A Closer Look: The Walking Dead – “Conquer” – Season 5 Finale

And so the Fifth Season of The Walking Dead came to a close. From confirming long standing theories, beautifully written story parallels and the return – and survival – of some of our favorite characters, this finale was quite possibly the best yet. The bar has been raised for the Sixth Season, which is already in production; but before we get to that, let’s take one last look back at this Season Finale to see just why it was so glorious.

Men Transformed Into Wolves – Everything Gets A Return:

Since The Walking Dead returned for its MidSeason premier, the idea of ‘the wolves’ have been hinted continuously. From cryptic messages, strange ‘W’ markings and wild dogs, I haven’t seen anything ‘Wolf’ hinted at so much since Doctor Who teased ‘Bad Wolf’ during the Eccleston period. So now that we’ve come to the Season Finale, it’s time to learn just who/what these ‘wolves’ are.

“The first tribes thought that people were wolves transformed into men, and now, everything gets a return right.” – Mysterious Wolf Member

It’s not exactly clear what the Wolves larger aim is, or if they are simply a bunch of crazy yet brilliant individuals. The W marks they place upon their and their victims heads could harken back to how the early settlers put a bounty upon wolf heads; but their reason for trapping people and herding massive amounts of walkers remains to be seen.

Judging by their interaction with Morgan, they aren’t keen on accepting new members; but rather take and use EVERYTHING someone has to offer them. These are the people who plowed their way through Noah’s camp and have been roaming the areas right outside Alexandria. With only 50 miles between them and Alexandria, it won’t be long until they cross paths with our group. Though since they discovered Aaron’s bag – and the Alexandria welcome kit – the wolves might have just found their next target.

Walking Dead conquer 5

The Angel Of False Light – Gabriel’s Warnings Come Full Circle:

A few episodes ago in “Spend” we saw Father Gabriel accuse Rick and his group of being bad people. This was infuriating to say the least considering Gabriel’s words were more true of himself than Rick’s group. It was Gabriel who “put [his] own life before everyone else’s” when he locked the doors to his church. Similarly, the same happens again in this episode as Gabriel puts his death ahead of everyone’s lives. He is still consumed with guilt over what he did and as the only saying goes, ‘misery loves company’.

Rather than being the stable provider of faith in whom others can seek guidance, he is a nasty and cowardly man who rather put his problems upon others and make them feel bad instead of deal with things himself. We see this in how he condemns Sasha for all her loses and says that Bob and Tyreese died for her sins. Even the kind-hearted Tyreese isn’t above Gabriel’s foul words as he says that he was just as bad as the rest of the group. Gabriel is simultaneously plagued by the guilt of what he’s done; as well as trying desperately to get rid of anyone who might know of this – aka Rick’s Group. In the end, Gabriel is truly the ‘Angel of False Light’ that almost led destruction into Alexandria; and Deanna and everyone else knows it now.

The Juxtaposition Of Cowards –Gabriel & Nicholas Restored By Maggie & Glen:

Though Gabriel isn’t the only cowardly member of Alexandria trying to put his own inadequacies upon others. While Gabriel is trying desperately to kill himself and bait others into killing him, Nicholas baits Glen into giving chase in an attempt to kill him. This is when we realize that both of these characters have more in common this episode than we thought.

Gabriel was saved once before by Rick’s group and chose to ran away in defiance. He eventually came back into the fold, but then threw this ‘second chance’ into his saviors face when he tries to get them kicked out because they know his secret. Similarly, Glen spared Nicholas after the trip that killed Noah; but instead of being thankful, tries to kill Glen in order to cover up his own cowardice. Thankfully the ever-amazing Glen survives a bullet and a group of walkers falling on top of him; but when the time for ‘Shoot Or Don’t Shoot’ comes, we again find Nicholas and Gabriel in similar positions.

Despite everything they have set up against the others, Nicholas and Gabriel still find themselves beaten and broken on the ground babbling through their own fears. In the forest, Glen maintains his spirit and chooses to let Nicholas live. Back at the church, it appears Sasha will make a similar decision as she puts killing behind her. Though it’s not Sasha that comes to the rescue; but Maggie.

Admit it, you screamed like hell at this part.

Admit it, you screamed like hell at this part.

As the scenes conclude, we see Maggie come in and calm Sasha down as well as pick Gabriel back up. The ‘no longer religious’ girl who threw Gabriel’s offer of council back in his face a few episodes ago is now the one giving him and Sasha council as we see them all holding hands in prayer. Back in the woods, we see her love Glen helping Nicholas back towards the camp. Maggie and Glen might be our favorite couple on The Walking Dead; but they are also the couple that is strong enough to have their good deeds thrown in their face (Glen shot by Nicholas, Maggie overhears Gabriel) and still forgive.

