A Closer Look: The Walking Dead “A” – Season 4 Finale

In case you were wondering, the episode title "A" refers to the train car they all end up in.

In case you were wondering, the episode title “A” refers to the train car they all end up in.

Another season of The Walking Dead has come to an end, but was it the end everyone expected? With our heroes reunited at Terminus, many expected a bigger cliffhanger in the wake of finding out what Terminus was; but we are left with none of our hypotheses answered – or were they? Under the surface, this episode is full of hidden Easter Eggs and emotional depth that not only set up for Season 5, but also confirm some of our worst fears. So let’s dive into this episode and “flesh” out everything you might have missed.

Who Am I?:

The second half of Season 4 gave us a rare opportunity to get to really know the characters we’ve been following for so long. In a fitting end to this half, this season finale was the conclusion of that journey to not just find each other, but themselves as well. It is time for them to come to terms with who they are, but as Carl asks Rick: “Who are we?”

Carl and Michonne:

Since he was the one who posed the question, let’s start with Carl. This episode, Carl comes to terms with who he really is. After Rick saves him and the others, Michonne is worried that Carl is afraid of Rick, but that’s not what actually has Carl down.

“I’m not what he thinks I am. Im just another monster too” - Carl

“I’m not what he thinks I am. Im just another monster too” – Carl

Carl realizes what his father wanted for him. He knows his father wanted him to be a good man and avoid all this bloodshed, but Carl knows it’s not him. He knows that he can never be the “good man” his father sees him as. Words fail Michonne, and all she can do is hug him because she knows what its like to be a monster all too well.

Earlier this season we got a glimpse of Michonne pre-apocalypse, but now we know what happened in between. After the apocalypse, Michonne really stepped up and became the responsible fighter of her group. The camp they were staying at was falling apart bit by bit, and when she returned from a run one day, she found her infant son Andre dead because Mike (her boyfriend and the boy’s father) and their friend Terry couldn’t protect him because they had gotten high.

In a fit of rage, Michonne lets them turn – they had been bitten as well – and cuts off their arms and jaws so they can’t do anyone harm. This was as much a punishment for them as it was for herself. She shut the world out for a long time, but soon discovered the walkers she tried to punish were actually protecting her in a cruel irony. She had become a monster just like them and it wasn’t until the combined efforts of Andrea, Rick and Carl that she was able to find her way back.

Joe, Daryl and Rick:

When we first met ‘Joe’ and his band of raiders, we knew they’d be trouble. When we learned they were hunting Rick and the others we got even more scared; and yet Joe had a certain allure to him. He seemed oddly reasonable with how he handled Darryl and started to look like a father to him – or at least a brother. Maybe there was part of him that could be redeemed, like Meryl – Daryl’s actual brother. WRONG!

Surrounded

We see Joe as the narrow-minded, self serving maniac we first thought he was. When he and his band finds Rick and the others, he doesn’t want to hear excuses, he just wants blood. When Daryl steps up and says they’re good people, Joe immediately reasons that Daryl must be lying – one of the offensive rules – so he tells his men to beat Daryl to death.

Such a stand up fellow, right? He never once considers that maybe he and his gang of sociopaths, rapists and pedophiles are the ones that “aren’t good people”. Daryl luckily saw this all along and was planning on using that moment to leave them behind, but he came back and thankfully he did. He found Rick, Michonne and Carl and without a seconds hesitation offers up his life to spare theirs. Despite all of Joe’s attempts to convince Daryl last episode, he knows who he is. He might be “an outside cat” as Joe called them, but he’ll never be one of them. Though Daryl is actually much more.

"You're my brother" - Rick to Daryl

“You’re my brother” – Rick to Daryl

One of the most poignant moments of this episode was when Rick turned to Daryl and called him his brother. Remember how Beth telling Daryl that he’ll be the last one standing was the WORST thing he’d ever want to hear? Well Rick just said the best. By calling Darryl his brother, Rick does a lot more than just fill the void of Meryl. As Andrew Lincoln (Rick) pointed out on The Talking Dead afterwards, this is Rick basically telling Daryl that he trusts him with not only his life, but with his sons life. The look on Daryl’s face after Rick says these words is priceless and truly shows just how much these seemingly simple words mean to him. Though besides his – now – older brother, who exactly is Rick?

