The Walking Dead-A
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead is adapted from previous source material. This review is not meant to compare similarities and differences between the show and comic. It’s meant to be read purely as a take on the episode as it stands.
That being said, SPOILERS AHEAD.
“They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out.”
The flashback to the prison was an interesting one, in that it reminded the viewer that there was something of an idyllic peace at the prison. A lot of their duties surrounded those similar to living on the frontier; Rick went to handle walkers at the fences as if it was just another chore, despite it being pretty menial in the grand scheme of things. It also provided context for the present situation, as even though it was still pretty tough living at the prison, there was at least some consistency. Handling daily chores gave the survivors something to do and look forward to. It also provided them with the peace of mind that comes with safety.
That flashback contrasted sharply with the present, as Rick, Michonne and Carl were faced with a new set of problems in walkers coming at them from every direction. Not only that, but Joe and the boys finally caught up with them, offering a day of reckoning. What Joe and his crew don’t know though is that Rick is brutal when the situation calls for it and boy, did that situation call for it. Rick tapped into a visceral side of him that he didn’t have since him and Tyreese got in the fight. Still though, you’d be hard-pressed to say that Rick’s reaction wasn’t warranted.
The fact that one of the men was giddy with joy about possibly raping Carl is something that would set any parent off, let alone one trained like Rick. Rick took pleasure in gutting the man from waist to neck and his actions weren’t entirely crazy. In fact, Rick acted out the way any parent would when their child is danger: he tapped into a well of anger that ensured he would protect his child at all costs. He even bit Joe’s neck in an attempt to escape, which gave Michonne and Daryl the chances they needed to get themselves out of the situation as well. Of course, their fighting played second fiddle to Carl’s experience, which was the catalyst for it all and transformed Rick from a farmer to a warrior.
And once they got past that situation, things looked pretty appealing at Terminus; that is, until Rick’s cop instincts kicked in. One of the first questions that should’ve been raised was what’s being cooked on the grill, considering Hershel informed Rick that the pigs could be used for food ant the prison and there weren’t any pigs near Terminus. The things that really caught Rick’s eye were the prison riot gear and Glenn’s watch. Rick obviously knew those things from the prison, so the fact that a complete stranger at a new place that seemed too good to be true had it was very off to him.
After that, the episode escalated quickly for a second time. While the first scene where Rick and the others escaped the ambush amped things up, the run through Terminus was something else entirely. It’s pretty apparent that the members of Terminus weren’t as bad shots as their aiming made them out to be. In fact, the bullets guided Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl right where the community wanted them, to what was essentially a kill box. The fact that they’re cannibals is pretty apparent based on the pile of bones in the middle cage and people screaming from a train car as they were sprinting by.
The second situation where Carl’s safety was in danger was almost as chilling as the first, but for different reasons. Rick was forced to trust the strangers when they offered Carl’s life in exchange for Rick’s obedience, yet Carl was still left out and hanging somewhat as the others were marched into the train car. Rick has spent most of the season trying to convince Carl that death isn’t always the answer. At Terminus, he had to mask his sheer anger in the interest of saving Carl; something that will likely be channeled into some pretty angry Rick fighting to live.
“A” kept going back and forth between past and present, with Rick being the focal point of the episode. In fact, the bulk of the episode was Rick coming to grips with the person he really was: a peaceful man with a penchant for gardening or an aggressive cop with a desire to fight for his survival. The show as a whole works best when Rick serves as the focal point, despite the ebb and flow of other characters who become fan favorites. Rick is a man who has faced a torrent of emotional crises, more likely than any one other individual character. Those crises would eventually take their toll on any man and suppressing his brutality in the interest of Carl has turned into exorcising his anger in the interest of Carl.
What’s more is that Rick really turned a corner in terms of friendships. Throughout the course of the season, he became extremely close to both Daryl and Michonne, something that shined in the finale. Rick even went so far as to call Daryl his brother, evidencing their immensely strong ties that have seen them through thick and thin. Rick trusted Carl’s life and safety with Michonne, viewing her as an almost surrogate mother for him some ways. Rick also drew heavily on wisdom imparted on him by Hershel, another man he trusted implicitly and set him on the path of peace. When the Governor beheaded him mercilessly, it triggered something in Rick where he realized that his world of zen was over.
“A” was a rather brilliant ending to the season that really brought everything together very elegantly. The entirety of the second half of this season revolved around the characters seeking to find each other again after being scattered to the winds at the prison. The fact that most of the key players found themselves together offers the possibility that things will be more optimistic than pessimistic. The group has endured beyond belief and at this point that’s all they really know: endure and survive. Yes, Rick’s line at the end was a little cheesy, but it reaffirms what the viewer already knows, in that these survivors will survive at all costs.
It’s going to be a long wait until the next season of The Walking Dead as the season cliffhanger really keeps the viewer guessing as to where things will go from here. Hopefully though, next season won’t drag out their stay at Terminus too long, as an entire season devoted to them languishing in a cell could get pretty tedious. As it stands though, “A” offered a wide variety of emotions that really tapped into varying emotions in the viewer, which is something that is a testament to the quality of the episode. Viewers will likely applaud Rick’s fierce bite of Joe in an effort to save Carl, just like folks will respect Daryl’s choice to absorb a beating for his friends.
At the end of the day though, The Walking Dead is embodied best by Rick as a character, as he’s someone who epitomizes the type of person who really has the best chance of survival. All the fan favorite characters are reunited with some new faces mixed in as well and there’s still the looming destination of DC in an effort to find a cure to the outbreak. For the time being though, fans will just have to be content in knowing that Rick bit a guy’s neck to save his son and that the inhabitants of Terminus don’t quite know who exactly they’re dealing with. Next season will start with an insanely high bar set and fans will just have to wait and see.
Rating: 5 out of 5