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Season 4, Episode 16 of The Walking Dead is titled "A". The previous episode is titled "US", making it a play on "USA" which is where the series takes place. Together, the two episodes show the main characters reunited ("us") but I am not quite sure what the "A" means.

The whole point of the episode is that

The main characters end up together in Terminus, but realize the whole place is one big trap. Rick recognizes his friends' gear on Terminus folk, then they are herded into a train car.

This is backed up by commentary on the episode in "Inside the Walking Dead" on the season 4 discs.

Andrew Lincoln says:

he (Rick) talks about snaring a rabbit in the first scene, and they're the rabbit

Greg Nicotero says:

And they are herded and they are manipulated into that train car

While the conflict and focus of the episode is blindingly obvious from the episode itself and the commentary from a primary actor and an executive producer, I am still not clear about what does the "A" mean? It is not just the title of the episode, it is in several important scenes:

The heroes are herded into a train car to be made into food for cannibals. Along the way, rooftop gunmen herd them by shooting at their feet (instead of shooting to kill) to move them into the train car. Multiple doors have an "A" painted next to them.

During the chase scene, the following doors with an A show up:

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There appears to be no explanation as to what the A means in this episode both in the episode itself and in the commentary on the discs.

Furthermore, in season 5 episode 3 we see

Rick and friends leaving the the church to go ambush the cannibals, only to return right away and serve justice before they can eat anyone else.

Along the way, there is another A:

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My theory is that the A is some sort of mark for

marking food for cannibals

but there is little proof either in the show or in the commentary on the discs from the producers and actors.

What does the A mean: does it stand for something? Is it a mark that means something specific? What evidence is there, both in-universe or out-of-universe and backed up by credible sources such as producers or actors on the show?

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    To me it simply looks like a building designation. If terminus was a train station, there would be different train yards, most likely labeled A, B, C, D, etc which is why you see the A on the train cars as well as the buildings. – DustinDavis Sep 14 '15 at 22:22
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    Sure, I'm seeing what DustinDavis is seeing here too. The point is that for the folk at terminus, Cannibalism is so commonplace it has become systematic; they have a method of herding people towards Car A or Car B etc... It's like herding cattle. – John Smith Optional Sep 15 '15 at 0:23
  • Sounds plausible, but I have two rebuttals. First, why the letter A on the church? It is a different location. Second, and most importantly, is there any evidence that is true from a credible source? Please see the bold text at the end of the question. – user9311 Sep 15 '15 at 1:47
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    "why the letter A on the church" I thought the hunters painted it, as a statement. In their minds, they're still the cattle from traincar A. (BTW, there's another allusion to A's later on in the show. Not sure what to make of it.) – Walt Sep 22 '15 at 7:57
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You were looking for credible sources. I found one on the wiki page for the episode, a quote from the comic writer, Kirkman.

Robert Kirkman stated: [The A refers to] Train Car A. They were put in Train Car A.

The wiki doesn't mention it anywhere else, so I would assume Occam's razor, the answer with the fewest assumptions is probably correct. It's just marking the train car they were trapped in.

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Within the context of the show, the letter A seems to show up when the main crew have their control taken from them and need to get it back to avert death; e.g.:

  • While they're living in the prison and everyone gets sick, they're quarantined in Cell Block A (controlled/death by illness)
  • In Terminus, they're herded past several A's into train car A, which becomes their designation to those people (controlled/death by cannibals)
  • In Alexandria, Sam runs around with an 'A' stamp, which is seen to have been stamped on a porch bannister next to Carol, the back of Ricks's hand, and on his mother's hand (controlled by naive leaders, death by a quarry-load of walkers)

Daryl's clothes as a prisoner are tagged with a big letter A (controlled by Negan, death by Lucille)

  • Thank you for assisting the community. Ideas for framing an answer may include describing your sources along with a synopsis of what they said, and/or adding links to the resources and visuals you’ve found. I hope you enjoy participating. – John Nov 9 '16 at 2:08
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Section: A, is the designated hostile area inside Terminus, where victims get funneled in, trapped, held, then eventually slaughtered and butchered.

If you pay attention and listen carefully, this information can be gleaned from the tactical team's UHF radio chatter.

Also, it's why in the end, the cannibals, (recycling symbolism, I guess?) tag the church with an upper-case "A".

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    Could you please quote or transcribe the radio chatter? Quoting the evidence directly would improve your answer quite a bit. – user9311 Apr 9 '16 at 15:45
  • @Snowman I don't recall it exactly, I just remember that it occurred to me at the time. If you have the episodes transcript, I will point it out for you. I didn't read the entire question the first time; you were more or less correct that the cannibals use it to indicate people they've marked for slaughter. Also, I'm not sure if there is some other underlying significance to the symbol, but it's interesting to note that later on in the series, it's used to represent the people of Alexandria and people at the party had it stamped in their hand etc. – tjt263 Apr 9 '16 at 21:34

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