(All images used in this post are screen caps from AMC’s The Walking Dead, unless otherwise specified.)
I would like to jump right in with a quote from Andrew Lincoln on last night’s Talking Dead’s Season 4 finale episode, regarding the evolution of Rick Grimes:
“I don’t think he (Rick) regrets (anything he has had to do, to survive)…The final scene, in the train car, you meet a Rick who is more powerful… more together, and more lethal than he’s ever been…”
And to that I give a big, “Hollah!”
Rick-In-Charge, people, ready to bring it like it’s never been brought before in Season 5…and with tonight’s episode, The Walking Dead’s Season 4 finale, “A,” we got a sneak preview of some of the badass brutality our favorite deputy can dish out…and, by golly, I like it!
Episode 16 opens with a flashback sequence from the early days of the prison, as Carl and another young man pull open the gates to let a car come through, then close them quickly to block the walkers outside the fence. Rick, Maggie, and Glenn emerge from the car, back from a run. Maggie is still wearing her riot gear, while Glenn carries his.
Hershel is there to greet them. “You’re a sight for sore eyes,” he tells Maggie, cupping her cheek, as she smiles gorgeously back at him. Then, Hershel turns to Glenn, puts his hand warmly on Glenn’s shoulder, and holds it there. Glenn smiles shyly, reveling in this fatherly show of love.
It was so good to see, and feel, Hershel again, and it was sad to watch this scene, too. I was pretty much chugging Stella, and blinking back tears, while watching it.
The flashback scene ends with Rick passing Carol and Tyrese, as they come in from their “culling walkers at the fence” shift. Rick takes a modified cane, with a sharpened point, from Carol as he passes her, and goes to help other prison residents cull the remaining walkers at the prison fence.
Hershel looks on as Rick goes from one grim duty to another, and he sees Carl watching all this, taking cues from his father. It seems like Hershel’s thinking about all this…how it is, and how it could be…how it should be.
The scene shifts abruptly to present day, with Rick, dazed, staring ahead…he is covered in blood, sitting against a car. We see a close-up of his hands, which are bloodied, shaking, and still bearing his wedding ring. Then, the shot pans out to Rick’s bloodied face, as he stares ahead…he looks in slightly in shock, but calm, processing.
Time shifts back, slightly…it’s earlier that day…Rick, Michonne and Carl are sitting around a tiny fire, in their makeshift camp in the woods. This camp is like others we have seen, with a tiny fire, cans strung around the camp’s perimeter to signal walkers coming. Rick asks Carl and Michonne how hungry they are, on a scale from 1-10…Carl replies with a “15,” while Michonne answers with a “28.”
Rick suggests they go see if they caught anything in the snare trap he set…when Carl asks if he can come, Rick replies, “How else are you going to learn?” He turns to Michonne, bids her to come as well.
Rick is pleased to see that they caught a young rabbit, which he removes from the snare and tucks into his bag. While he resets the snare, Rick explains the workings of it to Carl and Michonne (while looking majorly fine in the process).
The lesson is interrupted by the terrified screams of a man in trouble, crying out for help. Carl runs towards the man’s cries as Rick vainly tries to call him back. Rick and Michonne run after Carl, Michonne unsheathing her katana.
Carl has reached a clearing in the forest, where a lone man is trying to fend off a large group of walkers who have surrounded him…they are closing in. Carl raises his handgun to shoot, but Rick pulls him back, telling Carl, “We can’t help him.”
Carl, Rick, and Michonne watch, horrified, as the poor man, overrun, screaming, gets torn apart by the biting walkers:
Carl is transfixed by the horrible scene before him, until Michonne finally gets his attention, tells them they need to go…but the three have already attracted the attention of a couple of the walkers, who turn away from the carnage and begin to follow them.
Pursued by the Tear It Up Walkers, Rick, Carl and Michonne come upon another group of female walkers, eating some poor somebody on the train tracks (Talking Dead called them Ladies Who Lunch Walkers…ha!). With walkers behind them, and more walkers in front of them, Rick rushes forward to attack the lesser threat, the Ladies Who Lunch Walkers, who are fewer in number, and who are blocking the trio’s escape out of there.
Once again, we see how vulnerable any living survivors are, out in the open. Shit can go south in an instant, and one must always be ready. Without a real shelter, a real sanctuary, nobody can really rest, live, or thrive. They can only survive, and for how long?