Rick’s Journey:

When this season first began, we found the prison gang – led by Farmer Rick – a few months after the fall of Woodbury. The flashbacks sprinkled throughout the season finale serve to bridge the gap between Season 3 & 4 and thus show how the prison became more self-sufficient, but that’s not all it does. These flashbacks juxtapose two transitions in Rick’s life: his move away from brutality, and his move back to it.

Back at the prison we get to see how Herschel slowly convinced Rick to move away from all the brutality of this post world – going for runs, killing walkers, etc – and settle down, start planting crops and domesticate some animals. Rick in tern follows this in order to set aside a good life for his son. If you remember the Season 3, we saw how Carl had to put down his mom before she turned as well as how he shot an unarmed kid. Rick knew he had to start making a more civil environment for his son – even tried bringing him LEGOs – but was it really the best for him? Was it even the best for Rick himself?

Good People

Earlier this season, we saw some moments when Rick’s brutal side came out – fighting Tyreese, the Governor, etc – but all pale in comparison to Rick ripping Joe’s throat open with his bare teeth like an animal. When faced with not only his and Daryl’s death, but also the rape and murder of Michonne AND his son by a gang of vandals, Rick channels his inner brutality and rips through the band of attackers as Carl watches on in horror.

In order to save his son, Rick had to let that brutal side out. Although it might seem like he’s become a monster, he’s actually still in control. He still has the composure to tell Darryl he’s his brother. He is still capable of expressing deep emotions and seeing the feelings of those around him. He’s horrified by what he just did, but he doesn’t regret it. While rewatching the scene, I found the most disturbing thing to be how that one raider is eying Carl and then attempts to rape him. If anyone was in Rick’s position – about to see his son raped before he and everyone else is killed – they would do anything in their power to stop this. Rick still is horrified by what he did – as anyone would be – but when Carl responds “they did” when the members of Terminus ask ‘if the other guys deserve it’, he absolves his father of the title ‘monster’.

“Darryl, you saw what I did to Tyreese. It ain’t all of it, but that’s me. That’s why I’m here now. That’s why Carl is. I want to keep him safe. That’s all that matters.” - Rick

“Darryl, you saw what I did to Tyreese. It ain’t all of it, but that’s me. That’s why I’m here now. That’s why Carl is. I want to keep him safe. That’s all that matters.” – Rick

Unlike the times when things overwhelmed Rick and he became harsh, or detached in his own little world (ie: after the farmhouse burned down, Lori’s death, recovering from the Governor’s beating, etc), this time he remembers his journey and all the lessons he’s learned. He no longer puts up blinders, but rather is completely in touch with everything he’s done and experienced – which is how he discerns Terminus’s true nature.

Tainted Terminus

What exactly goes on on this side of Terminus? It looks like they're mapping areas and making signs. Setting more traps I bet.

What exactly goes on on this side of Terminus? It looks like they’re mapping areas and making signs. Setting more traps I bet.

As Rick looks around Terminus, he spies familiar items from the people he’s been with – see, he’s insightful – and becomes suspect of this so-called “Sanctuary”, but it’s not until he sees Herschel’s pocket watch that he has all the proof he needs. Such a seemingly simple item is one of a kind and irreplaceable to everyone from the prison. Herschel – in life and death – pushed them to be more, but always be good people. Rick knows Glen would never part with it, and if he did die, someone would have taken it with them to keep Herschel’s memory alive.

What exactly is Terminus; and who is this Gareth – who is apparently loosely based on someone from the comics? Further more, why can everything these people say be taken cannibalistically:

o   “Lets make you a plate” – Mary

o   “The more people become a part of us, we get stronger” –Alex

Gareth

Well if it looks like a trap, sounds like a trap, and has the overall feeling of people who eat people . . . It’s A Trap!!!!

Laying the Trap:

As I said last week when we got a sneak peak at this week’s episode, the scene where Rick teaches Carl how to set a trap is perfectly mirrored by Terminus:

Rick tells Carl that a trap needs a trail – hidden, yet deep enough that anything going past it would have to go through it. Sound familiar? What if the railroad tracks were the trail(s). Anyone around the area would see the signs everywhere – literally.

No Hitter

I’ve seen better aim on a Storm Trooper . . .

Though there’s still one part of the trap missing – the noose. If you re-watch the chase scene, you can clearly see the soldiers are blatantly shooting ahead of the gang and are purposefully avoiding hitting them. They are clearly leading them, blocking off some paths with gunfire, locking some doors while actually unlocking other ones. This all culminates into them becoming surrounded – the noose tightens.

