The Walking Dead Season 5 Finale Review: “Conquer”

WARNING: So many SPOILERS you’ll think this is an underground street-racing syndicate.

Well kids, here we are! The wake of the finale of the 5th season of The Walking Dead. Can I get a “hell yeah” ?

It certainly seemed we were promised unadulterated bedlam, a massive body count and a few bucketfuls of tears. And while the tensions were very, VERY high – this season ended on a much different note than we’re used to. To be frank, a much quieter note.

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It’s kinda sick isn’t it? We’ve been NAILED with so many major character deaths (including horses) this season, and such unbridled brutality, that we get to the finale and it’s almost like “What the fuck Walking Dead!? Judith didn’t even have her head twisted off!? COME AWN!”.

But rather than ending the season on a massive, climactic fire fight… we got an elegant set up for the conflicts to come when The Walking Dead returns next fall. A smart move on the writer’s behalf. So bravo, I say!

Anyway, I can’t deny that I’m just fixin’ to get to my full review, so let’s breeze down memory lane for a quick nut-shell season recap of Season 5 as a whole.

THE RECAP:

Off the top I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t state that, to me at least, one of the most interesting elements of TWD Season 5 would be the EXTREMES through which we’ve seen our characters evolve – particularly regarding their contextual living situation. We’ve never really seen Team Grimes put through THIS type of gauntlet before… as our enemies this season weren’t isolated to an eye patch, but rather pockets of survivors found throughout the landscape of the apocalypse. Our crew faced horrifying adversity on the road – living on the complete fringe of society – but they’ve also faced adversity within the walls of these microcosms of civilized life… be those in the form of Officer Dawn Lerner’s Happy Hospital, or the sprawling Alexandria safe-zone.

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Moving on, and to cover my ass – from top to bottom – we’ve witnessed Team Grimes on the road – sights aimed at a cure for “Zombieness” in D.C. based on Eugene’s empty promises. We “found religion” when we stumbled across pastor Gabriel Stokes, who has turned out to be, more or less, a coward who grapples with both his faith and his loyalty. We’ve watched our heroes battle life on the road, with all hope lost – only to wind up at the opposite end of the spectrum within the walls of Alexandria. Last, and certainly not least, we’ve lost far, far too many friends along the way… Beth, Tyreese, Bob, Noah… to name a few.

Now, let’s review!

THE REVIEW:

First off – Carol literally said the phrase “Come at me.” while she was threatening Pete.

Walking-Dead-516-Come-At-Me
 “Not many know, but Carol was a top pledge at Sigma Alpha Epsilon. She also LOVES Disc Golf…”

Okay, sincerely – first off – Morgan is back. FINALLY. Also – he’s basically fucking Morpheus. We were treated to one of the best cold opens of this series last night, in my opinion. It started with Morgan serenely sitting by a campfire before being held hostage by a few members of The Wolves, a background thread only teased until this point. And though throughout the episode we were really only provided more teasers as to the actual severity of who this crew of psychos might be – Morgan is awesome and gets himself out of his hostage situation – BY GOING STRAIGHT UP DONATELLO ON THEIR ASSES.

I used to think “Richonne” should be a thing… but now I wonder if Morgan and Michonne should hit it off. I mean, their kids would LITERALLY be indestructable.

Walking-Dead-516-Welcome-Back-Morgan
“Little Ass-Kicker indeed.”

We then cut back to our main group – where Michonne called Rick out on his Jessie bullshit. Which, I must admit, I was thoroughly happy with. For some reason, the whole Rick and Jessie thing this season has been a bit… clunky. In fact, a lot of the buzz revolving around Rick has felt that way, honestly. One minute everyone is disagreeing with his lover-boy intentions and knocking his lights out – the next we’re hearing “GO TO HER, RICK” and “LET’S TAKE THIS JOINT, RICK”. Jessie even blatantly remarked on how Rick is vindicated in his attempt to protect her, despite just last episode her “poo poo-ing” that very same thing. Like I said…not to be a jerk, but – it’s clunky.

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But more to the point, Michonne was also reminding Rick of why they’re in Alexandria in the first place. They have this moment that was beautifully handled… when Michonne explains to Rick that life can change, that they don’t need to break out the heavy artillery any more. They need to adapt the Alexandrians to their way of life – not attack them for living the way they do, because only Rick and co. truly can shepherd this flock.

Sadly, however, Rick doesn’t seem to think coming to Alexandria was the best move for our gang, basically saying he’s not meant for Alexandria’s way of life – and they aren’t ready for his. From this argument – the episode ultimately culminated to the Alexandria town forum- a meeting determined to figure out what to do with Team Grimes, be it exile or full on adoption. However, a TON more happens leading up to this – so buckle your seatbelts, because it’s separate narrative arcs ahoy!

