A (The Walking Dead)
|The Walking Dead episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||Michelle MacLaren|
|Original air date||March 30, 2014|
"A" is the sixteenth episode and fourth season finale of the post-apocalyptic horror television series The Walking Dead. It was directed by Michelle MacLaren and written by Scott M. Gimple and Angela Kang. The episode aired on AMC on March 30, 2014.
"A" features various flashbacks to events that chronologically occur prior to "30 Days Without an Accident". In the first flashback, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) arrives back from a bloody run and starts killing walkers brutally on the fences of the prison. Later, Hershel (Scott Wilson) convinces Rick into pulling himself from the violence, and to gather animals to domesticate and grow crops in the plots of land. Rick later convinces his son Carl (Chandler Riggs) to do the same.
In the present, Rick, Carl and Michonne (Danai Gurira) are sitting by a campfire in the woods. They discuss how hungry they are, then go to check a snare in the woods and find a small rabbit. While Rick explains how the trap works, they hear a man screaming for help. Carl sprints off toward the sound with Rick and Michonne following. They find a man in a clearing surrounded by a herd of walkers. Carl raises his 9mm Beretta 92FS pistol to fire at the herd before being stopped by Rick, who realizes there are too many walkers and their ammo is more precious than this stranger's life. The three watch as the man is overwhelmed and devoured before the walkers begin coming after them. They grab their gear and abandon their camp, returning to the train tracks toward Terminus.
That night, Rick and Michonne talk about Terminus while Carl sleeps in a nearby car. They are then ambushed by Joe (Jeff Kober) and his gang of men; Joe holds Rick at gunpoint, and the others point weapons at Michonne. Joe explains this is payback for what Rick did back at the house to their friend. One of the men named Dan (Keith Brooks) drags Carl out of the car and pushes him on the ground. Joe begins a countdown to shooting Rick in the head, but is interrupted by the arrival of Daryl (Norman Reedus). Daryl proclaims Rick, Michonne and Carl are good people and offers to take the punishment for them. Joe declares Daryl a liar and orders the others to beat him to death. Rick tries to argue that they should leave Daryl alone. An enraged Joe declares that they are now going to "have" Carl and then Michonne, then kill them in front of Rick before assassinating him last before they are "square". This then shows Dan getting on top of Carl and unbuckling his pants, giving the impression that he is to rape Carl. Michonne is still held at gunpoint, and the other two men continue to savagely beat Daryl. Rick's thought of being outmatched begins to anger him, but what really makes him livid is the sight of his son about to be raped. Rick warns Joe to "Let him go", but Rick is ignored. Rick warns him again, but Joe does nothing but laugh with the gun being held at the side of Rick's face. This lead Rick to jolt his head back and headbutt Joe in the face, which triggers Joe to fire his weapon. It misses Rick, but does partially impair his hearing for a period of time. A fight ensues between Rick and Joe. Rick is knocked to the ground, and when he stands up to encounter Joe once more, Joe pins Rick's arms to where Rick can not budge. Joe questions to Rick "What the Hell you gonna do now sport?" This leads Rick to savagely bite and rip out Joe's jugular vein. In the confusion, Daryl and Michonne overpower the other men, who can not believe what they had just witnessed, and kill them. Rick approaches Dan, who begs for mercy, but he then takes a knife and brutally slaughters Dan. Michonne holds Carl, who has a large scrape on his face.
Afterwards, Daryl sits with Rick and apologizes for what happened. He tells Rick that he and Beth were together but they got separated. When Rick asks if she died, Daryl only stated that she is "gone." Rick tells Daryl they are brothers and forgives him. The group then prepares to finish the trek to Terminus. Upon reaching it, they circle around behind it and split up to observe the area before going in. Rick buries most of their weapons, including his Colt Python, in the woods, and they proceed to scale the fences and enter Terminus from the rear. Inside, they are greeted by Gareth (Andrew J. West), Alex (Tate Ellington) and others who check their weapons but return them. Gareth then takes them outside to get food from Mary (Denise Crosby). Rick notices that Alex has Hershel's watch (that was given to Glenn), while others have items belonging to his group: Daryl's poncho (which Maggie had been wearing), the orange duffel bag Rick took from a hitchhiker, and Glenn's riot gear. Rick suddenly slaps a plate of meat out of Alex's hand and takes him hostage with Joe's .45, demanding to know where he got the watch.
Gareth appears and starts talking to Rick, but gives a signal for an attack on the group. Rick uses Alex as a shield who is killed and a shootout ensues, forcing the group to run for cover. As they run through the complex avoiding the gunfire, passing by a fenced space with human remains lying in pieces under the sun, and by railroad car shipping containers from which bangs and cries for help are coming out, they quickly realize that the shooters are not shooting to kill but are instead aiming at their feet, and they are being herded. They are finally pinned down by snipers and forced to surrender. Gareth orders them to drop their weapons and one-by-one to enter a train car parked nearby. Inside, they are reunited with Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Bob (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and meet Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), and Tara (Alanna Masterson).
"A" was co-written by executive producer and showrunner Scott M. Gimple and producer Angela Kang; it was each their third writing credit for the season. It was directed by Michelle MacLaren, who previously directed season two's "Pretty Much Dead Already" and season one's "Guts".
It marks the final episode to feature Hershel, although in a flashback sequence, following the character's death in "Too Far Gone". For this episode, Scott Wilson is readded to the opening credits after being removed after the ninth episode of the season.
The episode marks the final appearance of recurring character Joe (played by Jeff Kober) as he was killed by Rick Grimes by biting out his jugular vein. The scene where Rick, Michonne and Carl are captured by Joe's gang was intentionally shot and produced to follow a certain portion of the plotline in Vol. #10, Issue #57 of the comic book series. The main difference is in the comics, Rick, Carl, and Abraham are captured by three bandits, whereas in the show, Rick, Carl, and Michonne are captured by Joe's gang of five men.
During filming of the final scene, Andrew Lincoln remarked that he delivered the final line which was very close to the one found in Vol. #11, Issue #64 of the comic book series. Scott Gimple noted that this would never have passed the network censors, so they had to re-take another version of the final scene without the swearing. The home video release of the episode alters the final line of the season to "They're fucking with the wrong people."
Upon airing, the episode was watched by 15.68 million American viewers, and received an 18-49 rating of 8.0. This marks a rise in total viewers and ratings from the previous episode, which received an 18-49 rating of 6.7 and 13.47 million viewers. This rating represents the season finale high to date, but below the all-time high of the season 4 premiere episode. Overall, season 4's average viewership of 13.3 million viewers was an increase of 20% over season 3.
The episode received generally positive reviews from critics. Writing for Forbes, Allen St. John, commented the finale positively, saying, "This episode, directed masterfully by Michelle McLaren of Breaking Bad fame, puts The Walking Dead in an interesting place. The story line takes our heroes into a dark place—and what can be darker than a locked railroad car?"
IGN's Roth Cornet rated the episode a "Great" 8.0, writing, "The Walking Dead Season 4 finale served as a response to a question Rick has been asking himself nearly since the start of the series: What kind of man am I? The answer, at least to some degree, is whatever kind of man the moment demands of him; which is exactly what he’d need to be in order to make a strong and viable leader in this world. While I do feel that the conclusion could have been stronger, this was one of the most well-directed and executed episodes of the latter half of this season."
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- Cornet, Roth (March 31, 2014). "The Walking Dead: "A" Review". IGN. Retrieved April 1, 2014.