The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 16 “A” , Season Finale Review

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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. ;)

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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)?

More Posts You Might Like:

The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 15 “Us” Review

The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 14 “The Grove” Review

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Posted on March 31, 2014, in Television, The Walking Dead and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 52 Comments.

  1. I just watched the finale episode and was waiting for your review! I loved the encounter with the Claimers and the way Rick bitten the neck of the old man makes him so bad ass in a crazy way. But hey! what choices did he have, right?

    Now about Terminus. We all know something is fishy with the place and those people. I still don’t know what do they want with Rick and gang, but am thinking maybe they are satanist or cannibal? or something worse because of the scene with the room filled with candles and the train car. But unfortunately we have to wait till October or so for that :D

    I want to say thank you for your weekly update on The Walking Dead. It has been fun discussing the episodes, reading your review and reading others comments as well. Till next season!

    • Oh man, the encounter with the Claimers was tense and messed up! Watching Carl get assaulted forced Rick into another level of bad-ass, yeah he had to do it.

      When the BBQ lady handed a plate of meat to Carl I kept thinking … you probably don’t want to eat that haha. My guess is that the candle room looked like a memorial and the quote suggests something terrible happened to them. It’s going to be a long wait till October before we find out the details.

      I totally appreciate you waiting for the review and commenting. It makes it a lot more fun having other fans to discuss the show with! :)

  2. Nice analysis of the episode. I for one didn’t like the reunion in the boxcar. I know they’re in a tough spot in there, but no hugs… not even a smile??? Rick is obviously determined to escape but without that relief followed by excitement of a reunion, I feel like everyone else in there is just thinking, “uhhh dude, we’re stuck in here.” I do think he earned Abraham’s immediate respect though with that line.

    What did you think of Daryl’s explanation to Rick regarding Beth. “She’s just gone.” What is Rick to think of that? Kinda weird. Wonder why he didn’t just say someone took her. I was looking for that car somewhere inside the Terminus compound but I didn’t see it. Might watch again to take a closer look.

    Do you think Tyrese and Carol will play any role in the groups escape from the boxcar?

    • Do you think Carol may have taken a look at the situation and decided to avoid Terminus, once again showing a sharply focused survival instinct?

    • Thanks a lot Gene! I expect there’ll be tears of joy when Rick and Carl reunite with Judith. I can see why the boxcar reunion didn’t work for some, you’d think they’d be excited/relieved to know they’re alive especially after their stolen articles are worn by Terminus people (or maybe Glenn’s sorry to see them trapped there too?). Although it could have had more punch, I think the writers wanted to end on Rick’s defiant line in which they needed a certain tone. Yeah everyone was pretty bummed out. I also think Abraham does respect Rick for that line; I noticed Abraham respects the authority of the scientist too.

      It was kinda weird why Daryl didn’t explain how Beth got nabbed. Maybe because it’s a crushing loss for Daryl, It’s what he tells himself. If there is something he is able or could be doing to bring her back it’ll eat him up inside even more. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but yeah Daryl should have just told Rick.

      Your comment below was what I was thinking, that Carol, Tryeese and Judith arrived at the Terminus first. Thanks so much for supporting my blog and commenting on each episode post. I truly appreciate it and it’s fun discussing the show with you!

      • I think Daryl doesn’t mention Beth being kidnapped because he is still beating himself up over it, and coupled with joining the Claimers, who were tracking down Rick without him being aware of it. He was still wrecked with guilt at that point. Nice write-up, man.

      • You got it! I always like your breakdowns. You’re one of the first sites I check on Mondays :) Now I guess we’ll have to wait until October again. Got any shows you’re interested in this spring/summer?

        • Wow thanks for the kinds words! :) Are you a fan of Game Of Thrones? I’ve tried to cover GoT in the past but there are so many characters and story lines, it’s overwhelming to do an adequate recap.

          • I think I would be based on all the buzz I see about it, but I don’t have HBO :( I have to settle for the lame Starz equivalent, Sparticus. That and Black Sails, which barely holds my interest.

  3. It’s probably the best episode since the mid-season finale. Still, the show better pick it up next season! Nice post, bud :).

    • I don’t know Joe, I think this was a particularly excellent season. I enjoyed all the deeper character studies – especially after the mid season. Didn’t you think the epi with Carol killing the psycho-kid was written perfectly? To get every viewer ‘in agreement’ to killing a child is testament to the shows high quality, no?

      • I also enjoyed the new show runner’s focus on character studies, especially on characters that I haven’t been invested in before. Carol is a compelling character now, very different from previous seasons. What do you think about the finale?

