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“The Walking Dead” review: “A”

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Well, it’s official, The Walking Dead has done it again. Once more, their season finale didn’t wrap anything up or even prove to be an exceptionally good episode, but it was interesting enough to make you want to keep watching.

Titled “A,” the episode follows Rick, Carl, and Michonne as they draw closer to Terminus. Periodically, we see Rick remember happier times in flashbacks, where he’s learning to farm at the prison. One night, they are using an abandoned truck as shelter, when Joe and the rest of his gang sneak up on them. Joe wants retribution for Rick killing their pal Lou back at the house they stopped at a few episodes ago. But before Joe can shoot Rick, Daryl appears, telling Joe that Rick is a good man, that he’ll vouch for him, and that he’ll even sacrifice himself if he lets the rest of his friends go. But Joe doesn’t buy it, and accuses Daryl of lying about Rick being good. Since lying violates their gang’s code, Joe orders his men to start beating Daryl. But before Joe can go any further, Rick headbutts him, causing Joe to let out a shot in Rick’s ear. This disorients everybody, but doesn’t slow things down for too long. Joe grabs Rick, but in a moment of pure animal instinct, Rick subdues him by biting his neck. Blood flows freely from Joe and he is done for. By this point, Michonne and Daryl have gotten in on the action too, and they take out the rest of the gang with her katana and his crossbow. Finally, the only one left is a guy holding Carl hostage. He has a knife to Carl’s throat, and Daryl and Michonne look between each other, trying to decide what to do. But then Rick says, “He’s mine,” and the man drops the knife in surrender. But this isn’t good enough for Rick, and he picks up the knife and begins stabbing the man over and over again.

With Daryl now at their side, the group puts the events of the previous night behind them and continues on to Terminus. When they get there, they come in the back, hopping a fence and walking in with their weapons at the ready. This surprises the people at Terminus, but not enough for them to get violent. They welcome our heroes, apparently with open arms, asking only that they put down their weapons momentarily to check and see if they’re hiding anything on them. Once this request is obliged, the Terminus folks take them out to a grill where meat is cooking, so they can get something to eat. It’s then that Rick recognizes a pocket watch on one of them that he’s seen before. He draws his weapon, also pointing out what appears to be Maggie’s poncho and Glenn’s riot gear on other members of the camp. When Rick isn’t satisfied with the answers he’s given regarding where they got these items, he attempts to lead his three companions out. But there are snipers on the roof, and as they try to dodge oncoming fire, they end up being led into an ambush, with many heavily armed men waiting for them. One by one, they are told to drop their weapons; the ringleader, the archer, and the samurai. Finally, Carl is ordered to drop his gun too, and they are all ordered into a train car. There, they find some familiar faces. Glenn, Maggie, Bob, and Sasha are all in the train car too, as well as Tara, and three other people Rick doesn’t recognize (these three are of course Eugene, Abraham, and Rosita, who arrived with the others at Terminus last week). Things don’t seem like they can get any worse, when Rick speaks. “They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out,” he says. “Find out what?” Abraham asks. “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” Rick answers.

So, there you have it. We didn’t necessarily learn a lot, but what we do know is that Terminus is bad news, everybody from the main group is there now except for Tyreese, Carol, and Judith, and Rick isn’t giving up without a fight.

But before discussing the whole Terminus thing any further, I do want to talk about the action sequence that framed the early part of the episode. To be honest, it was surprisingly well done, with the shocking violence appropriately choreographed and timed out perfectly. We don’t usually see Rick get this savage, but he appears to have gone into ultra-survival mode in this episode. There’s another pretty violent scene early on too (not a big stretch for this show), where a guy is calling for help in the woods as he’s being swarmed by a pack of walkers. Carl wants to help him, but Rick tells him they can’t. I guess I get why Rick wouldn’t help the guy, if we’re assuming that despite his good nature he’s just focused on getting his son to safety at this point. But it was still an unnecessary scene, especially because it looked like the guy had a window to run away from the walkers if he had tried harder. The point is that this type of moral ambiguity via zombie-fighting gets old after a while, and somehow never manages to be as interesting as when The Walking Dead focuses on human versus human conflict, as they primarily did in this episode.

There were a few residual scenes where Carl is kind of creeped out by Rick’s bloodlust during the fight, although you’d think after everything he’d seen by that point that this wouldn’t be too different, especially since his dad did it to save him. The incident spawns a discussion between Carl and Michonne , where Michonne tells him that she kept her boyfriend and a buddy of his undead after they let her baby die at a refugee camp. It was pretty compelling stuff, beside explaining the origins of the zombies Michonne was walking around with when we first met her. Then she shares some revelation with Carl about how they’re all monsters now when they have to be, and I guess this was supposed to comfort him about his father.

Okay, so about Terminus. I can only conclude that the logical answer to what’s going on is that they’re eating people. And I’m definitely not the only one out there who has this theory. I have to say, as The Walking Dead continues to push boundaries, this really does make sense. I’ve been wondering when they would stat to get as extreme as something like The Road, and while I doubt that they’ll necessarily go that far out, this is just the next logical step in terms of ramping things up. And that’s not to mention all the evidence there is to support this idea. The snipers who were shooting at Rick and his merry band of misfits were unusually bad, even by TV standards. But when Rick said, “It looked like they were shooting at our feet,” this sequence started to make a lot more sense. On top of that, why would the snipers bother leading them into captivity in the first place if they were just going to kill them (in a non-eating fashion) later? Then there’s the powdered milk on the ground by the railroad car they were forced into, sitting there as if it had been used to feed people. There were also bones in one shot as Rick attempts to lead everybody to safety. Even toward the beginning, Rick mentions to Michonne that all they talk about anymore is food. But the thing that really made me say, “Wait, are they eating people?” was that the Terminus people were serving fresh meat. In fact, as Rick looked around and spotted possessions of his former group, I became worried that the members of the cast who arrived at Terminus last week had already become dinner. Also, and somehow I didn’t realize this until it was pointed out to me, but there was some pretty heavy foreshadowing earlier in the episode when Rick is teaching Carl how to set a trap to what ultimately happens in the end.

Despite Rick’s ridiculous action movie dialogue at the end of the episode (“They’re screwing with the wrong people,” guys? That’s really what you decided to go with?), I’ll admit that “A” made me want to come back for next season. I was also a little annoyed too, but I feel like I have to see where this cannibalism theory goes. It’s frustrating that they didn’t just get to it in this episode, because what a really good cliffhanger does is introduce a problem (i.e. cannibalism) and then leave you wondering how the protagonists are going to get out of it. But just hinting at what’s going on, practically screaming, “IF YOU DON’T WATCH NEXT SEASON YOU’LL NEVER KNOW,” that’s kind of obnoxious. Then again, The Walking Dead is kind of an obnoxious show, so go figure. But at this point, I feel like there’s a possibility of at least a few exciting episodes when they come back in the fall. Whether or not they’ll be good enough to merit my continued devotion though, I’m not sure.