The Walking Dead - Season 4, Episode 16: “A" TV Episode Review
Written by Steve Pattee and Daniel Benson
Directed by Michele MacLaren
Written by Nichole Beattie
2014, Rated TV-14
Episode premiered on March 30th, 2014
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee
Lauren Cohan as Maggie Greene
Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes
Danai Gurira as Michonne
Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha
Lawrence Gilliard Jr. as Bob Stookey
Jeff Kober as Joe
Alanna Masterson as Tara
Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter
Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa
After an awkward situation with Joe and his gang, our fearless leader Rick arrives at Terminus with Daryl, Michone, and Carl in tow. Everything is not what it seems.
Warning! This discussion contains spoilers!
Steve: You know, I’ve started each of these recaps all season. Let’s mix it up. What did you think of last night’s “shocking” episode, Dan?
Dan: It was what we needed, but it was too little too late. I wouldn’t necessarily call it shocking, but they did push the envelope again. We’ve had a child execution and an attempted rape of a minor in this season's second half, those are bold moves for a TV show. I hope you were happy that Rick managed to pull some venom out of the bag and take Joe’s crew out big style? I’ve always said he struggles with his own conscience on what’s wrong and right for the greater good, but the situation with Joe left him no choice and boy did he show his bite can be as bad as his bark. Literally.
Steve: I can’t agree with you here. What they did was not pushing the envelope, but rather looking at the address on it. If they wanted to push the envelope, Carl would no longer be a virgin. It’s not pushing the envelope if you aren’t willing to cross a line, and instead just doing what countless others did before you. Hell, Different Strokes broached this three decades ago in one of its very special episodes.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought the scene was damn good in its violence, but it lacked suspense due to the fact the creators – in a completely boneheaded decision – shows us Rick safe and sound (if not a little worse for wear) at the beginning of the goddamn episode. So we all knew nothing would happen to the fearless leader. And this is a perfect example of how the show tells you there are lines it’s too scared to cross because you are shown before the pre-credits even roll that everything is going to be fine. Look everyone, Rick is okay! You won’t have to worry about him! Thus killing any suspense when we get to the scene that led him to his predicament.
Steve: I will say, though, I loved Rick in this episode. This is the character I’ve been wanting to root for from the beginning. For the first time in a long time he wasn’t a spineless jellyfish, he wasn’t selfish, and he wasn’t making bad decisions for his own benefit. He finally stepped up for the right reasons. He was not just impressive when flipped out to save Carl, but the whole Terminus scene where he did not hesitate to get some answers once he recognized that many of the residents were sporting attire from his group. Granted, from that point on it was ho-hum, but that moment Rick grabbed that guy and demanded to know where he got Glenn’s pocket watch, I actually cheered.
Dan: It’s a moot point that showing a flash-forward of Rick unharmed removes the tension, he’s the central character so he’s got an automatic pass out of every situation. Even knowing that none of the group under attack from Joe was going to die, the scene was still tense because it wasn’t known how they were going to get out of it.
The Terminus stuff was as expected. Kinda. It was never going to be the sanctuary they were hoping for and I’m glad that things were revealed as such earlier on in the episode, rather than a teasing one-liner cum cliffhanger at the end (which we still got anyway, but after a bit of action).
Steve: Could Rick’s one-liner at the end have been more melodramatic? I laughed, and not in a good way. It was so bad. Why couldn’t AMC just have had him say “They fucked with the wrong people,” and paid the fine? So, so, so, weak and pathetic. I love how you can have attempted rape, child killing, a pregnant woman shot by her own son and then eaten by a zombie, but God forbid you drop the f-bomb. ‘Murica.
Dan: You say melodramatic, I say we got a hint at how we might see a new Rick in Season 5. One that has learned through bitter experience that others they encounter are rarely friendly, so at the first sign of trouble start popping caps in asses. I’d love to see that, if only to get you off the ‘Rick’s a pansy’ bandwagon.
Steve: You may not have much of a chance. I’ve decided I’m giving next season three episodes, five tops. If the writing continues on the downward spiral displayed this season, I’m done with the show. I’ve said time and again that I’m tired of the zombie genre as a whole, with the exception being The Walking Dead, and what I’ve seen from the writers this year is inexcusable. It’s disgustingly unmotivated. Trust me, I want to love this show, but it’s getting harder and harder to ignore its problems.
However, I will give it those number of episodes mentioned because at the very least I want to see how the situation at Terminus turns out.
Dan: So, are we to believe what’s being strongly hinted at, that the people at Terminus are barbecuing those who seek sanctuary there? Or have we as viewers been set up with a bunch of red herrings (the candle-lit memorials and the bloody remains behind the chain-link) to make us think that?
Steve: I haven’t read this far into the comics, but since the “Carl almost gets a new daddy” scene was straight from the pages, and Terminus is in them as well, I can’t imagine it not being the case. That said, I’ve already figured out how they will escape. We haven’t heard from three people this episode: Carol, Tyrese, and Beth (well, four if you count Judith, but I don’t). Next season, it will show those three (or four) coming to the gates of Terminus as the gunfire starts. They peek through the fences just as Rick and his pals are forced to enter the train. Then they find Rick’s guns and save the day, bringing Carol back into good graces with Rick. How they hooked up with Beth will be told in flashback. Which leads me to...why in the hell did we need all the flashbacks in this episode showing that Rick was a farmer. Did we not know this already? Was this some pathetic, pisspoor attempt to bring Herschel back? Holy Christ I hope they get new writers next season.
Dan: That’s a good call on the rescue, my thoughts did go to the others who aren’t captured. It has to be the salvation for the group in the train. Tyrese and co. are already armed though, so it’s unlikely we’ll see them find his hidden bag, although I’m sure it’ll come in handy when everyone does escape.
The flashbacks did a couple of things: first off they set up the reminder about Herschel’s pocket watch that was key to the ending scenes. I think it also drilled home the message “This is how it is now”, which was Rick’s response to Herschel after they’d set up happy families at the prison. Herschel seemed intent on a life of self-sufficiency behind the protective walls, whereas something in Rick’s voice said that he only considered it temporary, or at the very least susceptible to change. I think it also points to the change in Rick’s character. Bad-ass Rick: This is how it is now.
Steve: Meh. All valid points, but also something we’ve all already known. I suspect you have to cater to those just joining in, but not in the finale. They had countless opportunities post mid-season break to do this and it feels like filler in what’s supposed to be a damning episode. Maybe that’s why they annoyed me so much. Those behind the show had ample time to catch up new viewers/remind old ones of how things used to be prior to A, but instead chose to waste everyone’s time with blasé episodes (for the most part). These flashbacks would have fit in about anywhere else but here.
Dan: Rolling it back a while, what was the point of that scene where the random guy was killed by the group of walkers? And why the hell didn’t he just run towards the woods where Rick was? They had him surrounded in a semi-circle with a completely open path to get away.
Steve: I was wondering that myself. The only thing I could think of was to gage Carl’s reaction, but even that didn’t make sense. Maybe a favor was owed to someone in that scene.
Dan: Wrapping up then, this season started out so well culminating in a blistering mid-season finale. The second half has been, overall, a disappointment. If there was some way that the story could have been restructured so that the entire season ended with the battle at the prison then there’s no doubt we would have been hooked and salivating for the start of Season 5. As it stands, it’s on probation until it can prove itself worthy of a weekly commitment.
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