The fifth season of The Walking Dead doesn’t end in any of the ways I thought it would. In Conquer, the people of Alexandria do not end up turning on Rick, or vice versa; Michonne does not take control of either the survivor group or Alexandria; and Daryl and Aaron do not stay out in the field, fighting the Wolves and seeking their future new neighbors. Instead, what happens is … absolutely everything else.
As season finales go, Conquer is an oddly paced hybrid: a solid hour of narrative, then a last act stuffed with confrontation. It’s somehow both loose and rushed, and I still don’t quite know what to think — either about the story it tells, or the scene it sets for the next season.
The best new development is the return of Morgan. Morgan was Rick’s index friend in the zombie apocalypse, his instructor in the ways of humane survival. After a walk on the dark side, he’s rediscovered his humanity — but as we see in his encounter with the Wolves, Morgan is no pushover.
I can’t allow you to take me away. I will NOT allow that. – Morgan, to one of the Wolves
Alexandria, on the other hand, seems deeply disorganized. The community has enough sense to separate Pete from his terrorized wife and child — but they place him under house arrest right across the street from his victims, where he can track their movements (and Rick’s). They place Rick under guard … lazily, with his own people guarding him. They even ask suicidal Father Gabe to guard the gate. (!!!)
And then, though they all have homes and lights and furniture and stuff, they set the meeting to decide Rick’s fate outside. At night. With many of the principals missing.
Good thing Alexandria still has its resident badasses, Carol and Michonne. When Carol isn’t reminding her friends how to act in mixed company (“These people are children,” she tells them. “Children like stories”), she’s paying creepy Pete a visit.
I could kill you, right now. I could … I will. Come at me. – Carol
In comparison to hulking Pete, Carol is tiny. But when she stands inches from him, a blade in her hand and steel in her eyes, she is so frightening he visibly shakes. (GOOD.)
Michonne is less Team-Survivor than some of her fellow new arrivals, but she’s no less brave for being committed to Alexandria. Michonne shares Reg’s belief that “civilization starts when we stop running.” She also knows that if peace is what the group wants, they have to be willing to make it.
I think you can find a way. We can find a way. And if we don’t, I’m still with you. Something’s gonna happen. Just don’t MAKE something happen. – Michonne to Rick
While the ladies are holding down the fort in Alexandria, the recruiting team of Daryl and Aaron finally makes contact with Morgan. Morgan gets the two out of a tight spot in a zombie-encrusted sedan; when Daryl asks him why he bothered, his answer is beautifully simple.
Why? Because all life is precious, Daryl. – Morgan
All this time, Morgan has been seeking his good friend Rick Grimes. Daryl and Aaron help him with that — but their timing is a bit unfortunate.
The three men arrive in Alexandria at just the point where the Meeting About Rick has gone unexpectedly haywire. Pete has slipped out of house arrest, grabbed Michonne’s sword off the wall, clumsily charged at Rick, and mortally wounded Reg instead.
A livid Deanna commands Rick to kill Pete. Good cop that he is, he obliges. And this is where Morgan sees his long-lost pal again: holding a smoking gun, standing over a dead man.
Morgan is not the first person in history to seek the person he knew and find someone else. I fully expect Morgan to reach out to his old friend; I’m just not sure that Rick will reach back.
- Glen and Nicholas have a fight in the woods. Nicholas appears to get the upper hand when he shoots Glen in the shoulder — but only for a while. You come at the geek, you best not miss!
- Of course Tara wakes up. Every single other possible thing happens in this episode; what’s one more?
- Meet the Wolves: carvers of foreheads, thieves of property and life, terrorists, possible Alexandria exiles. They’re also the designated enemy of season six: “WOLVES NOT FAR,” warns a message painted on a car, in this season’s last shot.
- We don’t see much of Father Gabe, but I could do with even less. His scenes this week felt completely implausible to me, as did Sasha’s. But I still find Sasha sympathetic, whereas Gabe? Dude needs to meet his walker. It’s time.
- I am deeply impressed with the maturing Michonne. The hard part of any relationship is the part where you decide to stay, to work on being and doing better. It’s so much easier to take what you can and move on. Michonne is ready for the hard work of building this community. It’s great — and not at all what I expected of her.
- Deanna: wounded mayor-in-name-only, or future Governor-esque dictator? Discuss.