Towards the end it seems as though they are going to shoot Carl. Hell, if this were the Governor, he would have shot Carl once everyone did what he said. It seemed as though the episode would end with everyone getting into the railcar and Carl getting shot just before he entered – resulting in a slow motion death scene as Rick screams and the train door is shut before he can reach his fallen son. Of course this didn’t happen, because after all those misplaced shots, why kill them … now?

Many were expecting cannibalism; and whereas it was rejected, we didn’t get our confirmation either – or did we? During the chase scene, two quick moments come up that you’ll literally miss if you blink. The first occurs as they are running past a seemingly generic courtyard. It might be out of view for them, but not the audience. There are clearly human carcasses spread all over the place. Walker bait maybe, but then where are the walkers?

And yup, cannibalism!

And yup, cannibalism!

Immediately after this, you can just hear some muffled cries of help accompanied by hollowed banging coming from somewhere. At the moment we can’t explain it, but once Rick and the others are put in the train car, you know what it is. All the storage containers are filled with people.

Looks like Rick and them aren't the only prisoners. What are the odds Beth's still alive in one of those containers?

Looks like Rick and them aren’t the only prisoners. What are the odds Beth’s still alive in one of those containers?

Savage:

Many expected to see actual cannibalism. Whether it was a brutal death scene for one of our favorite characters or the revelation that they were grilling ‘Beth Burgers’, we all expected the worse. Instead of in your face gory moments – like the man getting his face eaten or Rick taking a bit out of Joe’s neck – the true savagery and unsettling moments come in secret.

There’s always that underlying level that there’s something more sinister under these brutal moments. We first saw it in the way that girl was looking at Carl that you knew he didn’t just want to kill him, but worse. This idea continued in Terminus when the group spied that strange room with candles strewn all around peoples names and items of remembrance.

Creeptastic

My theory is this: In the comics, the hunters started their cannibalistic ways by eating their children and later some of each other before they started ‘hunting’. We know they steal items from their victims now, and with all their writings of ‘us first’ I doubt they’d treat the strangers they eat with respect. Those names were probably the names of people that had died from their group – most likely through cannibalism or maybe from starvation. Eating strangers is their new way to ensure that the never lose some of their own again, which makes this group of cannibals into a cannibalistic cult motivated by those that have fallen before them.

Final Words &Looking Ahead:

Wow

Wow, how pissed do you think Abraham is that they didn’t go to Washington like he said? If they make it out of this, he’s going to win every argument from now on.

Thankfully everyone is back together and safe. I was really expecting Maggie or Glenn to die, but what made them get there. What made Glenn and them notice something was off, or were they lead into the train car before they ate? GOD I hope they didn’t eat anything. Abraham is an army man, maybe he’ll say he knows the smell of burnt flesh or something and that’s how he knew something was off. What exactly happened there will have to wait for Season 5.

Many felt Rick’s final words fell a little flat, but they actually come from issue 64 from the Hunters story arc in the comics. The Hunters were of course the cannibals, which is more confirmation that Terminus is the Hunters territory. In the comic, Rick and the others get trapped and realize that they aren’t going to be killed so plainly. Rick then ends with saying how the hunters will feel pretty stupid when they find out “they’re F#cking with the wrong people”.

Is it just me, or does Rick look a little bit like the Governor here *cough eyepatch*

Is it just me, or does Rick look a little bit like the Governor here *cough eyepatch*

For whatever reason, Rick’s version on the show had less effect to it. Clearly it could be censorship; but considering how this show pushes the boundaries, I’m sure they could get away with one f-bomb – especially since Breaking Bad was allowed one every season.

Though flat or not, I agree with Rick’s words. With each of our characters having come to terms with their pasts and no longer being held back by their inner demons, they are stronger than ever. Add in the fact that Terminus locked all of their prisoners together – prisoners who know each other – rather than separate them; and you have a group of survivors who are going to tear Terminus apart from the inside out.

Remember that bag of weapons Rick and the gang took from Joe's group? Once they get out they can pick up the bag and reload.

Remember that bag of weapons Rick and the gang took from Joe’s group? Once they get out they can pick up the bag and reload.

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One thought on “A Closer Look: The Walking Dead “A” – Season 4 Finale

  1. Great review! It took some getting used to, but I loved the slower pace of the second half. (My heart is breaking for Michonne!) It will be interesting to see how we deal with the Terminites, possibly doing something so abhorrent, yet still not as openly insane as The Governor.

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