Some of these separate arcs were, though tense, relatively inconsequential – to be honest. Sasha digging mass graves, and lying on the bodies (very heavy and beautifully shot). Gabriel taking a stroll, killing his first walker, and breaking down in tears. Sasha and Gabriel later butting heads, and Sasha actually almost killing Gabriel. Again, really heavy stuff – but ultimately fairly harmless to the plot of the episode.

Oh wait! Gabriel totally left the front gate to Alexandria open – which lead to a MAJOR walker breach. That’s pretty consequential, I guess. Thanks a lot, Gabriel, ya jerk!

Walking-Dead-507-Father-Gabriel“I just… I can’t.”

Ready for more subplot? YEAH YOU ARE!

Aaron and Daryl were on the road last night, recruiting and looking fine as hell on a motorcycle, when they happen across what appears to be an old canning factory of some sort. They stumble across a goldmine of can trucks when POW – the trucks were booby trapped. But these were no ordinary booby traps… these were really, really, really, really well thought out booby traps. It’s later revealed that these were the work of none other than the Wolves – and it one of my favorite sequences of the entire season, we watched in horror as the wolves bended an entire wave of Walkers to their whim, using music to easily ‘reload’ the walkers into their booby trap can trucks. Those traps were just so well concocted – so the implications of the threat these Wolves might actually pose are palpable, and terrifying. I sincerely can’t wait to see where this goes next season.

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In any case, things look grim – until BOOM. Morgan shows up and instantly becomes my new favorite character on the show by using his Bo stick to puree zombies left and right. FUCK. YES. MORGAN. I’ve actually heard that if you save Daryl Dixon – YOU BECOME A HIGHLANDER.

Highlander
“Pictured here. Someone who saved Daryl Dixon.”

Anyway, as mentioned – the town meeting and the decision of whether or not to keep the mangy dog that is Team Grimes was really the apex of the finale – and the home of one of the best moments of Rick turning the tables within both the comic and the series.

After a bunch of back and forth – some people defending Rick, others defending Gabriel – Rick literally shows up, drops a defeated Walker on the ground – having single handedly stopped the breach Gabriel created – and more or less drops the damn mic. But sincerely – the point he makes is incredibly poignant, which is that the Alexandrians need to understand that though Rick looks at survival in a different way than they do, it doesn’t mean he’s a savage. It isn’t he that needs to change – they need to adapt to him and his methods if the truly want to live. I LOVED this line here – “… I used to think I had to kill you to make you learn how to survive, but no – you need to change. I will teach you to live”. It was a very hard look in the mirror for the Alexandrians, and yet at the same time – true. Rick knows survival, and they need to shape up or ship out.

To drive the point home that Rick and his brood are not the biggest savages in town – and because we can’t leave a season of The Walking Dead without at least ONE throat being slashed, Pete showed up and MURDERED Deanna’s husband. Finally coming over to the Rick side… Deanna gave Rick the go ahead to kill Pete. He did so, and we all felt REALLY good about it. It seems the Alexandrians will be on the up and up, but can they rise to the occasion before the Wolves swoop in with deadly force?

That, my friends, is a question to which I cannot wait to hear the answer.

walking-dead-pete “He will NOT be missed…”

Needless to say – this season ended with a bombshell – but a very different type of bombshell than we’re used to. To me, that’s an appreciated twist. Rather than bangs, whistles, explosions, flying zombie parts, screaming Judith’s and shrapnel everywhere – we got a very tense hour and a half of television, that set up the issues to come, rather than closing the door on issues we’re currently dealing with. Though quiet – it was a tactical move on the writer’s behalf… and I truly feel it will pay off in the long run.

And to boot – the show now has not one, but TWO Samurai on Team Grimes. Which is not a bad thing by any means.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • Abraham and Eugene making up. Just adorable.

  • Carol’s exchange with Pete. She’s like a lady-Heisenberg. YOU ROCK, SCAROL!

  • Admittedly so, reviewing a show such as this can be tough because there are SO many characters, and thus, so many throughlines to cover. At times, I wonder if I should abandon covering everyone and just go over the main focus of an episode. I don’t know though! If you guys have any suggestions for how to better get these reviews down for you – let me know in the comments below. And thanks for reading! I look forward to reviewing for next season!

Click here to catch up on what happened earlier this season!
The Episode 9, “What Happened and What’s Going On” Review is here!
The Episode 10, “Them” Walking Dead Review can be found here!
The Episode 11, “The Distance” Walking Dead Review is right here!
The Episode 12, “Remember” Walking Dead Review is here!
The Episode 13 “Forget” Review is here!
The Episode 14 “Spend” Review can be found here!
Click here for last week’s review! 

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