So here we are, the hotly-anticipated Season 5 finale of The Walking Dead. After last week’s outing saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln) go back to his more crazy ways and get bitch-slapped by Michonne (Danai Gurira), Conquer looks to address the big question of the day: what to do with a problem like Rick Grimes?
With Rick acting as calm as an unhinged, jilted ex-partner last week, the locals of Alexandria seem to be leaning towards politely asking the sheriff to leave their community. When a meeting is announced to discuss this matter, luckily Rick has a plan – if they don’t listen then it’s time to start slitting throats. A tad extreme, no? Whilst Carol (Melissa McBride) is fully on board with this idea – because she’s always the sane one, right? – some of our other familiar faces don’t seem totally convinced in Rick’s methods. Michonne and Glenn (Steven Yeun) agree with Rick but don’t seem all enthused with the prospect of slicing the throats of those who have given them a stable home. And while this plot is being concocted, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is off doing her best to reason with any and every of the Alexandria squad who will listen to her about the problem of Rick Grimes’ possible expulsion.
Then there’s Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) out on their recruiting drive, only for their situation to cross into the mystery “W” arc of the show. Whilst they don’t actually meet any of this mystery group directly, they certainly fall victim to them and even end up stranded in a car with seemingly no way out but for one of them to sacrifice themselves to being walker chow. Luckily Morgan (Lennie James) arrives on the scene in timely fashion. Oh, who?! You know, the guy who was seen way back in the first season, then popped up further down the line in a slightly deranged manner before being hot on the heels of Rick and Co. this season. He’s also had a ‘moment’ with this W-engraved group, although he was able to channel his inner-Donatello and fight them off with a bowstaff.
One other angle that gets furthered here is the apparent reconciling of Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) after the ginger rage of Ford nearly beat the mullet off of Eugene after the whole ‘l have a cure for this whole thing, honest’ claims of the business at the front/party at the back Eugene. And then there’s the further shitbag actions of Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), who ends up compromising the security of Alexandria and pushing the buttons of Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). Fortunately, Rick is on hand to take down a walker menace that has gotten into the compound, effectively popping his head in one of the more memorable undead deaths of the show. This also conveniently dovetails into the closing moments of Conquer, putting Rick in a good light just as his future is being decided upon. Oh, and it also helps that Pete (Corey Brill) turns up on the scene and gets a little too eager with Michonne’s katana, sealing his own fate at the same time. Morgan then finally shows up on the scene as the season comes to a close.
Going forward, it looks as if Rick Grimes is back in the good-ish books and seemingly tasked with training the inhabitants of Alexandria to become more badass. Whilst Maggie bigs up Rick for bringing the group together like a family and for having the respect of all, Abraham Ford puts it a bit more bluntly: “There’s a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about. Rick knows every fine grain of said shit and then some.” Quite.
There seems to be a sense of tribalism routed deep in The Walking Dead at this stage, and the impending arrival of this big, bad new gang is only going to further that. How the tensions within the Alexandria group heal, we’ll have to wait and see – after all, Glenn was attempted to be offed at one point here! But The Walking Dead has a habit of healing old wounds, so let’s see how this all plays out. It also appears that Maggie’s presence is growing and growing, further reflecting her comic book character and being a great “promotion” for her in terms of hierarchy.
As a season finale, if we’re honest, Conquer wasn’t quite all that we’d hoped for. There were some great moments, but there was the hope from so many of getting given so much more; as in the ominous “W” arc coming to a head. Many have speculated on just who or what this W represents, and we’ve got our thoughts on that one, but it seems a shame to have held off on bringing this element to the fore here as some sort of cliff-hanger going in to Season 6. Instead we got an episode that felt like it was more suited to being an outing one or two episodes before the season finale. One personal highlight, though, was a John Carpenter-esque score when Rick realised that Alexandria had been breached. Long-time Carpenter fans will have gotten a grin out of that one.
Either way, Rick seems to have come back from the brink again (seriously, how many times?!) and will be leading the charge against whatever is on the horizon come the next season. This finale seemed more about coming together in times of conflict, giving a relatively uneventful season-closer in terms of action compared to previous years. At least we've got the knowledge that a big threat is coming to amp up the intensity of Season 6. Let's just hope that the next season hits the ground running.
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