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'The Walking Dead' - 'A': We Laugh And Cry Through A Brother's Eyes For Now

By TK | TV Reviews | March 31, 2014 | Comments ()


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You didn’t really buy into the whole “arrive/survive” bit, did you? Don’t you know by now? Don’t you know that there can be no sanctuary?

That’s how we arrive at the end of Season Four of The Walking Dead. We leave just as we started — with the knowledge that nothing is safe, that no one except those who have become your family can be trusted. It was a grim and deeply cynical episode, but at the same time, it was also replete with the truths that we’ve known all along. The ones next to you, the ones you came up and lived through everything with? They are your family, and they are the ones you can rely on, the ones that you need with you.

We opened with Rick, bloodied and dazed, setting the tone for what’s to come. It’s apt that we got to see Michonne, Rick, and Carl as close to a family as can be. It’s Carl, too, that asks the question that will become the central theme of the episode — who are we? After what they’ve done, what they’ve had to do, who are they? What are they? And through a series of grisly vignettes, we see that they are what they’ve always been — survivors. Most importantly, we see why Rick was made the leader so long ago, something that the show seemed like it lost sight of. Rick leads because he does what needs to be done, and when he’s at his best, he does it without flinching. And that includes all of the terrible acts that come with it, the least of which was leaving a man to be swarmed by walkers.

But for a moment, all was well. As Rick and Michonne sat and talked of Terminus and what the future holds, as Carl slept peacefully, it seemed like their road would be an easy one. And then, the marauders came (FYI — the group that Daryl fell in with is a version of a group from the comics that came to be known as the Marauders. It feels apt). We see now what not even Daryl realized — that they are men of sheer id, of venom and hate and utterly without limits or conscience. Even as Daryl offers himself as sacrifice, they give no quarter and the depths of their savagery is truly revealed. It’s here, in those dark moments as the unspeakable is threatened, that Rick finally comes back and once again becomes the man he needed to be, and repays that savagery in kind, while Carl sees the animal that Rick has always hoped he could hide.

The aftermath of that struggle was a peculiar one, though I enjoyed the brief scene with Daryl and Rick, strengthening the bonds of family, and showing how Daryl understands the difference between what Rick did because he had to, and what the marauders did simply because they wanted to. Theirs was a path carved out of the basest of desires, whereas Rick’s was one carved out of the simple will to live and protect.

And at last, they arrive at Terminus, and it doesn’t take long for us to see that something is amiss, that something is rotten and wrong with that bucolic-seeming exterior. Once again, it is Rick who realizes the truth and takes action, even if it’s ultimately for naught, and they’re herded, like cattle, through a labyrinth of bones and candles and names and corpses, to finally be united with their friends in a dark, locked prison.

It wasn’t until those final moments that I understood the purpose behind the flashbacks to Hershel, and I have to admit that while there was a weird pacing to the episode, it was those moments that grounded it. This was probably Andrew Lincoln’s strongest episode of the season — his character’s plague of self-doubt and guilt hasn’t been particularly well-written or effective, even if it was at times understandable. Yet here, in the last minutes of this season, we see the truth — that Rick is ultimately reflective of the group itself. In times of peace, that’s where we’ll find him, and when they’re fractured and broken and lost, so is he. And when their backs are to the wall, when desperation fuels them, then Rick can — must — be that man, the one who tears out throats in the night and strangles men in secret. That’s been the problem all along, I suppose — that the character has been the most well-written when he’s had a clear path, a sense of focus and purpose. The writers have not excelled at casting that pall of doubt and uncertainty over him.

Well, be grateful, because it appears that those days are gone. We’re finished with this season of The Walking Dead, and we have a long time to wait and contemplate what will happen to those trapped inside that car. This was a solid season overall, even if it had a bit of a bumpy start. Rick’s arc was a bit of a mess, but they finally took the time to pause and dig down beneath the surface of each of the main characters, and while that took a while, it was worth it. However awkward some of the scripting was, however clumsy some of the plotting may have been (with this episode being no exception — particularly Michonne’s confession to Carl, which was brutal in how stilted and mistimed it was), we feel like we know them all a little bit better now, like we have more invested in them all, instead of just a few of them.

