Review: The Walking Dead - "A" (finale)

By: Heather Seebach

**The following contains spoilers about S4E16**

The season 4 finale gave me everything I ever ask for of The Walking Dead - solid character writing, Michelle MacLaren's fantastic directing, and above all, BALLS. Show-runner and "A" co-writer Scott Gimple had already made it clear he was a big fan of the comics (especially after the recent Lizzie-Mika incident that totally mirrored Billy and Ben) and that fandom has served him well this season. I absolutely expected two of my favorite comic book moments to be addressed but I did not expect the show to take them so far! I could not be happier with this finale!

The episode alternates between flashbacks from the prison when Rick was a peaceful farmer, and the present where he has done something unspeakable to protect his loved ones. I adore the shot of his quivering, bloody hands and glassy stare. We have been without Rick for many episodes prior to this, so it was great to get a solid Rick episode!

What Rick did, as I predicted, is pulled right from Kirkman's comics. I've been calling Joe & co. "the bandits" since they first appeared in "Claimed" because I had a feeling they were meant to parallel that crew. That assumption totally paid off last night when the bandits cornered Rick, Carl, and Michonne and we got to see this play out in all its disturbing glory:

Of course, there were a few changes, like Michonne being there instead of Abraham. Much of the dialogue, however, was pulled right from the page, like Rick growling, "He's mine!" at Carl's attempted rapist. I figured we might get someone threatening to rape Carl, but I never expected to see this man force Carl face-down and crying with a hand over his head Hills Have Eyes-style! That was some disturbing shit! I know Rick ripping Joe's throat out is the moment that has everyone talking but the way Carl was handled impressed me immensely! And for young actor Chandler Riggs to do that scene - wow! That is some heavy shit for a child actor. Rick eviscerating the rapist just off-camera was also intense as fuck! LOVED Carl's cold gaze forward as it happened.

This was the first time in a long time that I felt like our heroes were in legitimate danger, which is why that scene was so intense! If "The Grove" represented The Walking Dead finally growing some balls, then "A" represents it growing some hair on those balls! The whole bandits sequence was bleak, brutal, and remarkably faithful to the comic book. I'm not the type of purist who always needs the show to be like the comic - shit, I LOVE it when it strays in new, bold ways (like Gimple's own Sophia in the barn shocker) - but sometimes seeing these crucial moments come to life  uncensored  is so refreshing!

I also really dug the moment between Michonne and Carl when we had assumed Carl is now terrified of his father but, in fact, he's scared of what he'll think of him. "I'm not what he thinks I am. I'm a monster, too." Rick has tried so hard to prevent Carl from losing his humanity in this way but clearly it cannot be stopped. Carl has some dark thoughts brewing in his brain that we don't even know about yet. I am excited to see how they manifest in the future!

In the gore department, I loved that random dude getting his eyeball ripped out by a gang of walkers! Nasty stuff! And of course, the throat rip - yum! This poor walker actually made me laugh - it looked so pathetic, like it just wanted to wave hi!

Hey guys, what's up?

Y U Do Dis??

Once Joe and the bandits are dispatched, Rick & co. make their way to Terminus. Rick has the good sense to sneak in the back door (go Rick!) and I LOVED how quickly he reacted when he recognized the orange backpack, the poncho, etc. Welcome back, badass Rick! We've missed ye! Next up comes a very tense shoot-out where it's obvious the "Termites" (as Andrew Lincoln calls them) are corralling Rick & co. into a trap like cattle! The how-to-make-a-trap scene earlier in the woods totally foreshadowed this, too!

We are introduced to Gareth, who is clearly the leader of these people. By now, I think most fans have guessed that these people are probably cannibals, a reflection of The Hunters in the comics. There was no Gareth in the books, but there was a similar fellow named Chris. Whoever he is, this guy is already very dangerous with that shit-eating smile! He had his own friend Alex killed without a blink of an eye! Seeing as the episode ends with everyone trapped in Terminus, I suspect this Gareth guy will be the primary antagonist next season (perhaps along with Mary). I'm into that, as I always love a villain with false charm ala The Governor. Plus, he's not bad on the eyes - also ala the Governor ;)

In case you're still not convinced these people are cannibals (look at all the grills!), we saw cattle cars full of people and a pile of meat-stripped bones! Did you notice: when asked why they take in people, he responded, "When people become part of us, we get stronger." Come on!!

The question remains: where are Beth and Judith? We have seen no sign of Beth since she was taken - was it these people? Is she already roasting on a spit somewhere? As for the baby, she, Tyreese, and company probably have not shown up at Terminus yet but we saw powdered milk on the ground outside the car. Hmm. Should we expect a Judith kabob in the near future? I hope so ;)

The episode ends with Rick delivering a line that apparently has made a lot of people groan, but it was actually pulled right from the page. Take a look:

Of course, they cannot say "fuck" on AMC so it lost some of its effect. I suppose they could have gone the Breaking Bad route and bleeped it (that would have been awesome), but either way, I am pumped! I cannot wait to see how they get out of this! I imagine some fans are disappointed by the cliffhanger (c'mon, it had to happen) or the fact that nobody died, but personally, I loved it! Gimple ended this season similar to how season 2 ended, with an exciting shot from the comics. Here's hoping we don't lose THIS show-runner and he continues to keep The Walking Dead bold and interesting!

As always, I will leave you with some amusing anecdotes from Reddit:

 ^^^ good observation!!

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