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Walking Dead: A

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Walking Dead A

Terminus! Season finale! Brutal murders! And from it all emerges a new Rick Grimes: the warrior king.

Rick, Carl, and Michonne are on the road heading toward Terminus. They stop for the night to sleep in an abandoned truck. Remember how those scumbags Daryl was with were tracking Rick for killing their buddy in the house? Well it does not take long for the shit to hit the fan this week. They ambush Rick and Michonne immediately. Daryl (who later explains he was hanging back, ready to ditch the crew) arrives and tries to defend Rick. This earns him a beating to the death.

One of the scumbags tries to rape Carl, and that is sort of the straw that drove the Rick Grimes over the edge. He just snaps. A quick headbutt staggers his foe and avoids a gunshot. They brawl a bit, but Rick takes some hits and ends up in a bear hug. “What are you gonna do now?”

Well, what Rick is gonna do is take a big, deep bite out of your neck, severing a major artery. That act turns the tide, stuns and shocks everyone, and lets Michonne swat away her assailants gun. She turns it on him and puts a bullet in his head, then takes out one of the guys beating Daryl. In the end, Rick stabs the ever loving crap out of the would-be rapist.

There’s a sense of ambivalence about this. On one hand it feels good to see Rick embrace his warrior instincts and do what needed to be done. On the other hand, the excessive stabbing seemed…excessive. But it didn’t bother me much. It didn’t bother Rick much either. Notice when he talks to Daryl, it’s Rick who ends up comforting Daryl, who’s broken up about his time spent with the traveling scumbags.

Carl seems a little freaked out by the whole thing, but later he has a talk with Michonne, and we realize it’s not for the reason we think. Carl sees his father acting like a monster, and he has become self-aware enough to see himself as a reflection of that. Or worse, as more monstrous than Rick imagines. Carl’s recognition of his own capacity for violence makes him feel like a failure in his father’s eyes, since he sees Rick as a builder.

This is all counterpointed by flashback scenes of life back at the prison, when Hershel was first teaching Rick and Carl to farm. I’ll get back to the farm aspect in a second.

As they close to Terminus, Rick directs them to move through the woods instead of along the tracks. They spread out and watch the place for a while, to see what’s going on. Rick buries a weapons cache too. “Just in case,” he tells Daryl. This is, quite simply, the smartest I’ve ever seen anyone on Walking Dead act. It’s all part of the New Rick Grimes.

They enter Terminus by hopping the fence, entering a warehouse where nothing seems amiss. There’s a woman broadcasting the promise of sanctuary on a radio. For a minute there they seemed genuinely nice, and even gave the gang their weapons back. But just as they’re about to fed, Rick notices one of the guys has Hershel’s pocket watch, which he’d given to Glen. Everyone draws weapons and there’s a bit of a standoff.

Then things get super weird. There’s a shootout, but the people on the roofs with automatic weapons are clearly shooting at the ground to herd the gang in a specific direction. They keep seeing things labeled with the letter ‘A’. They stumble into a huge room filled with candles. People’s names are written on the floor. They keep running and end up cornered near a rail car.

There’s more weirdness. The hipster guy from Terminus makes them drop their weapons and line up outside the boxcar in a very specific order. He lets Carl join them. Once they enter, they find Glen, Maggie, Sasha, Abraham and that whole crew. There’s a cool moment when Glen explains that Abraham and company saved them and are their friends. Daryl chimes in, “Then they’re our friends too.” At the apex of paranoia, that little slice of pure trust and friendliness felt really powerful.

So they’re in a sort of prison, massively outnumbered, not armed at all. Rick goes full Rorschach. “I’m not trapped in here with you. You’re trapped in here with me.” His actual line was, “They don’t realize they’re screwing with the wrong people.” Rick the warrior king!

This was a great episode. Cathartic and exciting and well-paced. I think the intended takeaway was something about Rick finding his true self. Not a farmer, but a warrior. Raising a warrior son.

But I actually got something a little different out of it. Please excuse a little philosophizing for a moment. There was an important message in there about the search for male identity. We live in a culture that both reveres and deplores “traditional” masculine traits and attitudes, and that both admires and mocks more sensitive traits in men. I’m not saying life is terribly hard for men or anything, just that a fact of being male is this uncertainty (and to be sure women endure this in different and even more intense, brutal ways).

When my dad was younger, he told me that Pete Seger’s “Turn Turn Turn” was one of his favorite songs (the Byrds’ version of it, specifically). It wasn’t really the kind of music he usually liked, so I never quite understood why. My dad is a Vietnam veteran, but he’s not a remotely violent person. I think in some way that song carries a message that reconciles some of the difficulty veterans have adjusting to civilian life. That a person isn’t just a warrior, or just a father, or just a worker, or just a lover. All these different aspects have their times and places.

So…to everything there is a season. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up. There is a time and a place for Rick to be a father and farmer. But now? Now is the season of war.

And we’ve got mysteries to ponder all summer. What the hell is going on at Terminus? What do they do with people? They had ample opportunities to kill them, so it’s nothing so simple. What does ‘A’ mean? Whose names were those in the candle room? These are like Lost levels of mystery.

I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to the next season of Walking Dead this much.

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Posted by on Sunday, March 30th, 2014. Filed under Dark TV, Headline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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