Back in time, to another prison flashback moment…Hershel draws a curtain back at Rick’s cell, letting in the morning light. Rick blinks awake, asks immediately if everything is ok. Hershel tells Rick he’s fine, he just needs his help with something. Rick sits up, asks what time it is…Hershel doesn’t know, tells Rick that ever since he gave Glenn his watch, it’s always “right now” to him.
“It’s early,” Hershel tells him.
At this point in the episode, two key items have been presented to us…Hershel’s pocket watch, which has been given to Glenn, and the riot gear outfits that were found and used by Rick and Co. since the first days at the prison. As we know, these items become highly significant as the Episode 16 progresses to its climactic end. Once again, the masters of WD show us how the story really is in the details.
As Rick gets up from his cot and gets ready to join Hershel, Beth comes into Rick’s cell and takes Judith. Rick automatically begins to buckle on his gun belt. Hershel tells him he won’t need that, that the gun belt will just get in the way. Rick shoots Hershel an, “Old man, you be trippin’ if you think I’m going anywhere without my gun” look as he walks past him, and out of the cell…it’s the same look Carl has shot Rick many times before, and since.
The scene shifts abruptly back to the present, with Rick and Michonne cutting their way through The Ladies Who Lunch Walkers…the group of Tear It Up Walkers are growing in number and gaining on them quickly. Once Rick, Michonne and Carl get an opening, they make a run for it…later, down the road, they walk quickly, but seem winded, and weary, and hungry…they spot an old car, and make camp there for the night.
Later, while Carl sleeps in the car, Rick and Michonne huddle in the darkness over another small fire. Rick laments that the rabbit they had was small, while Michonne remarks that at least it was something.
Rick muses aloud that that’s all they ever talk about anymore, how hungry they are…in the days of the prison, he had forgotten what hunger like that felt like. Michonne agrees, adding that she hopes they will get another chance to forget what hunger feels like, soon…
This, of course, leads them into the subject of Sanctuary. Rick takes the positive approach, saying if they are taking people in, they have to be strong, have a system in place. Michonne wonders aloud if the whole thing is legit.
I’ve said this before, people…a savvy sister isn’t going to be taken in by some white man’s slogan. Woodbury didn’t fool Michonne, and something doesn’t quite sit right with her about Sanctuary, either. It seems to be the whole, “Come One, Come All!” aspect about it…why open yourself up like that, instead of conserving resources and protecting what’s valuable inside an established community? Seems weird…what does Sanctuary gain by openly advertising like they do, drawing whomever, from wherever, to them?
My first hit: they’re cannibals. My astute work colleague agrees: “Food and fertilizer!” And weapons! What a concept…advertise that you have a sanctuary with radio broadcasts, banners, and signs, being centrally located where all the railway lines converge, Terminus Station. After luring the unsuspecting people in, strip them at gunpoint of any prized clothing or possessions, take their weapons, and store them in train cars until it’s butchering time…then, strip them of their tasty flesh!
(And, if the flesh isn’t so tasty, I’m sure ol’ Mary at the grill has a spice rub, and a special sauce, for that!)
The Cannibalism Theory seems to be a prevailing theory among WD fans regarding Sanctuary. The Daily Beast ran an interview with Scott M. Gimple regarding the cannibal theory, and what else may be in store for fans in Season 5.
Check it out:
Meanwhile, back at the tiny car camp, as Michonne and Rick speculate about Sanctuary, they are startled by a noise from the nearby woods…they whirl around, wait, no other noise, so they begin talking again, only to be interrupted by a gun to Rick’s temple:
After this harrowing scene, and a much-needed commercial/bathroom/ beverage re-up break, we are taken back in time once again. Hershel and Rick stand in the prison yard, and Hershel outlines his vision for settling in, making the prison a lasting home. There are feral pigs, horses in the forest that can be captured and domesticated; they have seeds and space for planting. It is time to prepare and plant, says Hershel, and he wants Rick to be the one to help him do it.
Rick reminds Hershel that he needs to be “out there,” going on runs, manning the fences. Hershel lays it on the line…he wants to teach Rick how to farm, to plant roots, cultivate a lasting, peaceful life at the prison, so Rick can teach Carl, and in doing so, heal both their wounded spirits.
“He (Carl) shot that boy,” Hershel reminds Rick. “He needs his father to show him the way…what way are you going to show him? He can shoot, we know that…What’s his life going to be? What’s yours?”
Rick looks down, taking Hershel’s words, and the lesson, in. Hershel looks around the prison yard, sees the potential for things to be better now.
Rick replies that making things better inside the prison fences doesn’t change what is happening outside them.
