Oh man, zombiefans: This was some back half of a season, eh? As we followed our survivor friends from the destruction of the prison all the way down the railroad tracks to Terminus, we learned quite a bit about these characters, as well as the ongoing evolution of the post-Zombpocalypse world. We also discovered that new-ish showrunner Scott Gimple is not afraid to take this show to increasingly cringe-worthy levels of terror.
(Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD. Do not read this if you've yet to watch the episode!)
(Double warning: SERIOUSLY. This is the mother of all spoiler-alerts if you're still catching up on episodes burning up space on your DVR).
1. The Walking Dead goes to some places even scarier than flesh-eating zombies.
When you find yourself with a psychotic child (Lizzie) who murders her own little sister (Mica) to prove that zombies are friends instead of foes, what do you do? Especially when said psycho-child was just about to kill Baby Judith? If you're Carol, you realize that this young girl is not fit to be around other people, especially when you're hoping to arrive at some sort of sanctuary with lots of other survivors. You take a deep breath, tell Lizzie to look at the flowers, and shoot her in the head ("The Grove"). And if you're Rick and you're set upon by the Claimers Gang who threaten to rape Michonne and your son Carl in front of your very eyes before murdering you, well then, you rip your enemy's jugular out with your teeth. Just like a zombie. And then you tell Daryl he's your brother. Welcome back, Daryl! ("A").
2. Signs on railroad tracks promising that all who arrive will survive may not be completely true.
The back half of Season 4 tracked nearly all of the prison survivors as they all eventually discovered signs and maps pointing them to a mysterious place named "Terminus." Glenn and Tara teamed up with Abraham, Rosita and Eugene to follow the tracks, where they followed Maggie's blood-painted signs until they finally reunited with the Maggie/Bob/Sasha posse. They arrived at Terminus first, where Terminus Mary (aka Tasha Yar) welcomed them and offered to make them a plate. Later, when Rick's gang arrived via the "backdoor," they were greeted by Gareth and taken to the BBQ pit – only Rick noticed that Alex had Glenn's watch, some dude was wearing Glenn/Eugene's riot gear, and some random lady was wearing Maggie's poncho. Alex claimed they got all that stuff legitimately. Hmmm. Something is rotten in the state of Terminus.
3. "Never again. Never trust. We first, always."
When you're scrambling for your lives through an unknown location, running past a pit of seemingly-human skeletons and then find yourselves in a candle-lit garage out of some sort of Crowleyan magick routine — you might really have second doubts that you've reached any sort of Sanctuary. As Rick ("the ringleader"), Michonne ("the samurai"), Daryl ("the archer") and Carl ("the child") sprint through Terminus, the snipers seem to have the worst aim in the entire world. Rounds and rounds of ammo go to waste until Rick realizes that the Terminans are not shooting to kill; they're shooting to herd. After they're forced to surrender their weapons, Rick and Co. are shepherded into Train Car A, where empty packages of evaporated milk lie crumbled on the ground outside. Is this a feeding car? Is this where the Terminans fatten up their prisoners before grilling them up to serve them to newcomers? Is the whole radio message advertising sanctuary for all who arrive just one big giant, horrible, terrifying scam? Never trust. Never.
4. Everyone has to be a monster, sometimes.
After Rick, Michonne and Carl reunite with Daryl to escape (and decimate) the Claimer Gang, they decide to wait and watch Terminus to see just what the hell is going on. (Nothing fishy is apparent from the outside, we assume). Carl is afraid to hang out with his dad – but it turns out it's not that he's scared of him, he's scared of himself. Michonne reveals that when her boyfriend and his buddy got high instead of defending their refugee camp and let her son Andre die, she lost herself. Instead of killing them, she let her boyfriend and pal turn into zombies then removed their teeth and tied chains around their necks to drag them around. But she came back. So just because Rick lost his shit last night and stabbed the attempted child-rapist a billion times, he's not a monster. Even though Carl once shot a kid in the face, and he might have really dark thoughts (like sort of appreciating how his dad was ripping Claimer Dan to shreds), he'll come back, too. And surely Carol will come back from shooting Lizzie. You can go to the dark side and still return to the light. That's the hope, anyway.
5. Reunited, and it feels so good — except when it doesn't.
During the seemingly never-ending flashbacks (Hershel turned Rick into a farmer, but now Warrior Rick is back! We get it! Really! Show us more Terminus), we remembered what life was like when things at the prison were pretty swell and everyone was all buddy-buddy. After spending this entire half-season tracking all of the Prison survivors, we finally got to see them all together again — except this reunion was anything but joyous. It's a delight to see so many of our friends together again, but not when they're locked in a train car and possibly about to turn into someone's next meal. And where are Carol and Tyrese and Baby Judith? Can Rick the Warrior lead everyone to safety before the Carol crew gets to the end of the line? And who the hell kidnapped Beth? Is she still alive or was she the dish of the day? BBQ Beth? Say it ain't so, Scott Gimple. Say it ain't so.