It’s not the reunion you may have hoped for, but then again, if there’s one thing we should have learned by now, it’s that hope is a rare commodity in this world. It’s fitting then, that just as last season ended in fire, that this one ends in darkness. And that’s where we’ll stay, until next time.



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  • Nadiney

    Good god, this episode. So much feels. So much. That Scene (merber sperlers?) was fucking awesome. Brutal, incredibly hard to watch, some aspects of it literally stomach churning, but OH MY GOD. I cheered, I can't pretend I didn't. I lost it and cheered. Some feral, primal stuff happened, frankl. Some stuff got worked through, for me. Holy shit. That scene. I've never liked or respected Rick more than when he did something so brutal and insane as he did. But for the right reasons.
    SPOILERS, GUYS. SPOILERS.
    This was one of the first episodes when I actually really feared for the safety of some of the headliners. It really did like seem like Daryl would be beaten to death and Joe so casually declaring that in fact yes, Daryl would get beaten to death while Daryl is just getting pummelled to shit in the background was disturbing.
    EVERYTHING with Carl was just. Fuck that stuff. Fuck it. Hideous. Well acted, well performed, NIGHTMARE FUEL.
    On the one hand I'm half surprised it took so long to get to that point, on the other hand I'm not surprised it did eventually happen. We had to have The Road happen in some form or another otherwise we're just playing make believe.
    I understand the virus now, the Flu. This season has been about The Sickness That Breeds when the safety nets and security are gone. Your actual literal medical sicknesses that breed when hygiene slacks off and supposedly intelligent people grow crops down hill of your Walker/graveyard.
    And then the mental and emotional ones. Lizzie, Joe and the Marauders, even the Guvnaaargh. Without order and with almost constant chaos, you lose people in a thousand different ways.
    And now Terminus. Cannibals, cult worship and human sacrifice, both combined we don't know yet, but it's another sickness, bred in the chaos and the darkness.
    I like how Rick more than anyone fights that off, how Carl only fights it because Rick tells him to, how Michonne and Daryl just sort of shrug and accept that sometimes You Have To Do Things but it doesn't make you a monster, it makes you a survivor.
    Michonne's monologue to Carl was exquisite and perfectly nailed that quandary; Sometimes at the end of the world you go completely insane, but you can come back if you want.
    I have many questions for next season. Primarily I'm wondering about Beth. I don't recall exactly what car she was taken in, someone said maybe a hearse but I didn't see a similar vehicle at Terminus. And I know BethBurgers might be on the menu but just pragmatically I think if she's there she's alive and being fed up. She's too small and slim to be on the menu right away. I don't know if the Terminus people factor that in but...
    I mean the Hansel And Gretel vibe is INTENSE, it is. Welcome to this Gingerbread cottage of FUCKING CANNIBALS, even down to the gang all leaving their own little breadcrumbs, the breadcrumbs Rick saw that clued him in to what was going on.
    Hopefully those crumbs lead Carol and Ty to the stash of guns and food Rick left and Carol saves the damn day.
    But either way, Terminus is creepy as fuck. All it needed to be creepier would be like, a dust record player blasting classical music over everything.
    I am curious as to when/if Carol and Ty come back, what they'll tell people about Lizzie. I mean, Carol and T both also tie into that 'You do what you have to do, it doesn't make you a monster' thing. Carol thought she had to kill Karen and David, but she's not a bad person( I really am surprised it was Carol after all). Lizzie killed people because she was broken, sick.
    In fact, the Hansel and Gretel thing could be the framework for this entire second half of the season. Everyone followed their paths to their gingerbread houses and everyone got screwed over by some wicked witch or another.

    I can't wait for next year. Holeeeeee shyit.

  • TK

    A long time ago I said that if this show REALLY wanted to prove that they weren't fucking around and that no one is safe, they'd kill off Daryl. It would cause an outright REVOLT among fans, and I'd be devastated, but it would also be brilliant, fearless writing.

    And I'll admit, there was actually a moment during this episode where I actually thought that they were going to do it. I was like, holy shit, are they really going to get that hardcore?

    They didn't, and ultimately I'm glad, but it's a testament to some solid writing that I even imagined it happening for a second.

  • Nadiney

    Definitely, I agree entirely.