Hershel knows this, but he tells Rick, “This is a good place to start.” I love Hershel’s faith and his vision, that their positive intentions and actions to build a lasting community can influence the world beyond the prison fences in a positive way. His influence and teachings resonate throughout this episode, as Rick must bid farewell to the peaceful life they worked so hard to create at the prison, and embrace the new order, the savagery that he must wield in order to survive and protect his son and his people.
The scene shifts back to Rick, bloody, sitting against the car. Michonne and Carl are inside the car, shirts covering the windows. Carl is sleeping a troubled sleep, his head on Michonne’s lap. She gently smooths his hair back, looks down at him protectively. Such a horrible world for a young child to be in, and while Carl has had his annoying tween-tool moments, he is still just a kid…and this past day has been shitty, and tomorrow isn’t going to get much better, unfortunately.
Daryl walks up to Rick, wets a cloth and hands it out to Rick, for him to wipe his face with…I guess that’s how the scene was supposed to go, but on Talking Dead later, Andrew Lincoln said that Norman Reedus really didn’t pour very much water on the cloth, and so trying to wipe the dried fake blood that was caked in his beard felt like getting “a Brazilian.” As soon as he said “Brazilian,” the audience laughed, and Andrew Lincoln got really cute and embarrassed.
Anyway, Daryl tells Rick that he didn’t know what they were, Joe and the DTB gang. Rick asks him how Daryl got up with the DTB’s. Daryl tells Rick how he and Beth made it out of the prison together.
“I was with her for a while,” Daryl begins. Poor Daryl looks like he is about to cry as he says this, looks down.
Rick looks at him, asks him hoarsely if Beth is dead. Daryl looks at Rick, says she’s just…gone.
Daryl tells Rick that he didn’t know what the DTB’s were capable of, that they had a simple code that seemed to kind of make sense on the most basic level. Rick understands, reminds Daryl that he was alone. “It’s not on you, Daryl,” Rick tells him.
When Daryl looks down, not convinced, Rick says, “Hey…” Daryl looks up, and Rick is looking into his eyes. “It’s not on you,” Rick says, again. “You, being here, with us, now, it’s everything.” Daryl takes this in, and then Rick drives it home by telling Daryl, “You’re my brother.”
(Dude, I married the love of my life and brought two beautiful children into the world, but I will tell you, that moment when Rick tells Daryl that he’s his brother is, hands down, one of the best moments of my life. For real.)
Daryl tries to return the favor by telling Rick that what he did last night, anybody would have done that. “No, not that,” Rick disagrees…he reminds Daryl of what he, Rick, did to Tyrese…it’s not all he is, but it’s there, and it’s why he is still here, and why Carl is still here. He will do whatever it takes to keep Carl safe…that’s all that matters. The scene ends with a shot of Michonne, and Carl, his head on her lap, listening to this conversation from inside the car.
Later, as they walk along the rails, Rick turns to Michonne, asks her if she’s ok…she tells him she is…he turns to her, tells her he’s ok. “I know,” Michonne replies. As they near Terminus, and Sanctuary, Rick suggests they take the woods for the remainder of the journey, as they don’t know who these people are, yet.
As they approach the fence and look down upon Terminus, Rick advises they spread out and watch for a while, see what they see. Rick turns to Carl and asks him if he wants to stick together. “Sorry,” Carl says, walking away from his father.
Michonne notices this, asks Carl why he doesn’t go with his dad. Carl doesn’t answer, and after a moment, Michonne begins to tell him about how Andre died. She, Andre, Mike (Andre’s dad), and their friend Terry had gone to a refugee camp after the turn. The camp got worse and worse, people leaving, people giving up…but Michonne did not give up. One day, she returned from a run to find the camp’s fences down, heard the moans…Michonne’s voice breaks as she tells Carl, “It was over.”
Michonne goes on to tell Carl how Mike and Terry were “high” when it happened, thus unable to protect little Andre. Michonne, in her grief and fury, did not rekill Mike and Terry, although they were bitten. She let them die, and turn, and then she cut their arms and bottom jaws away, so they couldn’t bite or scratch, put chains around them, and kept them with her as a reminder.
With tears running down her face, Michonne tells Carl that while she discovered that having them around her “hid” her from other walkers’ detection, what she did was “sick” and that she lost herself, for a long time, until Andrea brought her back…along with Rick, and especially, now, Carl.
Michonne tells Carl that she sees how he’s been looking at his dad. “You don’t have to be afraid of me, or him,” she tells Carl.
