Hope and spirits are high right now on "The Walking Dead," but is another grisly tragedy just around the corner?
Not quite eight episodes after the fall of the prison, several key "Walking Dead" characters have reached a new safe haven: Terminus, the "sanctuary" advertised on various maps and landmarks in the post-apocalyptic wilderness. By the end of last night's episode, "Us," we finally entered the fabled place — and while it seems to be a peaceful land of barbecue banquets, we're worried that there's more than meets (meats?) the eye here.
Here are our burning questions following "Us":
1. Should we trust Terminus?: On the surface, what's not to trust? After several harsh weeks on the road, Glenn and Maggie and many of their pals now have the prospect of a roof over their head and hot meals in their bellies. But there's something a little bit too perfect about Terminus, isn't there?
Some fans have speculated that Terminus, described last night by Abraham as "the end of the line," is exactly that: The end of the line for these survivors. Terminus, according to some theories, is a trap, with the organizers aiming to capture fellow humans and do some horrible, unthinkable things with their new prisoners. Cannibalism is the hot theory, but there are other possibilities, too, like slave labor and Woodbury-inspired gladiator games.
Of course, maybe Terminus is exactly as advertised. Maybe it's the safe haven the heroes of "Walking Dead" need. But then it would just be Prison 2.0, and that's a bit of a boring outcome after only eight episodes on the road, isn't it?
2. Who will die at Terminus?: We haven't lost a single major character since the prison raid, where Hershel lost his head and the Governor went the way of the dinosaur. (Not the zombie dinosaur, unfortunately.) With the finale one week away, we're destined for another rendezvous with the reaper.
But will death come at Terminus, or somewhere else? While there are others still out there on the road, the majority of the show's main characters exists at Terminus right now, like high-probability targets Bob and Sasha, or newbies Rosita and Eugene. If the show is going to give one of our beloved characters the axe (or samurai sword, as was the case in Hershel's death), Terminus is a likely place for it to happen.
3. Will Rick and friends reach Terminus?: Believe it or not, the trio of Rick, Carl and Michonne has only appeared in four of the past seven episodes of "The Walking Dead" — and that's barely including last night's installment, as the crew only appeared for a single scene.
It's been an unusually light season for those guys. Even though we know they're on track to reach their friends at Terminus, it still feels possible that the show will zag left and keep Rick, Carl and Michonne from reaching their likeliest destination.
4. Will Daryl and his "friends" reach Terminus?: Now that he's cross-bros with Joe and the Claimers, Daryl appears to be back on the path of darkness, regressing to his role as a low-level sidekick, just as he was in the days of Merle. Has he given up hope on Beth? Has he lost faith in finding his friends?
The biggest question of all, where Daryl is concerned: What will he do when his new group of allies come upon Rick — will Daryl be able to save his old friend and take him to Terminus? Or are we about to see the fall of Daryl Dixon, as I've predicted in the past?
5. Will Terminus kill the fans?: The back half of season four has been an interesting journey. Unlike seasons past, "Walking Dead" really embraced the separated story lines, taking its time to put the band back together. With only one episode left in the season, it feels like there are still so many plot possibilities up in the air — almost too many to resolve in a single hour.
With that in mind, how brutal is the season finale going to be on fans? Not just in terms of what happens in the finale, but what doesn't happen? Are we going to be left on an excruciating cliff hanger? That seems the likely bet right now. Our advice: Prepare yourself for a hair-pulling twist that'll leave you hungry for more "Walking Dead" sooner than the show is willing to offer.
6. What will we think of season four?: That's another interesting question. Again, season four has proceeded at a much different pace than any other season of "Walking Dead." By this time next week, we'll be able to look back on the whole picture of the season, and determine whether or not show runner Scott Gimple's deliberate pacing paid off the way he wanted.
Depending on how the finale wraps things up, season four could go down as the show's strongest year to date — or it could go out with an asterisk. We'll know by this time next week.
What do you think is going to happen in the "Walking Dead" finale?