"They're screwing with the wrong people" isn't quite "Go ahead, make my day," but it was the closing line of "The Walking Dead's" fourth season and the line that officially turned Rick from tortured, reluctant leader into an '80s-style tough guy. Having him rip a man's throat out with his teeth did a lot to push him in that direction as well. Arnold Schwarzenegger may be flopping at the box office this weekend, but Rick on "The Walking Dead" is doing just fine with all the former Governator's old action flick moves.
"A" was the title of the season's final episode and the marking on the side of the box car that served as a prison for most of our heroes in the final scene. It was a classic cliffhanger: put the characters in a hopeless situation with no apparent avenue of escape and make us, the viewers, stew until the show returns.
Rick, Carl, Daryl and Michonne finally made their way to Terminus, and it lived up to all their expectations. Their expectations being the place was a filthy trap run by more psychos like the Governor. We'll have to wait until October to find out if Terminus' leader, Gareth, is totally crazy or just a jerk. Though the room of candles and the ominous words on the wall, "Never Again. Never Trust. We First, Always" leads me to believe there's a cult-like atmosphere in this settlement. Jim Jones or Kim Jong Un, this Gareth has already made a mortal enemy of Rick by forcing him and his friends into that box car. And right now, the concern isn't whether or not Rick's gonna make it out of this one alive, but how brutal that escape is going to be when it happens.
Let's be honest, Gareth may be a bad guy, but we're pretty sure he's never ripped another man's throat out with his teeth. Or slowly gutted another guy in the most brutal fashion possible. Rick did both in the opening moments of this final episode, confronting the tough guy squad he tangled with earlier this season, and then finally finishing the job by killing them all alongside Michonne and Daryl.
Yes, it was all done in the service of keeping his son, Carl, safe. But Rick's humanity seems to be slowly slipping away and his inner Wolverine is taking hold. His loss, our gain.
Rick has long been one of the less fun TV heroes to watch, with his forlorn, tragic demeanor, always walking around with the weight of millions of zombies on his shoulders. With these latest developments, he seems to have thrown off the shackles of his conflicted morality and become a one-man wrecking machine. A lesser hero may worry about how to best resolve the current situation in the least violent way possible. Fine for the real world, but within the confines of a drama series that lets you live vicariously through the eyes of zombie-stomping survivors, it can be kind of a drag. New Rick, however, seems like the kind of guy who'll go after all the Terminus baddies on his own, blow up the train station and then circle back to the boxcar to release the rest of the group.
That change in Rick could rejuvenate the series in its next season, giving us all a new reason to cheer and watch, the way Walter White transformed into an evil genius as "Breaking Bad" marched into its last season. Speaking of "Breaking Bad," it's worth noting that "A" was directed by Michelle MacLaren, who also directed some of "Breaking Bad's" most intense episodes.
And we shouldn't forget Carol and Tyreese, still on the loose and headed for Terminus. They will be the wild card in next season's escape.
As the series has marched on, the zombies have become steadily less threatening, more of a dangerous nuisance that constantly needs attending to. But now we have Rick, more dangerous than any zombie and just as brutal. The coming episodes should be interesting to watch.