Carl breaks down, tells Michonne that the other day, Rick told him that he was proud of him, that he, Carl, was a “good man,” but Carl has “all these thoughts.” He looks at Michonne, “I’m not what he thinks I am. I’m just another monster, too.” Michonne shakes her head with a little smile, gathers Carl up in a hug.
Meanwhile, Rick is going through the weapon bag, then buries it, stashing it. He looks at Daryl, who is watching him. “Just in case,” Rick says simply. They then jump the fence into Terminus, weapons out, and make their way into a large warehouse-looking room with a woman on a microphone reading the radio broadcast for Sanctuary, “All who arrive, survive.”
Rick greets her and the others in the room, startling them. One tall, peevish-looking young man, Gareth, steps forward, asks, “Are you here to rob us?” “No,” Rick replies, “We just wanted to see you before you saw us.” Gareth looks around at his comrades, who seem to have been hand-painting some Sanctuary banners and other propaganda, and with a shrug and a tight smile, says, “Makes sense.”
Gareth tries to mask his annoyance and alarm at getting caught so unawares by adopting a false-seeming concern (“Looks like you’ve been on the road for a good bit,” which is pretty much verbatim what Mary said to Glenn, Maggie, and the crew upon their arrival…very suspicious!), to a false cheeriness as he invites them to come up to the front of the house, where the “welcome wagon” area is…so much more inviting, but first, “we need to see everyone’s weapons…if you could just lay them down in front of you.”
Rick exchanges looks with Michonne, Daryl, but does what Gareth asks. As Alex, the squirrely sidekick dude, pats them down, he keeps making stupid jokes, comments (“Hate to see what the other guy looks like,” as he pats Daryl down, taking in Daryl’s beaten up face, to which Rick replies, “You would.”).
After the pat-down, Gareth says, “We’re not those kind of people, but we aren’t stupid, either…and you shouldn’t be stupid enough to try anything stupid…just as long as we’re clear on that, we shouldn’t have any problems…just solutions.” Rick regards him with the look of a man who just got a clear “tell” on someone who is not being 100% truthful about what is really going on here.
And what is the deal with all these slogans? Seems like people who are sincere and truthful shouldn’t have pat slogans to rely on to explain what they are all about…I am not talking about helpful, healing slogans like ones used in 12-step recovery programs…I am talking about pat, pre-packaged slogans being used in lieu of sincere, honest expression.
When they are ushered up to the welcome wagon area, Mary is once again cooking meat at the grill. Her manner is more cautious, guarded than she was with Glenn, Maggie, and the gang. “Heard you came in the back way, smart,” she says to Rick and the others. “You’ll fit right in here.” Michonne asks Alex why they take people in the way they do, and Alex answers with another slogan, “The more people we take in, the stronger we become…” Blah, blah, blah.
As Alex blathers on, Rick spies items he recognizes…he sees a large leather backpack (Bob’s?) on one person, and he sees another young man suited up in riot gear that looks exactly like the riot gear suits they had at the prison. On another woman, he sees Daryl’s poncho, the one Maggie was wearing in the last episode, when she and the crew walked up to Sanctuary…and last, Rick sees the chain of Hershel’s pocket watch, the one that Hershel had given Glenn, coming out of Alex’s pocket.
In a pimp deputy maneuver, Rick slaps the plate of food from Alex’s hand, grabs the pocket watch from Alex’s pocket, demanding, “Where the hell did you get this watch?” Rick holds his gun to Alex’s head, while Daryl, Michonne, and Carl have their weapons drawn in a terse standoff at the Sanctuary welcome wagon greeting area:
A brief flashback to the prison…Rick sees Beth, holding Judith, and Patrick, who is quietly playing with toys that were grabbed on a run…he is embarrassed to be playing with a Lego set that is meant for ages 4-12…Rick tells him to not be, then he sees Carl, who is looking at a diagram, trying to figure out how to put his gun back together…Rick has made his mind up, tells his son he needs his help with something. When Carl goes to bring his gun, Rick tells him to leave it…at Carl’s questioning look, Rick tells him, “It will just get in the way,” echoing Hershel’s words to him earlier on, and taking his own gun belt off as well.
The scene shifts back to Sanctuary, to Carl with his gun drawn, the others with their weapons out. Alex is freaking out, and Rick tells him to call off the sniper on the roof, who has Rick in his sights. Rick asks again where Alex got the watch, and Alex lies, tells him he got it “off a dead one…didn’t think he’d be needing it again.”