        • Ya know, I think they had to find a point that would be a cliffhanger, but not so much to make veiwers mad that they couldnt find the answer until next fall. It had to be a low level cliff, which it was. I think it built excitment (for what Rick has become) but also stopped at a good resting and spring off point.

          • That’s a great point about the low level cliff, I’d imagine many fans would be hysterical if the writers dropped a bomb only to leave them hanging for 7 months. After everything Rick has gone through, he earned his final line. So the season ended on a character moment/arc rather than wrapping up a story line. This ending also sets up a fast start out of the gates for next season.

    • I really enjoyed this episode too! Looking forward to the many gruesome things the writers hopefully have in store for next season haha. Thanks a lot man! :)

  4. I liked the first half of the episode. Didn’t much care for the second half. I don’t like bleak cliffhangers to end the season. They leave me with a bad taste in my mouth for far too long. Nothing about Rick and the gang’s situation matches his optimism and the line “Beth is just gone.” was unsatisfying as well. Unless the cannibals already ate Beth. “Beth burger anyone?” And you’re right about the food talk. Food was a theme. I’d even go so far as to say the way Rick killed the ringleader was not just zombie-esque but cannibalistic. The trap imagery all second half became a little heavy handed in the end if you ask me. But this is rabbit country after all. Even the guy screaming for help felt like a trap. (especially since the zombies only had him surrounded on three sides. “Run, Rabbit. Run.”) Still didn’t like the group in a boxcar to end the season. It’s disturbing. Carol to the rescue, I guess. But before that happens we’ll get backstory on what happened to Terminus. How or why they became cannibal… you know… before Rick and the gang kill them all.

    • When Rick said his final line, I wished the episode would go on. The feeling I get at the end is that the Terminus people are going to get their ass-kicked. Not all of Rick’s group is going to make it though. Your “Beth burger anyone?” cracked me up hehe. How about some Tyreese meatloaf too? I was thinking the same thing too about Rick taking a bite being cannibalistic. I didn’t mind seeing the Terminus trap at work, since we didn’t see it with Glenn’s group, they just ended up in that boxcar. I wonder if it was deliberate if Rick’s group was lead through the big candle room or it was just the quickest way to get them through the trap.

      One of the comments above mentioned the powdered milk package might suggest that Judith is already at Terminus, if Carol managed to slip out of the trap it’ll be cool. And that buried bag of guns & ammo going to come into play in their breakout / revenge. I do expect some back story too on how they became cannibals. I also wonder how long will they stretch out the Terminus story to start the next season. Thanks as always for commenting and supporting the blog/episode posts!

      • Carol & Tyrese aren’t there yet. They would be the slowest group because they had two kids in tow and also spent time at that farm house. The powdered milk is just indicative of needing to feed your cattle. Also the fire they were watching was Daryl and Beth’s and it burns for several days. By that point Daryl is already with the Claimers while Rick’s group is camping and letting Rick heal. Maggie’s group is the fastest. They head straight there. Glenn’s group went the wrong way for awhile then double-timed it back. Rick’s group was slowed by his injuries and camped out for awhile. While Daryl’s group wasn’t even heading to Terminus but hunting Rick. Tyrese and Carol were slowed to a crawl by two kids and an infant and a long rest at the house. Trust me, they wouldn’t be there yet.

        I don’t think they will spend much time at Terminus. Maybe three episodes. And then as always they will spend the rest of the season being chased by the ghosts of Terminus. Haunted by what they did. That last part I can pretty much guarantee.

        I liked the second half better than the first by a lot but I wish they would have ended the episode with them walking in. Then a cut to the kill room. and then a cut to Glenn’s group in the box car. Fade to black. They had to complete the whole trap theme with the guys being corralled into a… trap. Every door that was open for them was marked A. So they were definitely being led to boxcar A. I guess that’s where they let the troublemakers sit for a while. You could hear the cries for help in the other boxcars. Also maybe they will offer our heroes a chance to join them. Everyone was talking about how smart they thought they were.

        Thank you. I look forward to your recaps as much as I look forward to the episodes.

        • Your time line makes a lot of sense. With the non-linear structure to this season it’s interesting to spot the clues that put things in place. When I started watching the finale, I thought I was watching the wrong episode because it started with the prison and Hershel hehe.

          I think the show runner said in an interview that Season 5 will start off fast, which could be a hint that the Terminus story will be wrapped up sooner than later. One thing that throws me for a loop is that they also announced Terminus resident Gareth, who was introduced this episode, will be promoted to series regular.

          I liked that Rick’s group is caught in a dark, tough-to-get-out of corner … boxcar, but he has no doubt he’s going to get his people out of there. I’m thinking that without a refrigerator, they need to keep their meat source alive until dinner time. Plus, once a person is killed their meat will quickly turn into walker meat. So it makes sense they are keeping their prisoners alive.

