Review: The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 16 – “Conquer”

What The Walking Dead fans have learned to expect from a finale is that it will have us on the edge of our seats throughout the entire show and that, in the end, we’ll be left with as many questions as we had going into it. The build-up to the finale is always intense, and season 5 is no exception. With rumors abounding about Daryl’s demise, hints of “Wolves Not Far” being scattered throughout the season, and the 30 minute addition to the length, fans everywhere settled down for a 90-minute roller coaster that blew almost every theory away and left us all wanting more.

Recap

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Morgan is still on the road and is approached at his campfire by a truly creepy man with a W on his forehead. Fortunately, Morgan has also been working on his ninja skills and, after a brief conversation, is able to take out his attackers, who have identified themselves as wolves in human form. At least we know who we’re dealing with now.

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Back in Alexandria, Rick wakes up and has to face the consequences of his fight with Pete. Michonne and Glen are not happy with him, but are still trying to understand what happened. Carol is lying to everyone and letting Rick take all the blame for the stolen guns, and Abraham is, as always, just there to fill out the shot.

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Deanna has called a meeting to discuss Rick’s actions and decide his fate, and the other members of the community are dealing with the tension in various ways. Maggie approaches Deanna and Reg in an attempt to mediate the situation, but is quickly shot down (figuratively) by Deanna, who appears to be intent on Rick being expelled.

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Gabriel, Nicholas, Sasha and Glen make their way outside the walls for some alone time. Gabriel briefly considers letting a walker have him for lunch, but loses his nerve at the last minute. Sasha decides to take a break from walker-hunting and takes a nap with some new friends while Glen and Nicholas work on their conflict-resolution skills in manly fashion.

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Carol is still being a super-disturbing version of a housewife and, after planning an attack on the citizens of Alexandria, decides to visit Pete with a nice homemade casserole. Of course, her delivery lacks a little something, since she promptly threatens Pete’s life after handing over his dinner. Then, for some added flair, she tells him to make sure and wash the dish before he returns it. After their little talk, I’m sure he wouldn’t dare do otherwise!

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Daryl and Aaron are on the road, looking for other survivors, and come across a cannery with multiple trailers parked outside. Of course, finding food can’t be that easy and it all turns out to be a trap. Fortunately, Morgan shows up just in time to save the day and release some more of his Zen ninja awesomeness into the world. Aaron invites Morgan to come back to Alexandria with them, but Morgan says he has somewhere else to be and is just lost. He then hands Daryl a map and asks for help. Cue the dramatic music.
Back at Alexandria, Gabriel has messed up again and left the gate standing open for any walkers passing by. Rick misses most of the meeting, since he’s busy getting to know the walkers who took advantage of the open gate a little better, but he still arrives in time to make a grand entrance. Meanwhile, Sasha and Gabriel are having an in-depth discussion about their feelings.

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Rick does make it to the meeting, proving that “better late than never” really is true. Unfortunately, he’s also covered in walker slime, so he doesn’t really make a great impression. He gives a brief but moving speech, where he admits to trying to figure out how many of them to kill, before the meeting is interrupted. Chaos ensues, tragedy follows, and even Rick is surprised by the arrival of some visitors that leave us all wishing the season 6 premiere wasn’t quite so far away.

Review

There were so many incredible moments in the finale that I’m just going to pick my personal favorites and discuss those.
First up, we have the scene between Carol and Pete. Wow. I’ll admit, I’m not a big Carol fan. Her storyline has seemed a little on the crazy side lately, and my pet theory for the finale involved her death. However, when Carol confronts Pete with a knife in his own home, I immediately switched sides and decided she really needs to stick around for awhile longer. The visual of the diminutive Carol standing up to Pete and finally addressing some of her inner demons was perfectly done and amazing to watch.
Next, there’s the confrontation between Sasha and Gabriel. Both of these characters have been struggling throughout the second half of the season, and to see them go at each other is great. Psychologically, they are in the same mind-set, even though they have arrived there by different paths. Their desire to die conflicts with their nature as survivors, and to see that battle throughout the episode and in that final scene between them was especially powerful. Maggie’s offering acceptance and understanding was a great way to resolve that particular scene, even though I’m sure the issue isn’t settled.
Finally, we can’t stop until we’ve discussed Rick. The first 4 seasons of The Walking Dead have largely been a breaking down of Rick’s civilized self. He’s seen almost everyone he loves die, yet has somehow managed to keep going. Season 5 seemed to focus mainly on the ways those sacrifices have changed the entire group, but mostly how they’ve changed Rick.
In the past, he has always had an ally that helped to keep him centered and maintain some kind of hold on who he used to be. This season, that was missing, and there just seemed to be a string of deaths that drove him closer to the edge without anyone to help him step back. Last week’s conflict with Pete only seemed to reinforce the idea that Rick could no longer distinguish how far is too far, and I was fully expecting another “Ricktatorship” moment in this week’s finale.
However, what we got was a man who is still able to see those lines. He may have temporarily lost it, but he is still able to discern that he went too far and step back from his path. The final moment, when he once again comes face to face with Morgan, gives me hope that Rick will again find some kind of spiritual balance with someone who can see past their own need, and offer Rick something to really live for instead of just survival.

Content Warning

Language – Some cursing (b****, s***), but I may have missed some. There are several scenes where the cursing is prominent.
Violence – There is a lot of graphic violence in this episode. There are multiple walker deaths and they actually came up with new and disturbing ways for them to die. There are 3 deaths of survivors, and 2 of them die by having their throats slit. One death is not shown, but you definitely know it happened. There are several scenes with fighting, including a lengthy fight between Nicholas and Glen.
Nudity – There is no nudity or sexual content in this episode.
*All photos courtesy of AMC

The Bottom Line

While some viewers say The Walking Dead has become predictable, this finale manages to offer plenty of action and surprises throughout the entire 90 minutes. I can hardly wait until the premiere of season 6!

 

9.5

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Lari Burkhart

A life-long book addict, I spend most of my time trying to find a way to avoid reality through sci-fi and fantasy. I've been a Christian for quite some time (no numbers, please) and I'm always ready for a discussion about how fiction mirrors the Bible and its principles even when it's trying not to.

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