    The way it turned SO quickly from 'this is nice, this quiet peace' to so much violence was just totally out of nowhere and it changed the entire dynamic. Normally we're pretty comfortable with our main characters getting mashed up but surviving, but this changed that.

    And as well, because of the nature of it. I think we all sort of expect that if anything happened to Daryl, it would be heroic, and he'd get a drawn out goodbye, or would literally ride a horse into oblivion, if he didn't bleed slowly in Carol's arms. Something.

    But this really felt like he might just be beaten to death in the road, like it would be something SO brutal and ugly.

    it was intense. Intense is literally the only word I can think of. My heart was thudding. God damned, excellent.

    And the write up also, as always.

  • stryker1121

    Daryl not explaining what happened to Beth (or Rick not asking for details) was one of those annoying hand-wavey things lots of shows do nowadays. Know the writers want to move on w/ the scene, but why wouldn't Daryl tell Rick that Beth was kidnapped? For that matter, why isn't anyone asking Eugene what caused the plague? I think Glenn may have asked him, and he said it was classified. Other than that, nobody's said a questioning word.

  • Peter J4

    I'm not sure why he would tell Rick. He doesn't know what happened to her. He probably just assumes she's dead and not to look back.

  • God Of Bal-Sagoth

    Yeah, those weird little inconsistencies have really been bothering me. The Beth thing is idiotic. She was a part of the family, Rick asked straight up if she was dead, Daryl said no, so WHY wouldn't you want to know what happened? WHY isn't everyone freaking out about Eugene and asking him more questions? It's lazy writing so that you can save the surprise for a later episode, a kind of lame cliffhanger technique. It's dumb. I like the show but man, it makes me grit my teeth every so often.

  • stryker1121

    As for Daryl, he could've given Rick the story off-camera. Then before they make the final push for Terminus, Rick would say, "What about Beth?" To which Daryl replies, "I told ya, man, she could be anywhere. Maybe the Terminus folks have seen her." Not the most elegant plotting but at least something pointing to Rick and Daryl caring about the hell happened to this girl they're close to.

  • Naye

    I thought "gone" summed it up pretty well. Given everything they've been through over the past few seasons, every one they've lost, the people that are still missing, i think i'd be tired of hearing stories about terrible things that happened to people I cared about. Im sure that Rick thought if Daryl could have done anything to locate Beth he would have, so no further explanation needed. They all split up. They all thought each other were dead. "Gone" means gone, and probably not coming back.

    The Eugene part pissed me off, but they arent all that concerned about him at this point anyway. Id be more upset if they were just blindly following him along with Army dude.

  • RilesSD

    Yeah, at that point, Darryl is exhausted and a bit devastated. No need to go into detail after all they've been through. She's just...gone. (Plus, if her own sister doesn't give a fuck about her, why should Rick.)

  • K Landoni

    Sooo... did Michonne's boyfriend and friend eat her baby when they turned? Was that what I was supposed to pick up from that story?

    ETA: No, that can't be it because she watched them turn. Ugh, that whole Michonne/Carl exchange was confusing.

  • Peter J4

    Walkers killed or ate the baby when she was out on a supply run. Her boyfriend and friend were high and were injured and dying when she got back. She watched them turn and then made them her pets to punish them and to punish herself.

    The point of the story was that this was her darkest moment but she got through, just as Carl will get through.

  • glittergirl1970

    Michonne and Carl have almost ruined this season for me. I can't stand their interactions.

  • A couple of things: I predict Carol (and Tyrese) comes to Rick and Co.'s rescue--it'll be the perfect turnaround for Rick. He's been forced to accept what he's become, and he'll be able to better accept what Carol did.

    So that grill is constantly going? Seems a good way to toughen up fresh meat--it's not like you can just leave it sitting around, unrefrigerated. And even though someone keeps saying, "Get so and so a plate, that plate only has meat on it (despite the gardens we saw). Don't these people know about the nutrition pyramid?

  • Naye

    Did anybody notice how ridiculous the commercial time was?

