TV Review: The Walking Dead – Season 4 Finale: Episode 16 “A” (USA, 2014)

rick grimes

All that character development wasn’t building up to any big, heartbreaking deaths as many expected. Instead, the Walking Dead crew decided that Season 4’s finale was best used to further the nuanced character arcs and set up a terrifying Season 5.

‘A’ led us through two big sequences, and took it’s time getting through each. First, we had Rick, Michonne, and Carl trekking towards the mysterious Terminus.

Minimal action makes up the first 10 minutes, while Rick foreshadows the episode’s end by showing Carl how to herd a rabbit into a trap. Their happy little survival skills trip ends pretty abruptly when Carl tries to help a lone, ill-fated stranger who is in a field full of walkers. This ends with the three of them quite casually running down the tracks back towards Terminus.

“I’ll teach you how to do this, you teach Carl” – Hershel

During this first 10 minutes we get not one, but two flashbacks to the early prison days where Hershel (I miss him that guy!) tries to ground Rick; coaxing him to shy away from pragmatic leader to try and set a ‘good’ example for his son. There is little effect here (aside from seeing good ol’ Scott Wilson), as viewers have already followed Rick’s journey throughout the season; the clumsy and unnecessary use of several flashbacks throughout this episode is mere hand-holding and really ruins the otherwise decent pacing of the episode. Whereas shows like Lost really knew the time and place to throw in a flashback, The Walking Dead never seems to get them right.

If time hadn’t been wasted with flashbacks then we may have gotten more of what is one of the most tense sequences in the series to date. The well-acted, infinitely interesting Joe pops up suddenly and surprises Rick with a gun to the head. Michonne and Carl are also pinned down, with Carl on the verge of being raped by a really creepy looking marauder.

With Daryl pleading for his friends’ lives only to be called out as a ‘liar’ and almost beaten to death, Andrew Lincoln is left to handle his character with a hulk-esque snap which is done incredibly well. From the disorientating ear-pop after Rick head-butts Joe, to Rick’s grimacing face as he repeats “let him go,” we see the moment Rick loses himself in a rage and we all collectively cheer.

It’s unfortunate that Jeff Kober’s Joe had to go so soon; the character felt like wasted potential, as he would have made an extraordinary villain.

Rick ripping Joe’s throat out with his teeth was spectacularly brutal, recalling the Rick Grimes of the earlier seasons who was an adaptable man willing to do whatever the situation needed him to do. He then guts and excessively stabs Carl’s would-be rapist, slicing him open from bottom to top with a certain hatred that we’ve never before seen from him.

The significance of this turn in character is driven home by a brilliant scene between Daryl and Rick where Rick calls Daryl his brother (awh!) and realises that this is the personality that has gotten him and Carl this far. While Rick’s self-actualisation doesn’t exactly make for an epic finale, it stays true to The Walking Dead’s patience and focus on character building, which takes the show out of gimmicky horror and places it right among some of the greatest television dramas of all time.

There is one frustrating thing during this scene though; Daryl is really vague about what happened to Beth. Just casually saying ”she’s just gone” kind of writes her off, which seems really unfair of Daryl. He could have at least told Rick exactly what happened.

You’d expect that the show would have switched to Glenn’s group by now, but we stick with Rick and co to show the remaining journey to Terminus; even though we get a really nice scene from Michonne and Carl, there was a lot of time wasted here.

Terminus is where the episode begins to loose a bit of steam. While ‘sneaking through the back door’ was a clever move for Rick’s group, it seemed a bit uncharacteristic that all four would enter at the same time in case things didn’t go as planned.

Then we get to know Gareth a bit; seemingly the new big villain that will undoubtedly plaque our group of survivors throughout season 5. The scene where Rick picks out his friends belongings from the seemingly normal welcome sequence would have been great, had it not been interrupted by yet another relatively pointless flashback.

The direction here is executed very well, making the shootout look and feel like an old school Western film. The Terminus folk funnelling Rick’s group towards the ‘A’ carriage was exciting and kept tensions high, especially when the survivors passed a cage full of bones and entrails. It seems like the expected cannibal angle will indeed take place throughout season 5; now, with the entire group sans Tyreese, Carol, and Judith locked in a train/dinner carriage, expectations will be high for an action-packed season opener come October.

“More people become a part of us, we get stronger. That’s why we put up all the signs; invite people in. That’s how we survive” – Alex (from Terminus)

This brings me to the episode’s end; the worst flashback yet interrupts Rick’s surge of hope and all the series has to make up for the lost footing is the dramatic ”their screwing with the wrong people”. It seems strange that AMC would allow scenes of a man ripping another man’s throat out with his teeth, yet not have the courage to include the always-effective “fucking,” instead having Rick say “screwing,” softening up the triumphant line and ending the episode on a lukewarm note.

With four season now under the belt, The Walking Dead has effectively cleaned the slate of all the mess the more average episodes of Season 2 and 3 left behind; splintering the group, developing them in more concentrated batches, and then putting them back together for a show which now has a platter of emotionally engaging characters to play around with; I could not picture the show without most of these survivors and that makes me incredibly anxious for Season 5.


1. Rick’s self-actualisation is brutal and exciting.
2. Tyreese and Carol haven’t arrived at Terminus yet.
3. Great scenes with Daryl/Rick; Michonne/Carl.

1. Mostly pointless flashbacks ruined pacing.
2. Terminus sequence could have used more content.
3. Death of Joe felt like a wasted opportunity.

The Walking Dead screens on FX in Australia.


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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.