CAUTION: If you have not watched the season four finale of AMC's The Walking Dead, titled "A," DO NOT READ ON! Spoilers abound from here, so be careful.
"A" was the very best season finale of The Walking Dead yet. In fact, the stats says so! It was riddled with suspense, blood, gore, firefights, and very good cliffhangers. In what has been the show's best season so far, the finale provided a great segue to season five, and one that most, if not all, viewers will remember for a long time.
Showrunner Scott Gimple's formula of developing only certain characters per episode worked outstandingly in the back half of this season, and it culminated into a finale that cemented the season's prevalent theme of self-identity. The episode showcased some of its characters finally finding out who they really are, and who they have to be/what they have to do in order to survive in a zombie apocalypse.
Also, there are a number of things that can be taken away from the aforementioned episode. Here are three extremely important things I took away and want to mention:
Rick "Badass" Grimes is back!
No character has carried the weight of this season's theme (so to speak) quite like Rick. He has been arguably the most ambivalent character in the show, from the very beginning until now.
During the first half of season four, he became a farmer. The flashbacks on display during "A" demonstrated that Hershel was the one who insisted that Rick let go of his weapons for a while and start learning how to cultivate livestock. They were set two months after the initial defeat of the Governor and his Woodbury army. Life back then was hopeful and joyful, and Hershel wanted to make sure that Rick played a big part in keeping it that way for as long as possible. Rick was further swayed to become a farmer after Hershel assured him that it would help Carl regroup psychologically as well, especially after he had shot an unarmed, surrendering Woodbury resident. And so, Rick became a farmer, and all that he learned from Hershel he taught to Carl.
Once the prison became uninhabitable, thanks to Philip, Rick found himself with his son and Michonne out on the road, unsure of what may lie ahead, and what he will have to do to keep them alive. During "A," he finally came to terms with his two extremes - the compassionate and benevolent Rick, and the ruthless and aggressive Rick. He realizes now that he is a combination of both, and he has learned to accept that. He cannot always be a farmer, but he cannot always be a ruthless dictator either. In almost any scenario, he will have to make a choice. Or in the words of Carol herself (who's status is currently unknown), "you can be a farmer, you can't just be a farmer."
Furthermore, we witnessed mainly one side of him during "A." His aggressive and savage nature came to the forefront when he had to think like a walker for a moment and take a huge bite out of Joe's jugular vein, who was threatening to not only make him pay for killing his friend, Lou, but also Daryl, Michonne and Carl. After taking care of Joe, Rick then had to take care of Dan, who was just about to commit child rape on poor Carl (yeah, the show's makers almost went there). Rick took care of him all right, by mutilating him to the point where Michonne had to ask Carl if he had become afraid of his father.
And at the very end of the episode, when Rick, Carl, Daryl and Michonne met up with Glenn, Maggie, Bob, Sasha, Tara, Abraham, Rosita and Eugene while locked up inside the train compartment, Rick uttered the line that assured everyone that he was truly back and ready to fight. Despite being imprisoned and in danger of becoming meat for Gareth and the rest of the Terminus residents to consume (more on that later), Rick showed optimism when he said to the group, "they're gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out." Abraham then asked the obvious follow-up question, "find out what?" And cue Rick's reply (which is the line of the episode), "they're screwing with the wrong people."
I think Rick's dark side will be on display much more than his not-so-dark side in season five, especially if he wants to get himself and his family (Rick thinks of his friends like family) out of that train compartment before Gareth does something really nasty. However, I think that Rick is inevitably a good man because despite his aggressive actions, he does what he does to make sure he keeps those he cares for safe. It is very unlike Philip, as an example, who was cruel and malevolent only to satisfy his own dark desires.
Terminus is no sanctuary!
This was very predictable, but now it is official. All throughout the back half of this season, the survivors have been shown signs of a place that has always seemed too good to be true. "Terminus, community for all, sanctuary for all. Those who arrive survive." This has been on the minds of all the survivors, and it has swayed them to follow the tracks that lead to a place that offered safety. But much like the rat Rick caught with his slipknot during "A," they have all been following a path that leads to a huge trap.
Now we know for certain that the inhabitants of Terminus, led by Gareth (who appears too young to be an effective leader, and reminds me a bit of Peter Petrelli from Heroes), are indeed well-armed and dangerous. Evidently, they do not like being distrusted by their visitors, and when they are distrusted, they lure their visitors into what seems like the final trap - the train cars. What comes next is unclear, but Rick and co. better be prepared for the fight that is sure to come. If they have ever thought for a second that defeating Philip and his henchmen would be their most difficult challenge, they are clearly mistaken.
Moreover, all those rumors that circulated online last week about the Terminus residents potentially being cannibals might very well be true. There was a moment during "A" in which Rick and co. were being forced by the spray of cleverly-aimed bullets to go in a specific direction towards the train car. At one point during all that running around, there was pile of what appeared to be human remains on the ground. In the same area, if you listened carefully, you could hear yelling coming from the other train cars; Gareth must be holding many more hostages. The fact that the pile of human remains is placed so close to where the other prisoners are being kept indicates to me that Mary's grill is also nearby. Placing all that filth there could be done to force the prisoners to extinguish any hope they may still have of surviving. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until season five to know more about that, as well as Terminus in general.
Carl needs Rick now more than ever
When Rick, Carl, Daryl and Michonne were about to scout the outskirts of Terminus, Rick decided to have everyone split up to search multiple areas. Instead of staying with his father, Carl decided to tag along with Michonne, who has undoubtedly become a motherly figure to Carl. While the two were out scouting, Michonne asked Carl why he did not choose to stick with Rick. Carl, if my memory is correct, did not offer a response, which prompted Michonne to think that Carl was perhaps becoming fearful of his father.
To alleviate Carl's torment a bit, Michonne offered further insight into her back story. She told him about how her son, Andre, had died. It happened as she was going on a run for supplies, and she had left Andre in the care of his father and her boyfriend, Mike, and their friend, Terry. When she got back to their camp, she found the fences toppled, which obviously indicated that walkers had invaded. Andre had presumably been killed by the walkers; Mike and Terry were high at the time that it happened. So, Michonne let her boyfriend and friend reanimate, and she turned them into her zombie repellents. Michonne told Carl that she was "gone" for a long time, and that her zombie repellents served as a reminder that she deserved what happened for becoming a monster.
Then, Carl revealed what really frightened him. It was not the actions his father had taken the night before; rather, it was what Rick would really think of him if he knew all the bad thoughts lurking in his brain. Michonne assured Carl that he was not a monster, and that he was a good person, in spite of all that he had done. She also made him understand that he does not need to be afraid of Rick, or Michonne herself. Clearly, Carl has also been having problems figuring out who he is.
The good thing about his father finally coming to terms with his true identity is that he has put himself in a position to properly help his son find his. In my opinion, I do not think Carl will last for too long if he does not come to terms with who he is, and what he needs to do to help not only himself, but the rest of group as well. He will need his father perhaps more so than he has ever needed him, and I am certain Rick will provide great help. Carl may be young in years, and small in stature, but he and Rick can form quite a team. For their sake, they will have to if they have any hopes of escaping their current dilemma.
There are probably many more things that can be taken away from the season finale, but to me, the three I mentioned are of the upmost importance. However, I would love to hear what you all took away from "A." Feel free to discuss that and much more in the comments section below. The show will return for its fifth season in October, and so will MoviePilot's 'TWD' live blog.
Give "A" a grade...
[All images from: Tumblr, Walking Dead Wiki]