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The Walking Dead, Ep. 4.16 “A” marks one of the best episodes of the series

The Walking Dead, Ep. 4.16 “A” marks one of the best episodes of the series


The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 16: “A”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Scott M. Gimple and Angela Kang
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC

Just when I was ready to break up with The Walking Dead, Michelle MacLaren comes along and directs one of the season’s best episodes – “A” is chock-full of nail-biting suspense, features some horrific images and even a cliffhanger that feels like the start of a new journey (and possibly a new direction for the series). For a good chunk of the second half of season 4, the survivors have been traveling along the train tracks leading to the sanctuary. The majority of those episodes tried focusing on character, and succeeded for the most part, but at times it felt like the show was dragging its feet. Showrunner Scott M. Gimple and co. made some ballsy decisions with the structure of the season. Some of these decisions were wise (the flu virus), others were downright silly (bringing back The Governor) – so all in all, season four has been a mixed bag. We’ve had some interesting new characters introduced (Joe, Abraham), and others we wished would be eliminated (Lizzie and Mika). The journey has been long and exhausting for both the survivors and us the viewers, and now here we are … at Terminus.

The graphic means by which Rick uses to dispose of Joe’s men, coupled with the flashbacks, reminds us of just how intense Rick’s transition has been. The cold open takes us back to a happier time when Rick and Carl laid down their weapons and tended to the crops. These flashbacks were incorporated not just as a reminder of certain objects such as the aforementioned watch, but to also bring Rick’s journey full circle. In fact, this might just be the conclusion of Rick’s character arc. Grimes has been forced into some very dark situations over the years, and he’s bounced back to retain his sanity, but ripping into Joe’s jugular with his teeth, and repeatedly stabbing the man who tried to rape Carl, might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. In the past, I’ve been vocal about my disappointment with Rick Grimes, essentially stating that he wasn’t an interesting enough character to lead such a successful series. Of course there have been times when Rick Grimes was one of the more interesting survivors, but those moments were few and far between. Hopefully Rick will no longer doubt his ability to lead, and once again take charge. Personally, I prefer Bad-Ass Rick.


The best episodes of The Walking Dead are those that draw on the iconography and mood of the Western. That tone plays heavily in the season four finale; not just with the well directed showdown at Terminus, but also during the conflict with Joe and his men. For the unfamiliar, Michelle MacLaren has directed some of the best episodes of both The Walking Dead and AMC’s other monster hit, Breaking Bad; and now “A” can easily be labeled as one of her best. “A” is a blood-soaked western disguised as a horror series, featuring a gunslinger, an archer and a samurai. More importantly, “A” raises the stakes to a fever pitch, allowing viewers to believe that some of our favourite characters won’t make it out scarred, much less alive. Did anyone else think Carl was a goner in those final minutes? The real horror of The Walking Dead, is the evil crimes that man commits on one another, and “A” puts this reality front and center.

At first, I rolled my eyes when watching the bullets whizz by and completely missing Rick, Michonne and Carl, but then I quickly realized the folks at Terminus were deliberately missing their targets. Rick’s explanation of how to assemble a snare trap foreshadows the characters’ own fate as we later see his own group herded like cattle to the slaughter, when guided through the designed passageways of Terminus, via the massive rooftop gunfire. Notice the “A” markings spread out throughout the sanctuary? Give credit where credit is due – the sequence works extremely well thanks to the clever metaphor injected by writers (Scott M. Gimple and Angela Kang), as well as MacLaren’s stellar direction.

There is a lot of talk about the final line delivered by Andrew Lincoln: Fans of the original source material are fully aware that the line is lifted word for word from the comic book. Personally, it doesn’t bother me, but I can understand why it left some viewers rolling their eyes. Unfortunately this is one of the problems in adapting the comic series. Some lines of dialogue work well in the comic, but they don’t necessarily translate well on the small screen. Still, I can understand producer Robert Kirkman feeling the need, and/or simply wanting to use some of the most iconic moments of the comic in the TV show. The way I look at it, a two second line delivery doesn’t erase the exciting hour that came before.


– Ricky D

Other thoughts:

I particularly loved the scene in which Michonne tells Carl about her time in the refugee camp, while confirming that her original zombie pets were her boyfriend and her friend.

Luckily Rick has a keen eye, quickly noticing the citizens of Terminus were carrying

items prized by his friends. The editing in this specific sequence was among the best the series has yet delivered.

Where’s Beth?

Clearly, Tyreese and Carol will come and save the day!

Carl: “I’m just another monster, too.”

I wonder if Albert (the man who was supposed to be on perimeter watch), is the same guy Rick, Michonne and Carl chose not to save earlier on in the episode.

Alex: “The more people become a part of us, we get stronger. That’s why we put up the signs. That’s how we survive.”

Rick: “They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out.”

Abraham: “Find out what?”

Rick: “They’re screwin’ with the wrong people.”

Anyone else notice the grotesque pile of bloody human skeletons when the camera panned along Rick, Michonne and Carl running away form the gunfire?

“Never Again. Never Trust. We First, Always.”

Don’t forget to listen to our Walking Dead podcast for more thoughts.  New episodes drop every Monday night, with a different special guest each week.