The fifth season finale of The Walking Dead is upon us? Will Morgan make it to Alexandria? Will Rick get exiled? Will Maggie and Glenn ever share a scene together again? And most importantly…is it good?

AKA Donatello

The show opens with Morgan taking a rest from his hike to find Rick’s group. He’s soon confronted by a guy with a W emblazoned on his head. He points a gun at him, gives Morgan a bit of trivia about what the W means (Wolves…duh), and reveals that they plan to rob and kill him.

Unfortunately for Mr. W and his hidden friend, Morgan has inexplicably turned into a crossbow wielding ninja during his time in the wilderness. After deftly disarming and kicking both of his attacker’s asses, he drags them into a nearby car, honks the horn a few times, and continues on his journey.

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Now at first, I thought he honked the car horn to draw walkers in to kill the people who attacked him. Turns out that I (and just about everyone else) was completely misread that. According to the actor who plays Morgan, Lennie James, it was to make sure that there WERE NOT any walkers nearby, therefore giving his attackers a chance to survive.

Errr…yeah…I like the incorrect reasoning much better, but whatever. It was still a cool scene.

“Oh sunshine, you don’t get both.”

Back in Alexandria, Rick awakens to find that Michonne has been watching over him, which is both touching and a bit unsettling. A few of the others join them, including Carol, who pretends not to know that Rick was attempting to pilfer guns from the town armory.

Rick begins setting up a plan to take out the Alexandrian leadership (but only if it comes to that, of course). Michonne urges him to consider more diplomatic options besides waving a gun in the middle of the street and threatening to kill everyone. She later assures Rick that despite the fact she knocked his ass out, she’s still on his side—but also reminds him that it would be advisable to try opening a real dialogue with them instead of acting like a lunatic.

When Carol gets a chance to speak with Rick alone, she reminds him that he can’t be honest with these people and still take over. In fact, she’s been lying to them the entire time just through her appearance, making sure they don’t know just how dangerous she truly is.

I want my dish back

…and speaking of dangerous Carol, she goes to visit Pete in his new home/prison with a casserole and a chilling death threat. This might be one of the best scenes of the season. You can tell that Carol truly hates this man (especially when you consider her history), but she’s not scared of him one bit. Pete, on the other hand, looks like he’s about to crap his pants as she delicately flicks her knife up towards his chin, reminding him that no one will suspect her if she ever decides to slit his throat. The only reason she hasn’t done it yet is because his medical skills are needed (especially with Tara still in rough shape).

After Carol leaves (and reminds him to clean the dish before bringing it back to her), Pete loses it. He begins breaking things and screaming in a neutered rage about how this “ISN’T MY HOUSE!”
No it’s not Pete. This is Carol’s world… you’re just allowed to live in it.

Uncomfortable Meetings

Maggie (who STILL hasn’t told anyone about Gabriel’s backstabbing) goes to Deanna and Reg to plead Rick’s case. Deanna pledges to do whatever is best for her people. Considering that everything has gone to hell since Rick showed up, it’s not looking too good for Sheriff Grimes.

Another meeting takes place between Eugene and Abraham, who apologize to each other and officially become friends again. Tara also wakes up, hopefully with enough memory loss to forget that stupid fist bump thing she does.

Outside Alexandria, Sasha is burying dead walkers in a hole. After struggling to move one of them, she decides to take a break and lay down…on top of the dead zombie pile.

Okay, I’ll admit it’s a cool looking shot, but it’s also just plain stupid. I don’t care how damaged Sasha is—those things can’t be comfortable and probably smell like ass. There are much better places to have a mental breakdown.

It’s a trap!

Daryl and Aaron scout the wilderness for new recruits. Lucky for them, there’s a dude wandering alone in a bright red poncho (who must be an amazing athlete since he’s clearly terrible at camoflauge). They eventually lose track of him (seriously…they lost track of a guy on foot, wearing a red poncho, and in broad daylight), but do find a suspiciously unlooted processed food truck fleet.

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Despite screaming as loud as I could at the television, Aaron didn’t hear me and opened one of them up, revealing a horde of zombies inside. This had to be one of the stupidest, most telegraphed zombie encounters ever. Fortunately, it’s completely made up for by Daryl giving us the zombie kill(s) of the year via a metal chain hat trick.

After he and Aaron lock themselves in a nearby car, Daryl decides to sacrifice himself to save his friend. Aaron refuses, saying that they will escape or die together. Before the bromantic duo can go out in a blaze of glory, however, the zombies surrounding their car start going down. Turns out that Ninja Morgan was in the area and willing to lend a hand!

After Aaron and Daryl get out of the car and thank him, he shows them Abraham’s note about the world needing Rick Grimes. Daryl responds to this with a smoldering gaze of recognition.

Run Through the Hill

Back in Alexandria, Glenn and Maggie FINALLY have a scene together. As she walks off (without a kiss or anything!) Glenn notices Nicholas scaling the wall. He tracks him into the woods, where Nicholas promptly shoots him. A million screams went up on Twitter, but there was nothing to fear. Unless that bullet was made of wood and wrapped in barbed wire, it wasn’t about to take down Glenn!

Nicholas found this out the hard way. After searching for his wounded pretty, Glenn attacks him from out of nowhere. Nicholas eventually regains the upper hand by pressing a finger into the bullet wound on Glenn’s shoulder, but a zombie forces them to separate.

That night (these guys were in the woods for a REALLY long time) Glenn sneaks up on Nicholas, clocks him, then presses a gun to his head. The viewing audience cheered as Nicholas blubbered and begged for his life. But Glenn just couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger, opting instead to help the villainous douchebag up off the ground.