When Rick asks where they got the riot gear, a voice answers from behind him. He whirls around, still holding Alex at gunpoint, to see Gareth standing there, his hands held out in a gesture of peace, reasonableness. Gareth has an answer for everything…they got the riot gear off a dead cop, they got the poncho off a clothesline…Alex tries to tell Gareth they can “wait,” to which Gareth answers, “Shut up, Alex,“ and every time Alex tries to talk, Gareth tells him to “shut up.” Wow…kind of a weird way to talk to a comrade who is being held at gunpoint.
Gareth asks Rick what he wants. Rick, holding the gun to Alex’s head, asks, “Where are our people?” Gareth replies that Rick didn’t answer the question, and then. a gun fires from behind Rick, as some Sanctuary dude tries a cheap shot while Gareth distracts Rick. Rick whirls, blasting Alex with a bullet in the head, dropping him.
Mayhem ensues, with Rick, Michonne, Carl, and Daryl making a run for it, through the Terminus station, while snipers shoot bullets at their feet, more like trying to corral the group into going a certain way rather than trying to kill them.
As one path out, then another, gets blocked, they run to a warehouse building marked, “A”, and as they run through, they hear voices calling to them for help, with rapping and pounding noises coming from the inside of the large metal train cars and storage boxes there…we see a shot of what looks like many skulls, spines, and ribs lying on the ground, as if human bodies were stripped of all the flesh on them, and the bones left in a pile on a large tarp.
Outside, Rick and them find themselves surrounded by Sanctuary Cannibal Co-op soldiers, all pointing guns at them. Gareth orders Rick, “the ringleader,” into the train car, then “the archer,” then, the “samurai.” If they do not comply, Gareth tells Rick they will kill his son.
Once inside the train car, Rick, Daryl, Michonne and Carl find they are not alone…emerging from the darkness, is Glenn, and Maggie, Sasha, Bob, Abraham, Rosita, Tara, and Eugene. “You’re here,” says Rick, who seems to take this as a divine sign…it really kind of is, isn’t it? I mean, what are the odds? As always, Rick In Charge is thinking, always thinking of the next plan.
Maggie gestures to the others in their group, Abraham, Tara, Rosita, Eugene, telling Rick and them that they are their “friends” who helped them survive. Daryl responds, “Then they are our friends, too.” I love this feeling of bonding, of a superhero team forming…it’s Rick Grimes and The Train Car Superstars.
Abraham says, dryly, “For however long that’ll be…” “No,” says Rick In Charge…he has a different take on things.
In the final flashback scene, Rick, Carl, Hershel, Beth, and Judith are outside on the prison grounds…as Rick shows Carl how to spear the shovel into the ground, at an angle, and they all laugh and joke easily, Hershel tells Rick that it can be like this all the time…Rick smiles, replies that it’s like this now, and that’s all that matters.
Well, there we have it, people. While Scott M. Gimple acknowledged that Rick really doesn’t have any reason to feel confident, as they are being held prisoner in a train car, without weapons, and surrounded by what appears to be brainwashed, flesh-eating LIVING people who are armed to the teeth, it all does feel so right, somehow…
Rick believes, so I believe, and I will tell you that there is not a group of people I believe can get the hell out of The Sanctuary Cannibal Co-op more than I believe in Rick Grimes and The Train Car Superstars!
On a final note: Talking Dead, being a live show, always has some epic weirdo moment, and the finale episode was no exception…because Andrew Lincoln and Scott M. Gimple were the guests, they had some fans Skype in questions for the two…and up on the screen comes Emily the Bird Girl:
Emily’s question was directed to Andrew Lincoln, but he had no idea what she asked because he couldn’t stop looking at the bird…Scott M. Gimple and Chris Hardwick were in the same boat, as was everyone…what the hell did she ask? We were all too obsessed with Emily’s cockatiel to pay attention to her question.
Emily, if you are out there and reading this, drop me a line, or put a “Like” on my barnfullawalkers Facebook page…I am obsessed with you and your bird!
Cheers to Season 4, and to honor Rick Grimes and The Train Car Superstars, I am going to go Double Pantera in the Season 4 finale playlist…never been done before…an epic moment in http://www.barnfullawalkers.com history!
Take that, creepy cannibal co-op!
As the Talking Dead put it: Hey Terminus, guess what, you’re screwed!
Little People, “Start Shootin'”
Pantera, “Walk” (for Rick In Charge…and Rick Smash! <3)
Zero 7, “Spinning”
Handsome Boy Modeling School, “The Truth”
DJ Shadow, “Midnight In A Perfect World”
Pantera, “A New Level” (for Rick Grimes and The Train Car Superstars)