A (The Walking Dead)
|The Walking Dead episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||Michelle MacLaren|
|Written by||Scott M. Gimple
|Original air date||March 30, 2014|
"A" is the sixteenth and final episode of the fourth season, and 51st episode overall of the post-apocalyptic horror television series The Walking Dead, which aired on AMC on March 30, 2014. The episode was written by Scott M. Gimple and Angela Kang, and directed by Michelle MacLaren.
As multiple paths collide on each group's travels, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) remembers the past and comes face to face with sheer brutality. As the so-called sanctuary, "Terminus", begins to reveal its true face, the group struggles to survive. Themes explored in this episode include preparedness and the extremities of living in a lawless world. The latter is explored through Rick's guilt and trauma after being forced to brutally murder two men to protect his son, Carl (Chandler Riggs).
In a flashback to the survivors' time at the prison (and interspersed throughout the episode), Rick (Andrew Lincoln) arrives back from a bloody run as Carol (Melissa McBride) and Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) kill walkers at the fence, along with numerous other prison residents; Hershel (Scott Wilson), however, has other plans. After telling Carl (Chandler Riggs) that he had a little trouble and showing the blood on his hands, Rick joins the others at the fence. The scene then jumps forward in time showing a bloody Rick, shell-shocked and shaking, after a terrible event that has occurred.
In the present, Rick, Carl, and Michonne (Danai Gurira) follow signs along train tracks to Terminus. Suddenly, they hear a man nearby cry for help and find him surrounded by walkers. They move to help, but notice that there are too many to take on without using guns to reduce their numbers. Rick warns that they need to conserve their ammunition, which is more precious than the stranger's life. They leave the man to be consumed by the walkers and run back to the tracks.
In another flashback, Hershel asks Rick to lay down his gun and help him, encouraging him to spend some time without his revolver, and to start getting up early in the morning so that he can join Beth (Emily Kinney) and Judith.
Back in the present, while camping that night, the three are ambushed by Joe (Jeff Kober) and his gang of Claimers, who have been tracking the trio ever since Rick had previously killed one of their own: Lou. Joe points his gun directly at Rick's head and begins counting down, but Daryl (Norman Reedus), who had previously been forced to join Joe's group, appears surprised to see his companions, as are they, and tries to put an end to the scene. He proclaims that "these are good people" and that he will suffer any punishment from Joe in place of his friends. Confused, Joe refuses and declares Daryl a liar. Two of Joe's men suddenly begin to attack Daryl and are told by Joe to "teach him all the way"; Joe returns his attention to Rick. Agitated, Rick is told by Joe that the Claimers are "reasonable men", but, however, are going to "beat Daryl to death", "have the girl [Michonne], then the boy [Carl]", and finally Joe will shoot Rick. One of the Claimers, Dan (Keith Brooks), grabs and aggressively prepares to rape Carl. Angered, Rick launches a backwards headbutt that strikes Joe, startling him to fire his weapon on reflex (and misses), which makes Rick temporarily deaf. Disoriented, Rick proceeds to fight Joe, but Joe eventually pins Rick's arms, claiming victory. However, Rick horrifies everyone by biting into Joe's carotid artery and ripping out his jugular vein, and then pushes him to the ground; Joe dies from his injuries as everyone halts. As Joe's group is distracted, Daryl and Michonne use the moment as an advantage and proceed to kill all of the other Claimers. Frightened, Dan surrenders and pleads for his life, but Rick, raged at his actions, violently forces Joe's pocketknife through Dan's abdomen, disemboweling him, until he reaches his neck, where he proceeds to stab Dan repeatedly, brutally killing him; Michonne and Carl watch in shock of Rick's sheer brutality.
In another flashback, Hershel talks Rick into pulling back himself, and Carl, from the violence outside the prison, and to start gathering animals so that they can domesticate and grow crops in the plots of land they have inherited. However, Rick insists that he is needed on the fences and runs. In response, Hershel questions Rick's ultimate values and urges him to be a proper role model for his son, by turning away from guns and less violent pursuits, and instead learn to farm, alongside Carl.
Back in the present, catching up with the flash-forward, after assuring that Carl was unharmed (save for a cut on his face), Rick and Daryl reconcile, each forgiving of past transgressions. Daryl then explains that he got separated from Beth, but is unaware of her fate. After camping, they continue towards Terminus, discovering it to be a large, secured train yard. Rick becomes cautious and buries most of their weapons before they scale the fence, and enter it. There, they meet brothers Gareth (Andrew J. West) and Alex (Tate Ellington), who have their weapons checked before returned to them. After being welcomed to Terminus, Alex leads Rick's group to get food from their mother, Mary (Denise Crosby). Observing the area, Rick notices that the Terminans have various items he recognizes that belong to other separated members from his group, such as the pocketwatch, a family heirloom of the Greene Family that Hershel had previously given to Glenn (Steven Yeun), as approval to his relationship with his daughter, Maggie (Lauren Cohan). Irked, Rick viciously takes Alex hostage, with the gun he stole from Joe, and demands to know where he got the watch from.
In another flashback, Rick talks Carl into his new role on life and convinces him to put away his gun too.
Back in the present, Gareth approaches Rick, appearing ready to talk, but instead discreetly signals an attack. Other men in Terminus suddenly fire on the group, which causes a large shootout; Rick uses Alex as a bullet shield before scrambling for cover with the others. The gunmen continue to fire as the group flees, forcing them towards several alleyways until they reach a closed-in area where snipers are trained on them. With no other choice, Rick and his group surrender, and lower their weapons. Gareth appears and orders them into a nearby train car, marked "A", where they end up finding Glenn, Maggie, Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). They also notice four new people: Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos), Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt), and Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson).
In a final flashback, Rick, Carl, Beth, Judith, and Hershel are having a happy time together. Rick bonds closely with Carl, as father and son, showing him what Hershel taught about how to farm as they live a more peaceful life.
Back in the present, Rick, now reunited with his people, states "They're gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out." Abraham then asks Rick, "Find out what?", to which Rick responds: "They're screwing with the wrong people."
"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 Greene, 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 "Volume 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 "Volume #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. Despite this, the scene with the swearing is considered the canonical version. The home video release of the episode shows the uncensored version of the final line of the season, "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 four premiere episode. Overall, season four's average viewership of 13.3 million viewers was an increase of 20% over season three.
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."
- "The Walking Dead’s Most Shocking Scene: Comics to Screen Comparison". Comic Book. March 30, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- "The Walking Dead: Andrew Lincoln Says His Last Line Was Censored". Comic Book. March 31, 2014. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
- "Watch Rick Grimes Say Uncensored Final Line in The Walking Dead Season 4". Wetpaint. August 7, 2014. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
- Bibel, Sara (April 1, 2014). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'The Walking Dead' Wins Night, 'Talking Dead', 'Real Housewives of Atlanta', 'Shameless', 'Naked and Afraid' & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
- Kondolojy, Amanda (March 25, 2014). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'The Walking Dead' Tops Night + 'Talking Dead', 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta', NCAA Basketball & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
- Mitovich, Matt (March 31, 2014). "Ratings: Versus The Walking Dead's Finale High, Good Wife Holds Steady; NBC's Crisis Drops". TVLine. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
- St. John, Allen (March 31, 2014). "In 'The Walking Dead' Season Finale, It's Bye Bye, Hamlet, Hello, Rick 2.0". Forbes. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
- Cornet, Roth (March 31, 2014). "The Walking Dead: "A" Review". IGN. Retrieved April 1, 2014.