Boy, the show sure is going to great lengths to establish Glenn as a good guy lately. I wonder why they’re doing that…oh well…moving on.

Gabriel REALLY sucks

This isn’t an opinion anymore; it a stone cold fact.

For starters, he goes on a walk outside the gates of Alexandria and tries to commit suicide by zombie. At first, the zombie ignores him, which I thought would have been fantastic—even the undead think he’s too pathetic to eat!

But when the walker begins lumbering toward him, I was ready to watch the show’s current most despicable character get what was coming to him. At the last minute, however, he changes his mind and kills the zombie before falling to the ground and crying like a baby.

Later, Gabriel comes back through the gate. When the guard asks him to shut it behind him, he does so with the same force a toddler uses to close the refrigerator door. He walks off, oblivious to the fact that his carelessness has left Alexandria open to dangers much greater than those “evil” people who’ve saved his ass ten times over. Way to go, Gabe.

That night, Sasha comes to him seeking comfort (and maybe some Febreeze to get the zombie stink off her clothes). This would be a great time for him to use all the seminary training for some counseling. Instead, he tells her that she deserves all the bad things that have happened to her. It soon becomes clear that he’s doing this to goad her into killing him, which makes his behavior even more disgusting.

He eventually cries and confesses how guilty he feels about allowing his congregation to die. Sasha responds by reaching down, grabbing his hand, and breaking it… not really. She helps him up. But I really wanted her to hurt him.

Night Moves

The big meeting about Rick finally starts. Instead of having it inside a building or during the daytime, Deanna decides to hold it outside at night because that makes for better television. As everyone gives their two cents about Rick, he’s running around killing the walkers that Gabriel let in.

Carol, Maggie (who doesn’t seem at all bothered that Glenn is missing), and Abraham all give impassioned speeches about how much they need someone like Rick to protect the camp. Deanna makes the point that all the bad stuff started happening after Rick arrived with them. (The show tried to mitigate this by Aidan admitting before he died that some folks had died because of him, but Deanna still has a good point). She punctuates this by revealing what Gabriel told her, which Maggie seems to finally remember in that exact same moment.

Abraham counters with an awesome “you don’t know s**t about s**t” speech that seems to have everyone convinced…right before Rick walks in and dumps a dead walker down in front of them. I understand what he was going for, but that doesn’t seem like the best way to say “See guys, I’m not crazy.” He tells them that the walkers made it inside thanks to the gate being open, but that explanation probably wouldn’t hold up. Getting a fresh walker corpse from beyond the gates is probably as easy as finding a Starbucks in Seattle.

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Before anyone can call him on it, however, a drunken Pete wanders in wielding a sword (Michonne’s?). Reg gets in front of him, tells him to stop, and promptly gets his throat slashed. This sends Deanna into understandable hysterics before turning to Rick and telling him to “do it.” Rick turns, pops a cap in Pete’s head, then looks up to see Morgan watching him.

Awkward.

Ballad of the Red Poncho Guy

Remember red poncho guy? Well, the Wolves got him. They bring him to the process food trucks, slit his throat, and allow him to wander into the gated parking lot while music pulls the others back inside the vehicles. Looks like the wolves aren’t far…and they’re building an army.

Is it Good?

There’s so much to like and dislike about this episode that it’s hard to say.

Carol’s scene with Pete was one of my favorites of the entire season. So was Abraham’s “you don’t know s**t about s**t” speech. Morgan’s ninja skills, while a little baffling, were still a lot of fun to watch. I’ve also really like watching the friendship between Daryl and Aaron grow despite the fact that the two of them combined have turned into the worst trackers of all time.

Also, the zombie kills in this one were particularly good. Rick’s hand in the head shot would have won kill of the week on just about any other episode (except when he didn’t keep his mouth closed as the gore rained down on him). Daryl’s chain attack, however, was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

But then there was so much that made my head hurt.

I appreciate the fight between Glenn and Nicholas establishing what a great guy Glenn is, but it started during the day and went long into the night. Were they really hunting each other for that long…and was Glenn really okay for that length of time with a bullet lodged in his shoulder?

And what’s up with Maggie completely not caring that he’s missing from the town meeting…which for some reason was held at night and outdoors in the cold.

And speaking of that meeting, the Peter-kills-Reg-at-just-the-right-time-to-help-Rick-win-over-Deanna sequence was waaaaaay too convenient. Brutal, yes. But still a bit cheap from a narrative standpoint.

On the other hand, I really like how Mr. They’re Too Dangerous Gabriel just about caused a lethal catastrophe. I also thought it was a nice touch that the zombie he tried to kill himself with was also clearly a suicide victim (evidenced by the noose around its neck).

So yeah…this is a tough one. In the end, I’d say the great character moments (particularly for Carol and Morgan) make this one good. The narrative missteps, however, have me a bit nervous about next season. Let’s hope the Wolves provide us some barbed wired balance to the story going forward.

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 16 "Conquer" Review
Lots of good, gory action, including Daryl giving us the zombie kill of the year...and maybe the century.Carol, however, is the real badass of the show. She and Morgan have some truly fantastic character moments in this episode. Daryl and Aaron make for a good team...as far as dialogue is concerned. When it comes to tracking, they're terrible.
Plot holes the size of the bullet wound in Pete's head are everywhere. Why doesn't Maggie realize Glenn is missing. Why doesn't Maggie tell anyone what Gabriel said? How did Glenn survive all that time with a bullet in his shoulder? Why are they having the meeting outside in the dark? Why is Sasha's sleep number 8 walkers?The Wolves needs to get here soon--this plot is hanging by a thread.
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