          Thanks a lot! I look forward to your comments, you always catch things I never think of or notice.

          • You know I didn’t think of that. A box of humans would quickly become a box of walkers if just one of them dies. So they have to not only feed them but give them medicine and water or separate out the weakest. I’m sure they head shot them when they kill them so they never turn. But the logistics are extreme because you would definitely have to keep all of them alive. I was trapped in the bleakness of the situation but it really isn’t that bleak. They would have to let them out for air and give them water. I compared them to cattle and in reality you can feed much more people with the food you give to the cow than the cow itself. So there are a lot of possibilities, plus Carol, who is a bad-ass now, Tyrese, who is a monster, and the cache of automatic weapons they hid right outside the fence. Cool. I actually had a nightmare about that ending. It really disturbed me. I kind of hope they separate again next season. I really enjoyed that.

  5. The whole episode was as tense as could be, which was great to finally see after all of this time. I wonder what they’re going to do with the next season, but as usual, I’m pissed that I have to wait a whole, seven months for it!

    • Oh man, the tension was great this episode from the Claimers part to the lead up to Terminus. Terminus people had me going back and forth as to what they were up to. Assuming they survive, I’m guessing they’ll pick up on the scientist and Abraham’s mission story line at some point. The TWD’s long hiatus begins and GoT hiatus is coming to an end! :)

  6. I loved it. I have been very critical of TWD TV show over the years. The pilot is probably my favorite episode in the series still, but “The Grove” and this one are a couple of my favorites now and for the first time exiting a season, I’m really excited to see what they could do with the show going forward. The confrontation with the “Claimer” guys was crazy. And the tension once they were in Terminus had me on the edge of my seat.

    I like what they did with the back half of this season. At its best it was dark and fascinating, hitting the right beats for the characters and punctuating it with intense action moments. At its worst, it was just a little boring at times which I will take over some of the more frustrating sequences in earlier seasons (like everything that Andrea was doing during the latter half of Season 3).

    I am happy to say this show has won me over with the more recent episodes. Great review! I’m glad I kept on top of it this season and was able to follow along with your reviews.

    • Awesome, TWD finally won you over! :) The pilot is up there for me too, it felt cinematic and got me hooked on the show, even if very few episodes after that reached that level. I didn’t know how Rick would escape a gun pointed at his head but he did and it was the most action packed scene in the middle of the episode … interesting structure to the episode and the season as a whole.

      When the writer of Season 3′s “Clear” was announced as the new show runner, I was excited because he demonstrated a great handle on character development. A whole season of redefining and building characters is good TV and it’ll only help make the show stronger as the series rolls along. Andrea had potential but the writers did a poor job of handling her so they killed of a problematic character.

      Thanks so much for supporting the reviews and commenting!

  7. Great recap! I was happy with this season finale but did wish we would have had two episodes like this. It felt action packed (even though it wasn’t) and had great tension and suspense. Rick biting that guy’s neck and then not stopping when stabbing the other guy was fantastic yet terrifying. I was happy to see Daryl meet up with Rick, et al and thought when Daryl offered himself up to the marauders said everything about who Daryl has become. There’s a fine balance between being the reject and the reject who can be himself yet still fit in and care about other people.

    I agree the ending set up a lot of possibilities for next season. I watched Talking Dead and liked how Scott Gimple said the show reinvents itself every 8 episodes. Kind of made me appreciate the slower episodes from the last half of the season a bit more. Also made me hopeful that next season will be a little different in terms of storytelling. Thought not killing a main character off (at least that we know of) in the season finale was good – a step away from the expected.

    The Herschel flashbacks were excellent but made me miss him so much more. I liked how they used the flashbacks to show what Rick has gone through and how he has changed from that person.

    Looking forward to next season and a hopefully bad-ass Rick and the gang!

    • This episode worked without a major character’s death or a huge climatic battle at the end like the mid-season finale. That’s a good point that it felt action packed, even though it wasn’t. I also noticed that a number of walker kills were off camera and there weren’t that many walker kills for a finale, I don’t mind though. The sound of Rick’s knife going in and out of that guy was intense. Yeah, that was a great moment for Daryl to selflessly offer himself up and then later Rick calling him his brother, something Daryl lost last season.

      I like the different feel and structures of each 8 episode run, it keeps me on my toes even though sometimes nothing much happens. TWD can easily fall into a rut so I’m glad that next season will be different in terms of storytelling. With so many characters, I’d imagine some will have to get killed off to make way for new ones next season. This episode is so good it didn’t need to kill a character for the sake of it.

      The flashbacks showed a time period not shown before which is cool, plus like you said, it’s to show how much Rick has changed. I’m loving this version of Rick. Rick is continually evolving which is great to see.

