As season finales go, the episode title “A” in no way accurately describes the letter grade I would give it. At best, it gets a C- in my book. I would give it a D, but it was saved from that fate by the throat-ripping scene [SPOILER ALERT]. Last night’s installment once again falls into the trap that The Walking Dead has been setting for itself time and time again: massive buildup to a whole lot of nothing. Aside from one “oh crap!” moment, the combination of flashbacks to the prison and Rick in present day did very little, in my opinion, to provide any closure or anticipation for next season, except insofar as to raise a bunch of questions that they have no intention of answering for a good long while.
First up, Rick and the gang on the road to Terminus. We know that Glenn and Maggie made it with some of the others from last week’s episode, but the question for the finale was whether Rick would make it there before or after they did. If you thought that there would be some happy reunion, then you were probably disappointed, much like I was but for slightly different reasons having mostly to do with how much time we spend in the aforementioned prison flashbacks. The purpose of those is ostensibly to show us how Rick has struggled with trying to give Carl a better life and a better example than what their circumstances allow, but it felt more like trying to fill up 45 minutes with something other than the matter at hand—trying to get to Terminus.
To be fair, though, the flashbacks also show how far Rick has fallen since his farming days. Only a few months ago, he was trying to live a peaceful life and teach his son the same. Now he’s the sort of person who can rip out a guy’s throat with his teeth in order to stop some hillbilly asshole from raping his teenaged son. An incredibly gruesome transformation to be sure, and it serves well to prepare us for Rick’s total meltdown when they finally get to Terminus, but the final denouement is no less irritating for all that it’s justified. Yes, Terminus was not what it seemed. Yes, it turns out that Rick’s distrust was well-founded. However, I’m still mad about the whole sorry state of affairs.
At the beginning, Carl asks Rick, “Who are we?” and the end answers that question pretty well. They’re the people who shoot first and ask questions later. Granted it’s better to be on the offensive in a world like this, but Rick steps squarely into the doing-something-stupid camp almost right off the bat. The final shootout is laughable because it’s clear that Rick and the others are very carefully being rounded up and herded in the direction of Terminus’s choosing, so it’s not at all surprising that they eventually end up surrounded and imprisoned in train car A. The reveal that Glenn and Maggie were also imprisoned somewhat vindicates Rick’s crazy time, but his parting words for the audience are aggravating in their self-righteousness.
Rick: They’re gonna feel really stupid when they find out.
Abraham: Find out what?
Rick: They’re screwing with the wrong people.
Nice to see you’re on the war path again, Rick. I guess. Prediction for next season: Soylent Green is people! Or for those who aren’t old enough to get the reference: train car “A” is where Terminus gets its fresh meat. What do you guys think? React in the comments!
“A” – C-
The Walking Dead: Season 4 Episode 16, “A” aired March 29th, 2014 on AMC.