A Beginner’s Guide to a Grown Man’s Fantasy: The Walking Dead Season Finale – Predicting the Dead

by Justin Nearon

On Sunday, March 30th, the 4th season of AMC’s The Walking Dead comes to what is sure to be an eventful conclusion.  While we are all eager to see this “sanctuary” that  Rick and company have spent the last 8 episodes chasing, what we really care about is, which characters won’t make it past the finale?

One of the main reasons this series is so incredibly successful, is that the showrunners have found a working formula and have stuck to it.  This may leave a little to be desired creatively but you can’t argue with the numbers, which have proven “the Dead” to be one of the highest rated programs in cable television history.

One of the main tenants of that formula is taking someone we’ve come to love (or hate) and reducing them to a zombie meal in the finale.  This satiates the voracious appetites of the monsters and an equally blood-thirsty television audience.

With this in mind, I’m going to make my best guesses as to which actors will be enjoying the spoils of “Terminus” next season and who will have collected his/her last “Walking Dead” pay cheques.

Before you read on, I should point out the fact that I am not including any of the newer characters, such as Glenn’s recent travelling companions in my analysis.  One or more of them may be written off, but it wouldn’t produce the same emotional gut punch that losing one of our central players would inflict.  Instead I’ll focus my crystal ball on the people we’ve spent at least two seasons of bad personal hygiene and blood stained t-shirts with.

Daryl (L), Carl (R) and Baby Judith – AMC

See You in Season 5 (and probably 6,7 and 8): Carl and Judith

I’ve never read the comics on which this show is based but those that have, say this a story about hopelessness.  It is a little more than “people swirling down the drain of life”.  That might fly literature, but television doesn’t quite work like that.  If you’re going to maintain more than a niche audience you have to give them something to hope for, a proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”.  I think Rick’s kids Carl and Judith (Little Shit kicker) are that light.

Isn’t that the whole point of this journey anyway?  Rick cheating death at every turn to save his family?  He already lost his wife, so if you take his kids away from him as well, what’s the point, what was all that struggle for?

From a more practical standpoint Carl is part of the first generation of children that would have grown up killing zombies.  I think the writers would like to see what that looks like on someone transitioning into adulthood.  Having said that it does appear that Rick is extremely distraught in the season finale preview, a bad ending for Carl would induce that.

As for Judith, she will be saved by the mere fact that she’s a an infant.  I know kids were slaughtered a few seasons back on “Game of Thrones”, but they were largely anonymous characters.  There is no show on television willing to do the same to a baby we’ve already put a name and face to.  Especially a show had already tested the audiences resolve once this season with the gut wrenching way in which Carols’ adopted daughters were killed.

Daryl (L) and Michonne (R) – AMC

Alive and Kicking and Shooting and Slicing: Michonne and Daryl

This is just straight business homie’.  The show will not get rid of by far its two most popular characters, it is just not going to happen.   While almost everyone else, including mainstays like Rick and Glenn, have inspired debate regarding their likeability, Michonne and Daryl appear to be universally loved.

The only way I see either of them ever being written off is if the actors themselves want to leave to parlay their popularity into other projects.  That being said, it shouldn’t be something that affects their participation for next season.

Glenn(L) and Maggie (R) – AMC

Love Conquers All (for at least one more episode) : Maggie and Glenn

We didn’t spend the last 7 episodes watching Glenn and Maggie’s story turn into a remake of “The Last of The Mohicans”, only to have one or both of them killed in the finale.  If there was to be cruel twist of fate it would have happened in the last episode, just as they were excruciatingly close to finding each other.  For now our resident lovebirds appear safe.

Besides, everyone knows that Terminus is the premier honeymoon destination for any newlyweds in a post apocalyptic world.

Beth – AMC

This Songbird Keeps Singing: Beth

I thought Beth would be zombie food a few seasons ago when she provided little more to the show than an occasional campfire song.  Somehow she’s not only survived but thrived with a couple of episodes devoted to her character development.

The last time we saw her she was being driven away from Daryl in a mystery vehicle.  The why and the where doesn’t seem to be a pressing enough issue to be covered in the finale, so one can only assume she will rejoin the show, alive and well, at a later date.

Rick – AMC

A Fork in the Road: Rick

Unbelievable as it may seem, the shows main protagonist just might be about to take his last breaths.  As “Game of Thrones” has shown a tv show’s central characters aren’t as untouchable as they used to be.  It can be argued that Rick’s turn as an ‘angst ridden reluctant leader’ has been beaten to the death.  Having just thwarted the ‘Governor’ do we really need another madman up in his grill. (see: Daryl’s new friends).

There have also been subtle hints to Rick’s parenting role  being passed over to Michonne, who herself seems to ready to make amends for failing to protect her own family at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.

Having said that, we’ve seen this world from Rick’s ‘point of view’ since episode 1 and changing that would be as drastic as anything we’ve ever seen in television.  Love him or hate him he’s been the series emotional anchor, one that could leave viewers without a sense of place if he’s written off.

Tyreese (L) and Sasha (R) – AMC

Nearly Dead: Tyreese, Sasha and Bob

Unless it was created by David Simon (the Wire; Homicide) television seems reluctant to have more than two African American characters exist in the same universe at the same time.  As commendable as “The Walking Dead” has been with four such characters, you have to know they’re living on borrowed time.  T-Dog saw the writing on the wall when they brought Tyreese into the fold, and the only reason Michonne needn’t worry about Sasha’s introduction, is that Michonne and Darryl have become such superheroes they almost transcend their race and gender.

Bob Stokley – AMC

Michonne is not going anywhere, and with a budding love story on the between Bob and Sasha taking place, Tyreese could be the odd man out.  He now knows who killed his girlfriend and will soon reunite baby Judith with her family, which may have been the only things fueling his will to survive.

Carol  – AMC

Welcome To Zombieland. Admission One: Carol

If I’m able to interpret storyline clues as proficiently as Darryl tracks deer through the Georgia forest, then I’m afraid Carol might not be long for this fictional world. If there is a common thread that runs in almost all television shows, it’s that they try to maintain some semblance of karmic balance.  If someone does something bad, eventually they’ll have to pay for it.  They never want to leave the viewer with the sense that evil goes unchallenged, even if the program is centered around the worst of characters.

If afraid that Carol may have to finally face her day of reckoning, for prematurely killing Tyrees’ sick partner in the prison.  Some might argue, myself included, that she paid that price ten fold when she was forced to shoot her adopted ‘living’” daughter in the head.  And lest we not forget that Tyreese forgave her murdering his girlfriend in that very same episode.

I’m skeptical as to the showrunners feeling the same way, and for that matter can Carol forgive herself now that she has the weight of three children dying under her watch.

Then of course there is the roadblock that is Rick, one of the most poignant episodes of the season came when he had to exile Carol from the group.  It was an action Carol seemed to understand given her actions.  How then does Rick welcome her back into the fold without making that plot point virtually meaningless.

I’ve really struggled with this decision, as they already disposed of another wise old character,  Herschel, during the midseason finale.  Do they dare do it again on Sunday?

Regardless of what happens in the finale this past season has been the best season one, a trend I hope continues into season 5.

Stop at Terminus, take a look around for two or three episodes and then move on.  When the characters stay in one spot for too long the show stagnates like an immobile zombie.  But when they are on the move, pushing forward with a goal in mind—however unattainable, the show is thrilling and alive.

It’s not “The Standing Dead” it’s “The Walking Dead”.

The Zombies of “The Walking Dead”  (or maybe The Office) – AMC

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