      Thanks so much for supporting the reviews, great discussing with you as always!

  8. I’ve missed the last few episodes, but I’m glad to see this show hasn’t lost its bite. Pun intended.

  9. I liked it, and that last line was great and right out of the comics, short of the word fucking :D

    Haha Rick Bite! :D

  10. Great review man, I thought this episode was pretty good but way more interesting in the first half with Rick’s group being caught by the Claimers, that was some nail-biting stuff. I was seriously wondering how they’d get out that situation. As soon as Rick bit that guy in the neck I was like “Damn, that’s nasty, but frigging awesome! Ricky’s some sort of mutant!” And that scene where he continuously stabs that guy off-screen was amazing. I love violence towards bad people, JUSTICE! XD Anyways the stuff at Termininus was interesting and I knew the place was dodgy I just wasn’t overly keen on how the episode ended. Looks like shit will hit the fan next season but I do hate being left on open-ended notes like that where things start to get interesting and the episode decides to call it a day.

    • Yeah, it was nail-biting … and neck-biting too haha :) I was like ‘how are they going to get out of this’ when the Claimers captured them and Daryl got beat up? When the leader of the Claimers listed the order in which they would do horrible things to Rick’s gang it was intense as heck. Bad people this episode got their just desserts! At the end, we got some more bad people that hopefully will end up as desserts! I liked the ending but I did think “was that the ending?”. What’s interesting about the Terminus is that it preys on people’s hopes to lure them there … what a dodgy place!

  11. I also reached the conclusion that the people of Terminus are probably cannibals. Your comparison of how Glenn and others entered Terminus with their guns lowered, whereas Rick came in the back door, and buried backup guns in the woods. I thought when Glenn and the others let their guard was rather foolish after everything they had been through. Seems they would have used a little more caution themselves. Its interesting how we see Rick go ‘zombie’ and bite the neck of the Claimers leader ripping out his jugular, then later, are lead to the conclusion that the Terminus people are cannibals. I’m glad that Beth and the others didn’t rejoin the group in this final episode of the season, as I have grown weary of all the separating and ‘reuniting’ since season 1.

    I may or may not watch season 5. Its like watching an orgy of drama, heartache, and extreme violence. So I have to ask myself, with all the ‘real’ drama, heartache and extreme violence in the world, do I really want to subject myself to it week after week on TV?

    • I’d be surprised if the Terminus people aren’t cannibals, I think it’s an interesting area the show can explore. I think Glenn’s group were riding a wave of hope after reuniting and they had the advantage of numbers which gave them a false sense of security but they should have been more cautious like Rick after everything they’ve been through.which was what I was trying to say. Yeah I think there’s a thematic connection between Rick’s zombie bite and how it can be like cannibalism; another clue to support our Terminus theory.For all we know Beth is trapped in another train car but if these are the same people who kidnapped her it’s weird why they sent walkers to that funeral parlour because they’d eat up their human meat.

      The show is all of those things, I’m entertained by the show and want to know what happens to next so I’ll be watching next season for sure. Thanks for commenting and welcome to the blog!

  12. I loved the season finale! It was intriguing from beginning to end and the only disappointment for me was not seeing my boy Tyrone. I assume they are trying to hold off the Rick/Carl/Judith re-union for as long as possible! Or perhaps that group will be responsible for making the save!

    I think the rumors people are claiming about Tyrone, Carol and Judith being quietly killed off are incredibly silly! Carol is a major character! Tyrone should be a major character! And Judith would have died earlier if she was going too!

    • Great way to end the season, it felt satisfying and makes me anticipate what happens next. The Grimes reunion is a long time in the making, I imagine it’ll happen near the beginning of next season. Like you said, Judith would have died earlier if that was the direction they were going in.

      There’s a lot of more story to tell with Tyreese, if anyone goes it’s his sister. But she survived the sickness so they must have bigger plans for her too. Carol has been developed into a very complex character, I think she’s sticking around too.

  13. Great review. Very much enjoyed the second half of season four – the genuine threat of zombie attacks and the character development that Rick and more marginal characters received. Can’t wait for five now!

    • Thanks a lot! I feel the same about the second half of season four. All the character development makes me more invested in the show and it’s going to continue to pay off in Season 5.

  14. Despite some of the issues I had this season, I am still a huge fan. I will continue to watch and I hope that they amp it up next season with Terminus. I want to know where Beth is and if Beth and Daryl are going to hook up! What do you think?

    • I enjoyed this half of the season a lot, even though it was slow in places. The series finale sets up a quick start to next season. I’ve heard next season will have a different feel and structure. Beth plays off Daryl really well, I like them as close friends and see where it goes from there. :)

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