Will Nicholas and Father Gabriel betray people’s trust and ruin their – now – third chances? Honestly, I think/hope they’ll be better from here on out. Unlike last time, this time Nicholas admitted that he’s scared and doesn’t want to be outside the walls. Similarly, Gabriel now has someone to ‘find himself’ with, and I’m sure the new addition of a Zen Morgan shall help Gabriel as well. In the end, I think we can all agree that after what Nicholas and Gabriel have done / tried to do, they are in desperate need of some redeeming.

Morgan’s Triumphant Return – A Season In The Making:

We’ve been getting teased with Morgan’s return since Season 5 started. In fact, seeing Morgan alive and well was the Post Credits for the Season 5 Premier. So its fitting that the Season 5 Finale would begin with Morgan close on the trail of Rick and the gang; and he came with gifts. Morgan’s return not only answered our questions about the wolves; but also showed us a more zen/badass Morgan that is responsible for saving Aaron and Daryl.

Walking Dead conquer 3

The last time we saw Morgan, he was a shell of his former self with everything he could identify with (father, husband) being stripped away from him as both his son and wife were now gone. Though over the course of these few seasons, Morgan has found peace, and picked up a walking stick rather than attacking anything that moves with booby traps. There’s clearly a lot him and Rick have to catch up – especially since their first meeting after all this time appears to have them in opposite roles. Then again, this can easily be explained away since now all the town knows what Rick did was right.

With Morgan back we have a return to Season 1 in a sense since he was the first person Rick met in this new world. Though additionally, Morgan’s outlook of ‘all life is precious’ could cause some interesting new dynamics in the group. In many ways, his introduction served to make him as the successor to Tyreese in mentality as well as increased physical strength. He’s the calm and collected warrior rather than the man of brute strength.

Cleaning The Air – In Support Of Rick Grimes:

Considering how we left things off last episode, there was a lot of tension and unspoken feelings to deal with this episode. Towards the beginning, Maggie might have been worried Deanna would let a bunch of frightened people decide things; but it was actually more dangerous to let Deanna decide. Considering she’s lost her son and Rick’s brawl with Pete came about a day after Gabriel’s warning, Deanna was definitely anti-Rick until the end of the episode.

At the Forum, we saw how many of the residents stood up for Rick and his group. Even Jessi pointed out how it was improper for Deanna to consider anything Gabriel said since he isn’t there to say it himself, which Deanna threw back in her face because Rick wasn’t there. We of course know that while Gabriel was missing due to his nervous breakdown and cowardice, Rick was late from righting the wrong. This is why it was so important for Rick to bring the walker back and mention that the gate was open. The gatekeeper who abandoned his post to Gabriel would be able to collaborate Rick’s words of something foul going on. This simultaneously makes Rick look good while throwing away any claim Gabriel might have had; but Rick wasn’t finished yet.

They’ll hunt us. They’ll find us. They’ll try to use us. They’ll try to kill us… but we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. I’ll show you how.

You know I was thinking… how many of you do I have to kill to save your lives. But I’m not going to do that. You’re gonna change. I’m not sorry for what I said last night, I’m sorry for not saying it sooner. You’re not ready but you have to be right now you have to be. Luck runs out. – Rick

This brunt honesty and overall attitude of ‘no more messing around’ is very similar to the speech Rick gave at the end of Season 2 (when the Ricktatorship really began). These words were from the heart. They weren’t a story like carol had said; because if you keep treating these people like children they’ll never learn. They need to be stronger, and Rick’s words helped to spark just that. Though sadly, something else will make the Alexandrians realize that no matter where you are, nothing is truly safe.

The Random Accidental Death – Season 5’s Theme Ending (Beth & Reg):

From the moment we met Reg, we knew he was something special. Unlike the rest of Alexandria, he understood how hard it was out there and greatly respected Rick for being able to keep so many people alive for so long outside of a safe-zone. When he decided to teach Noah, we figured his time would be up soon; but then it was Noah who got taken from us far too soon. Though it wasn’t until he spoke very sage advice to Maggie about evolution of civilization and everyone living together that we KNEW he was a goner. It seems like a show staple that anyone who becomes a center for morality or guidance is the next person to be killed off; but Reg’s death is much more symbolic of a recent theme on the show – especially as far as (mid) Season finales are concerned.

