In The Walking Dead season four finale, Rick, Michonne and Carl have a horrific showdown with the Claimers just a day away from reaching the Terminus.
Continue reading for a spoiler filled recap and reaction to The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 16, entitled “A “.
A (make that a B plus)
At the start of Season 4, Rick Grimes was the most changed character on The Walking Dead. After the time jump in between seasons, Rick was no longer calling the shots as the leader of the prison community. He was in a different head-space after his psychological meltdown and more than questionable decision making. And in the place of his side arm was a shovel for gardening and digging pig pens.
Viewers identified with Rick as the central character which the primary story lines would revolve around but the second half of season 4 was different. Aside from “Claimed”, Rick only had a brief cameo in “Us” and a supporting role in “After” which he was unconscious for a large portion of that episode. His notable absence in a run of episodes could make for a strong argument that The Walking Dead could go on as a television series without Rick.
Although Rick’s group has reached the end of the line at Terminus train station, as the season finale’s title may suggest it is actually a new beginning in a couple of ways. In “A” , Rick reasserts himself as the lead protagonist taking viewers on a journey through the grim horrors of the zombie post-apocalyptic world.
Where Farmer Rick was one aspect of his fractured persona, “A” represents a new version of Rick, a man who become the totality of all his experiences. When Rick counsels Daryl, he’s also talking about what he’s personally comes to terms with, “It’s not on you …, you being back with us here now, it’s everything.”
Screwing Around With The Wrong People
Every episode in this half of the season is focussed on character development. “A” is Rick’s turn in the spotlight to show why he’s best equipped to be the group’s leader. The new Rick would not have risked his life to help the guy back in Season 2 who got his leg impaled on the fence after falling from the roof. In this episode, Rick is not racked with guilt or second guessing himself after his quick decision not to save that poor sap surrounded by walkers and repeatedly stabbing the attempted rapist who surrendered himself. Rick biting the leader of the Claimers in the neck like a walker is an intentional image. To use a slang phrase, he’s gone into “beast mode”.
Last episode’s ending with how Glenn’s newly reunited and hopeful group entered the Terminus is in contrast with Rick’s highly precautious, back door approach. After Woodbury and the Governor, Rick’s experiences has rightly taught him better than to stroll through the unlocked front gates with lowered weapons because a sign asked them to. Rick tells Michonne about the likelihood of the Terminus being a sanctuary “You don’t get to know, until you know” .
The rabbit snare that Rick showed Carl is a nice analogy for what the Terminus turned out to be. As much as I liked the final line by Rick, this is a rare moment when I wished AMC or the show would allow the word “screwing” to be substituted with profanity. 😉
Days Gone Bye
Though not overly compelling, Rick’s memories of the prison worked in context with present day events. The flashbacks fleshed out the change from Rick as a leader/hunter to a farmer which was not previously depicted on the show. It also served as the “before ” snapshot of a “before and after” photo to show how far Rick’s come along since then.
Along with giving Beth and Judith a presence in the finale, the flashbacks is a nod that Hershel is still very much “alive” on the show by the way he’s positively impacted the survivors. Further, Hershel’s humanity and agricultural way of life is in striking contrast to the bait and trap residents of the Terminus. Unless the quick shots of skulls and bones laying on the floor and Rick’s line about all we talk about is food is a crafty misdirection, it’s all but certain they are cannibals. Plus, they didn’t shoot to kill Rick’s group during the rat maze marked “A”/chase sequence which is further evidence they want their meat unspoiled. I also liked how the callback to the watch Hershel gave to Glenn ended up being a pivotal turning point for the episode.
Watch The Watching Dead Season 4 Episode 16 [Spoilers] Most Talked About Scene
There’s a nice “he’s not like other kids moment” in the flashbacks when we see Harry Potter look-alike playing with Lego in contrast to Carl working on his gun which comes into play later in the scene with Michonne. At first when Michonne opened up about her past again it felt a little random but it reinforced the season’s theme of “getting to come back” and it was her trying to reach out to Carl. Carl is not troubled by his dad brutally murdering the rapist, what’s bothering Carl is who he is and what he’s become. Carl didn’t look away when the rapist got repeatedly stabbed, he stared right at it and later admitted, “he deserved it”.
Never Trust. Never Again. We First, Always
There’s an uneasy, palpable tension running through this episode which was elevated by the ominous music. The stakes were raised early on with the fast but deadly resolution to the “Claimers” story arc. The potential of future story lines with Joe could have been an interesting possibility, especially because it appeared he had connected with Daryl and related to him in ways that others couldn’t. It was great Daryl met up with Rick but I actually liked that there wasn’t a joyous reunion with the rest of the survivors, it was pretty bleak in that train car “A” except for bad-ass Rick.
I’m curious to hear if others liked the build up to the Terminus in the second half of the episode as much as I did. While I do have some minor nitpicks, the balance between the gripping suspense, creepy Terminus reveal and character moments are satisfying for me despite the many loose ends in the finale and unanswered questions. For starters, where’s Beth and the rest of the missing survivors not in the train car? And what’s the mysterious room full of candles with quotes on walls and people’s names on the floor about?
A ring leader, archer and samurai walk into a box car. I can’t think of a punchline, but the set up leaves you hanging sort of like this episode. Cliffhangers in a season finale can be tricky. On one hand, I prefer finales that offer some sense of completion which “A” did with the Claimers story and the characters arcs of Michonne and Rick. On the other hand, if the ending isn’t strong enough it can leave some fans disappointed about the future of the series. A good sign the ending worked for me is that my mind is racing with several possibilities on how the Terminus can further be explored to start off Season 5.
Did the season finale end with a big enough bang for you or did it leave you disappointed? Did the Terminus reveal meet your expectations? Are you surprised no major character died (that we know of)?