  • Laura

    Always.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I did enjoy the episode, but I can't help but think that given their reservations about the place and the preparations they DID make, that Rick should have had a better plan than that. I mean, they've got Chekov's buried guns, but maaaaybe you should have, say, left Daryl and/or Michonne on the outskirts of the compound as a back-up plan? Or to keep your damn mouth shut when you saw the watch, poncho, and riot gear? That was the wrong time to stage a revolt.

  • Naye

    Methinks he was under the impression that all that good meat they were about to eat was his friends cuz he smacked the plate down. He only had a few seconds more before they watched him expectantly to eat and then what was he gonna say "we're all vegetarians"?

  • Bert_McGurt

    Yeah, I can appreciate that much. But still, after all this time you'd think he'd realize the need for a Plan B. Or C.

  • Brooke Michelle

    "Is this meat free-range organic?"

  • drerhard

    They're cannibals. It's obvious. There were bloodied human bones piled up in the foreground during during the wrangling scene. There were also several clumsy statements about how they grow stronger with each person that arrives. Cannibals, I tells ya!

  • Naye

    I actually just had to explain all of that to my coworker. Like you didnt see the human bone pile?lol. It did take me a while to work through the candle room myself but I was able to come to the conclusion that they once were a nice camp and had too many people coming through and several people ended up dying of starvation.

  • Skyler Durden

    Seriously irritated that they seem to be dancing around the subject of what Terminus is, when the entire internet seems to have agreed on it a week ago. They're obviously waiting to make it the Big Reveal next season opener, along with the fact that water is wet.

  • JustOP

    The best episode of the season. When Rick truly gets to 'act' Rick, it's always amazing television. Andrew Lincoln has an awesome PTSD-type face, and when that comes along, you know shits about to hit the fan.

  • Lucia

    There was baby formular on the floor, does that mean Tyrese/Carol/Judith are/were already there? Where is everyone? Way to leave us hanging!

  • Brooke Michelle

    I think it was powdered milk, not necessarily baby formula. Likely given to the captives for feeding before slaughter- like milk fed veal.

  • Oh my damn, I did not even think of that. And now I can't un-think it. Powdered milk just got real horrifying.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    Exactly. I wonder exactly what was on that barbecue grill...

  • Brooke Michelle

    Beth. I think it was Beth on the grill.

  • John G.

    you think Beth is really gone?

  • Oh yeah, she's a hot dog for sure.

  • Brooke Michelle

    Thinking on it more...nah probably not.

  • Maydays

    I don't think Beth is really gone. I think she's in the other stock car. There's never been a major character death that we haven't witnessed, right?

  • Naye

    i think Beth was kidnapped by someone else entirely. Terminus has a pretty good thing going. Their food comes to them, they dont have to go out looking for it. And they apparently have a stockpile since there were other people screaming in cars besides Rick's people.

  • mairimba

    Ya, but whoever kidnapped Beth wanted the people that showed up at the funeral home well fed also. Given that there was newly placed food in the pantry.

  • Naye

    That could be true, but I kind of thought the food in the pantry was just to keep the bait there. And they were only in the house a couple of hours before Beth was taken. That being said i don't see any real motive for just kidnapping either. Guess we'll find out in October.

  • Lauren_Lauren

    The forest talk between Michonne and Carl was some of the best acting that Chandler Riggs has ever done. Granted, that's not saying much, but this was the first time that I connected with Carl.

    Edit to add obligatory He was licking meeeeeeeeee!

  • LL

    whaaa. the best acting he ever did was when he finally cried over his father's potential death. maybe it was the darkness that helped him out-- his squinty "cry eyes" weren't as visible

  • Jenn TheYellowDart

    I loved Rick's/the episode's last line. It ended STRONG. Finally, after all that...uncertainty.

  • TenaciousJP

    Really? I kind of laughed when I heard it. They should have just taken that FCC fine or pulled a Breaking Bad kind of audio drop-out.

  • Jenn TheYellowDart

    To each their own. I have been so bored of Rick the peaceloving hippie pig farmer and now I want him to go full on psycho. Call the line cheesy, but I liked it.

  • Maydays

    I also thought it was silly. I guess they had to set us up for Rick's mindset next season, but it seemed action hero-cheesy. Especially after such a tense/difficult episode.

  • TenaciousJP

    "They're going to be feel real stupid.... when they find out that I still have explosive diarrhea from all that pudding Carl fed me three days ago."

