There’s dark. There’s really dark. And then there’s The Walking Dead.
As AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama wrapped up its fourth season Sunday night with an episode titled A, the survivors we’ve followed for four years went to the some of their grimmest places yet. Psychologically and geographically.
Intercut with flashbacks to happier times at the prison, the finale followed Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) as they made their final push to Terminus, the fabled safe town that the other survivors reached in last week’s episode.
When Joe (Jeff Kober) and his band of marauders – the gang that Daryl (Norman Reedus) was travelling with – got the drop on Rick and Michonne, things looked very grim. But as one of Joe’s men appeared to be about to rape Carl, Rick turned the tables by tearing Joe’s throat out… with his teeth.
Within seconds, two moments from The Walking Dead comics that seemed too dark to ever be translated to TV were brought to life. The zombies have never been the true monsters on this series, but now it’s clear the survivors’ grip on their humanity is at its most precarious.
How do you go darker and more dangerous than that?
Terminus, that’s how. Sanctuary for all, community for all. Right? Turns out our worst fears were realized: the people of the town at the end of the tracks don’t want to serve newcomers dinner. They want to serve newcomers for dinner.
With Rick, Michonne, Carl and Daryl captured by heavily armed cannibals, and locked up in a train boxcar with Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and the rest of the survivors, season finale cliffhangers don’t get much more dire than this.
Rick seemed undaunted – “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” he growled. But with so much now in jeopardy, and with so many questions unanswered, we may just need from now until The Walking Dead Season 5 premiere in October to, uh, digest all this.