Rick Grimes. (Gene Page/AMC) Rick Grimes. (Gene Page/AMC)

Note: This recap contains spoilers.

One of the biggest shocks from the season four finale of “The Walking Dead” was, in fact, a character’s death. But for any fans of the show’s mainstays — Rick, Carl, Michonne and all — there is no need for panic. They are all alive at the end of the episode — just not alive and well.

Having spent so much of the second half of the season away from the aforementioned trio, the season finale finally catches up with them on the road to Terminus. They’re hungry and road weary and ready to end their journey. They avoid several encounters with walkers and camp out in a van.

It’s a slight rustle in the woods that signals danger. Joe and his gang finally catch up to Rick in search of revenge. Joe is about to execute Rick, and he promises to get to Daryl, Michonne and Carl shortly. (Daryl, who had recently joined Joe’s group, attempts to reason with Joe and is met with a vicious beating by a pair of Joe’s cronies.) Instead, Rick somehow turns the tables and in one of his most violent and raw moments, bites through Joe’s throat, spraying blood everywhere and killing Joe. Rick violently stabs another gang member who had been abusing Carl, continuing to knife him well after he’s dead. Michonne fights her way to freedom, as does Daryl. It’s a shocking and gruesome scene, particularly Rick’s actions, but it really eliminates any doubt that Rick will do anything to protect his son.

If there is a theme that has stood out this season, it’s internal demons — the haunting reality of what needs to be done to survive and how savage the present world can be. Rick’s actions, and the relationship between Rick and Carl delves into this time and time again. Carl confesses to Michonne that he both fears his father and the violence inside of himself. Carl knows he is not innocent anymore.

The season finale’s flashbacks, which gave us a few fleeting moments with Hershel, offered a glimpse into the peaceful life Rick was trying to foster for Carl at the prison. The scenes and interactions between Herschel and Rick are juxtaposed with the treacherous conditions outside the prison. Beyond the walls of safety, there seems to be nothing but violence.

After the bloody fight with Joe, Rick, Carl, Daryl and Michonne finally make it to Terminus. Both weary and skeptical, they bury a bag full of weapons — in case they might need them later — in the woods and decide to enter the compound by hopping over a fence, forgoing the main entrance.

The first encounter they have is with a couple of quasi-hipster looking guys named Gareth and Alex. It’s a relatively calm exchange, but tension lingers. The entire place just doesn’t feel right. Rick does not trust anyone. Soon enough, Rick spots a watch in Alex’s pocket. This sets Rick off. (Does Rick recognize the watch as the one that belonged to Glenn?) Rick grabs Alex, demanding to know where he got the watch. Eventually shots are fired — lots of them. There is frantic running and yelling. The group of four dashes through Terminus, avoiding every single gunshot, which seems entirely implausible until it’s revealed that the shots seem to be aimed at their feet; the snipers aren’t shooting to kill. Eventually, they are in the middle of a courtyard and surrounded on all sides. They have no choice but to surrender and are made to enter a train car. Inside, they are reunited with Glenn, Maggie, Sasha and Bob. Eugene, Abraham, Rosita and Tara are there, too. It seems like a dead end for the group — they are trapped, unarmed and vastly outnumbered. But the final words of the season, uttered by Rick, hint at another epic battle to come next season.

“They screwed with the wrong people.”

Lingering questions: It’s the end of the season, so questions abound. What will happen to Rick and the reunited group from the prison? Just what kind of operation is Terminus? We’re still wondering where Beth is, as well as Carol, Tyreese and baby Judith. And how did Maggie, Glenn and the rest of them also end up in a rail car? We’ll have to wait until next season to find out.

Carl Grimes (Gene Page/AMC).

Past ‘The Walking Dead’ recaps:

‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Terminus, finally
‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Breaking point

‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Peach schnapps, or moonshine?

‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Saving humanity
‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Following the scattered survivors