  • Naye

    lol ITA because it was the most predictable line, I thought he was going to say something completely different like "I can melt metal with my mind" or "I come back to life" or something crazy that would constitute an actual cliffhanger. Instead I was like "well duh, pshhh"

  • Pixidilious

    I wish this had happened "They're going to feel real stupid..." pulls out a gun from his pants somewhere then slides open the door "when they realise that this door isn't locked" then puts on his sunglasses and makes it rain bullets for 10 minutes before ending the finale by grabbing Mischonne in an embrace and standing on a pile of burning cannibal bodies.... But I guess I'll have to wait for Transporter 342 to see that fantasy play out.

  • RilesSD

    I was fully expecting him to say "They're going to be feel real stupid.... when they find out who WE ARE." Thought that would have been a strong ending.

  • mairimba

    Thought that too. Based on the earlier conversation with Carl and Michonne. I even said it out loud before he finished the sentence thinking that would be it.

  • UGH. I thought I would throw up over the marauders scene--that was almost too much for me. I'm glad Rick was sharp enough to see something was wrong so quickly (creepy how the guy who greeted used the exact same phrase as the woman who greeted Maggie & Co.), but it didn't much matter. I convinced myself Carl was going to run off at the last second.

    This wait will be cruel and unusual punishment. I'll miss your write-ups too, TK.

  • Brian Merritt

    Did anyone else notice the "A" by every door they were guided though? And then the "A" on the boxcar. Significance? Besides being the trap-path.

  • When they were being herded through the compound, one of the Terminus soldiers yelled "Get them off B," which prompted someone with an AK to change their direction with gunfire.

  • TenaciousJP

    "A" was also the name of the episode.

  • ini5o

    A reference to "The Scarlet Letter?" Maybe "A" here means "animals?"

  • LL

    I can't be the only one who was rooting for Carl's death as the rest of the group were lead to the train car. Sure, it would have been tragic, but then we would have moved on and we'd never have to see his attempt at acting again.

    Someone should have died in the finale, it's crazy. Those snipers have the worst aim ever.

  • ini5o

    The writers sure set up the final moments as if Carl was going to die; what in the world exactly was the need for the Terminus people to line Rick et al up slowly like that to enter the car?

    I also think that the shooters were purposely bad shots; it was their way of herding Rick's group exactly where they wanted them to be.

  • I got the impression that it was a dominance display, exerting control over the new captives. Moving the livestock in an orderly fashion.

  • Afferbeck

    Yeah they seemed to drag that out for no reason. 'Drop your guns and get in the car' would have served the same purpose. Maybe the guy is just a creep and wanted to be in complete control and make them think they were going to be executed one by one or something.

  • Brian Merritt

    Yeah, they were funneling them into the trap. Just like with the rabbit snare. After that snare scene, I knew Terminus was a trap. Still enjoyed every minute.

  • van1968

    I thought it was pretty clear that the snipers were driving them, not trying to kill them.

  • Guest

    Yep, just like that rabbit, they were snared in a trap.

  • LL

    yeah, but they shot a million bullets at them, at least a couple should have accidentally hit them. they were zig zagging all about.

  • kali yuga

    Apparently there's no such thing as ricochet in the zombie apocalypse.

  • Pixidilious

    hahahaha

  • Brock Samsa

    Absolutely.

  • mairimba

    And we're left with the same question from the mid season finale. Where's Judith (Carol, Tyrese, and Beth)?

  • Laura

    I'm hoping that somehow Carol et al either somehow saw what happened to Rick and Co., or will have some sort of sense of danger when they reach Terminus and will ultimately help Rick and Co. escape.

  • mairimba

    Right? Like maybe they were close and then heard the gun shots and hid and saw everything. And then they'll come and save the gang and Rick will shit his pants cause Carol saved his ass. Boom!

  • John G.

    Not just saves his ass, but has his baby with her.

  • Naye

    We know that Carol Tyreese and Judith are en route to Terminus, and thankfully havent made it yet thanks to their delay at the Grove.

  • Natallica

    I have never watched The Walking Dead and I have no plans on watching it, but I NEEDED to say "hell yeah!" to the Mastodon reference.

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