TV Show Review

TV Review: THE WALKING DEAD: Season 4, Episode 16: A [AMC]

Jeff Kober Andrew Lincoln Danai Gurira Davi Jay The Walking Dead A

AMC’s The Walking Dead  A TV Show Review. The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 16: ‘A’ brought the season full circle, even if left open-ended. The previous episode ended at Terminus, the culmination of some of the happiest moments of season 4.2. Well the outcome to that can wait. ‘A’s’ initial focus was on Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs), and their evolution, from survivors of the present, to providers for the future, to an uncertain future on the run. The question, regarding their next evolutionary step, was answered for them by an unexpected, and very unpleasant turn. Joe (Jeff Kober) and his Reavers got the drop on Rick, Carl, and Michonne (Danai Gurira).

Daryl (Norman Reedus), ignorant of the Reavers’ quarry up to that point, attempted to intercede, on their behalf. For Joe, who really seemed to have taken a liking to Daryl, that amounted to lie, and a death sentence for both Daryl and Rick. Carl and Michonne were in for much worse.

Here, then, was where Rick turned a corner.

It took Rick the better part of two seasons to muster the ruthlessness to match Shane’s. It took the loss of Lori, the birth of Judith, and an embracing of the orphans of Woodbury to put that ruthlessness behind him. If the loss of the prison left him uncertain (as to the kind of man he would now have to be, for Carl’s sake), then their treatment, at the mercy of the Reavers, may have created a new default setting for Rick: survival without conscience or hesitation.

The tables were turned on the Reavers in a particularly brutal fashion, and I’m not all that ashamed to declare it a very satisfying series of arterial sprays, but neither Rick, nor Carl had that luxury. Carl will definitely develop PTSD issues (more, anyway), over both the attack, and the sight of his father’s wrath. Rick was mindful of what Carl must have thought of him, and the fact that both his lawful & homesteader days were likely gone forever.

I feel bad for saying this, but maybe Carl needs to put a few miles on his face. He may be too pretty for the greater prison yard, that is the zombie apocalypse landscape.

Previous experience (now including the Reaver run-in) prompted a round-the-way entry to Terminus (the idea being to stake out the meet location, to see if the reception was worth meeting), but not before some air was cleared. Michonne shared with Carl the heartbreak of her entry, to the zombie landscape, as a monster. Her time with the group brought her back from that, and the same has been true of Daryl. If Rick and Carl were now worried about becoming monsters (in their own, and each other’s eyes), they’d be in good company.

So it was, that a ring leader, his son, an archer, and a Samurai stole a peek behind the curtains of a magical place. For its first trick, Terminus caught the eye of Rick’s inner monster.

Ever had one of those dreams where it seems like you’re awake, but then things get weird, so you realize it’s a dream? Then, ever so slowly, certain details start going wrong, so you realize that it’s actually a nightmare? Well, so went the sanctuary that was Terminus.

The good news was once the illusion fell away, some friendly faces were there to greet them. Terminus did turn out to be a rally point, for all but one of season 4.2’s scattered groups; but no sanctuary. At least not yet. However sinister the reception was (complete with a lot of clearly well practiced bullet-herding, resulting in neither ricochets nor previous bullet holes), all who arrived have thus far survived.

That leaves the matter of what Terminus really stands for. My biggest concern was over the title, and the area Rick & co. were being herded towards (section A, of course). At one point, they ran past a cage full of what appeared to be a pile of freshly stripped Human bones, then a room any sacrificial cult would love to have (sure, it’s a shrine to the departed, but the departed whom, how, and why?). Throw in another container full of people, screaming for help (I was a little worried that Rick & co. might’ve blown past their missing colleagues), and the fact that the barbeque pit is always going, and a simple distinction came to mind.

Someone gives you an “A” grade: you get a cookie. Someone calls you “Grade A:” you get an apple lodged in your mouth. It was just a thought; I’ll leave it at that.

On the other hand, Terminus may represent a push-back against one of the show’s own mythological realities. The pendulum swing of fortune has left the show’s cast of characters, and its viewers, understandably wary of “sanctuaries.” There may be a flip side to that coin, however. For every Woodbury, with a would-be warlord, exploiting arriving survivors, there’s a would-be warlord that arrives at a genuine sanctuary. Governor Brian for both exhibit A and B. It then stands to reason that the founders of Terminus had already suffered their Governor Brian moment, and have since resolved to a much harsher vetting process for all incoming road warriors. Hence: “Never again,” written on the shrine wall. If anything, the presence of Joe’s Reavers would validate a policy of using Terminus to purge the country side of marauder bands, would-be warlords, and the other newly created/ enabled scum of the post-apocalyptic Earth. It’s possible that, to the people of Terminus, zombies are a new force of nature; people are the real threat to any effort to rebuild civilization.

The great irony may be that Rick & co. might have been on their way to becoming just such a force for destruction. Both Rick and Carl had agreed to beat their swords into plowshares, and came to regret it. If the loss of the prison removed from them the notion of sanctuary & civilization, their run in with the Reavers left them with less faith in their fellow man than ever. Their concern, over each being a monster in his own right, may be well justified; the rub being that Rick may have come around to Carol’s world view, and that Carol is still out there.

Put “Officer-not-so-friendly” Rick, and “weeding-the-flower-garden” Carol together, and we may find ourselves rooting for the next round of Reavers, out to seize/ destroy a genuine sanctuary full of otherwise decent folk. At least, as decent as Rick must have seemed to Tyreese, when they first met.

The finale to season 4 had an inconclusive ending, did not pack the same punch of the mid-season finale, nor had the same weight to it as ‘The Grove.’ To call it a disappointment, however, would be like calling The Empire Strikes Back the weakest of the first three Star Wars, on account of its low point ending. ‘A’ was conclusive enough, in the context of the season’s larger theme. Viewers were reminded that  a lot of work went into deprogramming Sheriff Rick, and “shoot-’em-all-let-God-sort-’em-out” Carl. Some dearly departed faces – ghosts of sanctuary past – graced the screen, as the representatives/ agents of the pair’s rehabilitation to a future society. All gone now. The Grimes homestead had been destroyed by one man’s different take on community, and what it stood for died with Joe’s crew.

The plowshares have been bloodied; the pigs have become boars, once more; and, as the new custodians of civilization may be about to discover, the central characters of The Walking Dead have become the wrong people to screw with.

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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