John Lopez, Grantland: Yes, I’m thankful the writers decided to end on an actual cliffhanger, rather than something like Season 3’s anticlimactic showdown with the Governor, which was such a bummer that new showrunner Scott Gimple felt the need to do it all over for the midseason finale. But rehashing that hiccup of a story beat, then throwing in a plague plot and scattering the Rickettes to the wind, felt more incoherent than avant-garde. And this finale hung its hat on possibly the least compelling character arc in the show: Farmer Rick realizing he’s not Hamlet, Prince of Denmark … I’m plenty happy Rick’s got his mojo back, but did we really need this entire season to get there?
Zack Handlen, A.V. Club: It’s no big surprise that “A” ends on a cliffhanger, but what is surprising is how almost hopeful that cliffhanger feels. Next season, we’ll probably have to go through hours of soul-searching about whether or not it’s possible to do the killing you need to do to survive and still hold on to your soul, before circumstances contrive to force everyone to kill again. And it’ll probably feel tired and a little sad. But this episode’s best moments are when it puts the forced morality lessons aside and just revels in being pulpy and kind of crazy and willing to do what it takes.
Andrew Conrad, Baltimore Sun: [When Rick said, “They’re screwing with the wrong people”] it seemed a little out of place to me, because I prefer the “actions speak louder than words” Rick to the “action movie hero catch line” Rick, but it definitely did not spoil what was one of the strongest episodes of the series.
Troy L. Smith, Cleveland Plain Dealer: The Walking Dead Season 4 certainly saved its best for last. This season’s finale, titled “A,” was easily its most intense body of work.
Dalton Ross, Entertainment Weekly: I like how the producers didn’t feel the need to kill someone just because it was a season-ender. And I like how after going pretty Grimeless over the past month, the show all came back to Rick and his new don’t you dare mess with me and my crew attitude. It is a more than welcome return.
Roth Cornet, IGN: An open ending works for a series like this one; it leaves room for the viewer to ruminate on the ultimate fate of these characters … I found this to be one of the stronger episodes of the latter half of this season.
Kevin Yeoman, ScreenRant: In the end, the survivors are in quite the pickle, but hearing Rick tell his crew their captors are “screwing with the wrong people,” feels like precisely the kind of action the show needs from its central characters. As far as the cliffhanger that “A” leaves the season on, it too is relatively simple, but it produces an effortless, effective, and welcome feeling of excitement and anticipation that the series hasn’t had since the end of season 2.
Sean Daly, Tampa Bay Times: In an altogether Hollywood denouement that might prove smart for the show’s future, if a polarizing tease for patient fans, the ballyhooed ep kicked with, lo and behold, some Schwarzeneggerian rah-rah.
Aaron Neuwirth, The Young Folks: Season 4 of The Walking Dead has now come to a close, and while there were plenty of bangs, “A” honestly felt like a bit of a whimper in its final moments.
Luke Gelineau, TV Equals: The big showdown that we’ve literally been waiting for over these last eight episodes was over before it began, and now we have to wait until October to see what happens. I was hoping that the showdown at Terminus would live up to the hype that they were building up, but man was it a disappointment. Nothing happened!
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix: The action was effective, and some of the character beats worked, too … I don’t know that anything that happened this season pulled me off of my belief that the show might be more interesting if Rick died — though this half-season at least made an effort into working on the non-Rick characters while Andrew Lincoln got some light duty — but if the idea of the final scene is for Rick and the show to once and for all stop dithering about whether he’s the leader, whether he’s a warrior, etc., then I’m all in favor of that.
Tim Surette, TV.com: It’s too bad that it was so singularly focused, because the Season 4 finale had the chance to be something great; instead, “A” was an okay middle-of-the-season installment but a pretty crummy season-ender.
Roger Catlin, TV Eye: There is still some artistry involved to the show; I could tell from watching the finale after missing a bunch of episodes … But at this point I’m not sure I need such a brutal show to make me think about the animalistic natures of men and what our limits are. I’ve learned mine, and that is mostly not watch The Walking Dead.
Richard Rys, Vulture: What was mostly a solid episode should have ended with a roar. Instead, it goes out with a sad trombone as Rick reveals what he says the Terminus folks are going to find out: “They’re screwing with the wrong people.” Dun dun DUN! … Looking back on this season, the promising first half gave way to a disappointing back-eight.
What did you think of The Walking Dead season four finale? Was it a disappointing ending, or did it make you that much more pumped for season five?