the opposite: that the episode gave us Rick’s rebirth, or a kind of rebirth.
You could argue that the overarching aim of this finale was to prepare us for the Rick who stood in that railroad car at the end. When not being shown in flashbacks to happier times farming at the ol’ prison compound, he was being battered and brutalized – to the point, ultimately, of being ready to battle another set of human enemies, possibly even more perverse and evil than the Governor.
“They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out,” he said of these fresh enemies, while the music on the sound track welled with a little more emotion than it strictly needed. “They’re screwing with the wrong people.”
It reminds me of an old movie tagline: “They made one mistake. They forgot they were dealing with Rambo.”
And yet it’s hard to imagine Rick ever being quite so gonzo-macho.
Now, how did we get here?
Entering Terminus, Rick, son Carl, Michonne and Daryl were greeted by several young men who wouldn’t look too out of place ordering espressos on Girls, then were lead out to be fed heaping slabs of fresh-grilled meat.
However, Rick couldn’t help noticing things that were familiar-looking to him – notably a watch that had belonged to the now-gone Hershel. Ignoring the usual, roundabout etiquette of asking if anyone had happened to attend a swap meet nearby, Rick grabbed a gun and everything went to hell.
The hour ended with Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl ordered to step into that abandoned railroad car, where they were reunited with their other friends and acquaintances who arrived at the Terminus BBQ at the end of the previous episode.