Well this is awkward

Well this is awkward

During the Mid Season finale “Coda” everything had a happy ending until Dawn had a to be a major pain and ask for Noah back. Rather than calmly approaching things and sneaking back for him later, Beth tried to kill Dawn and failed miserably. That’s right the girl who shot walkers flawlessly in pitch darkness couldn’t even stab someone at point blank range. This caused overly jumpy Dawn to discharge his pistol and kill Beth after a seemingly peaceful episode.

The same happened tonight as we came to the Season finale, when all seemed calm and resolved; but then Pete had to go and be a ‘wandering porch dick’. Poor Reg had his throat slit as a drunk and disorderly Pete stumbled his way towards Rick; and just like Dawn in the Season finale, Pete’s ultimate fate was a shot to the head. This time though it was Daryl who watched Rick do the deed, rather than Rick watch Daryl. We were so close to a bloodless episode; but in the end this might have been what was needed to truly convince Deanna that Rick’s way is right. Had she listened and let Rick execute him she he first asked, Reg would still be with her. She took Gabriel’s warning to heart (to no avail); she should have listened to Rick’s.

Quick Bites – Easter Eggs, References & Other Important Moments:

  • When the episode opens we see Morgan sleeping in a car crashed in the woods. This seems strikingly familiar to how the midseason premier began with shots of cars crashed in the woods, thus continuing Morgan’s theme this season of being ‘right behind’ Rick’s group.
  • Sasha laying down in the pit of walkers was to demonstrate how truly far Sasha has fallen. Now that all the rage and anger has subsided, she’s just as dead and lifeless as they are. In fact, you could considering raging Sasha similar to a walker, living purely to kill; but now she is just a shell of her former self now that all the fight has left her.
  • As it turns out, Daryl saving his group was the reason Aaron invited the group to join Alexandria. He was off on his own; but still came back for them despite seeming broken.
  • One of the men exiled according to Aaron was a man named (Alexander) Davidson, Alexandria’s former leader. In the comics, he was exiled due to being a manipulator and raping some women. It’s unsure if this backstory is kept in the TV show; but considering how Aaron reacts to how they ‘have to be sure’ about people, we can infer that he kept his Boogeyman persona from the comics.
  • When Daryl chain whipped those walkers heads off, I couldn’t help but think of Epyon from Gundam Wing and its heat whip. #Nerd
  • Daryl and Aaron locked in the car was a nice parallel to the two ‘Wolves’ Morgan dropped in the car at the episode’s start.
  • Why do I feel like the phrase “How The Harvest Gets Home” has some deeper meaning yet to come. Are the wolves going to take these trailers and drive them through Alexandria’s walls, unleashing the walkers?

Walking Dead conquer

  • Reg’s death was sadly forshadowed yet again during the episode when according to Rick’s initial plan, they’d grab certain community members and threaten to slit their throats. Michonne’s was Reg, so the fact that it was her sword to do the deed is all the more tragic.
  • “Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit you people don’t know shit about. Rick knows every fine grain of sick shit and then some” – Abraham always has a way with words.
  • The Abraham and Eugene bromance is back as these two have FINALLY apologized to each other.
  • The song playing in the Trailer Depot Rave is “Love and Mercy” by Brian Wilson.
  • Remember, Rick didn’t shoot Pete until Deanna gave him permission. He probably would have anyway; but the fact that he waited shows that calmer Rick has returned.
  • The idea of gathering walkers together via sound was a decent theme this half Season as we saw Rave Van distractions, throwing Egg Timers, and now a tractor trailer party.
  • The entire final scene is once again right from the comics as Allanah from Moviepilot pointed out – but of course changing Reg to Regina and Deanna to Douglass.

So what’s next for our heroes after all of this? Well according to Scott Gimple:

For a good while now, humans have been the bigger threat, at the start of next season that will change. I’ve said the show reinvents itself every eight episode and we’re doing that again friendo. So now that these characters know they have what it takes to survive, what are they going to do with that power. How are they going to choose to live beyond answers those questions were currently putting into motion some of our ambitious stuff yet. And things are going to get very big, loud and scary!

What does this all mean? Well, it’s safe to say we’ll get more from the Hunters, and Rick and the crew are going to start training Alexandria whilst Morgan is brought fully into the fold. Beyond that, it seems like Season 6 will once again make walkers the biggest threat. Does that mean Mega Herd?

Who knows; but what I do know is that we’ll most likely get our first look at Season 6 at this years San Diego Comic Con. So please stay tuned here and follow me on Facebook to get the latest news and analysis when that trailer hits.

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