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  • Walking Dead's Season 5 Finale "Conquer" Review

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    The following review contains spoilers for the Walking Dead season 5 Finale "Conquer"

    Veni, Vidi, Vici

    A common complaint of The Walking Dead (as well as the basis for many jokes) has been the tedious pace it sometimes takes to reach the climax of a particular arc. Season 5 shattered that notion as it gave us three separate groups of episodes with only some sputtering in between. While the Alexandria arc is far from over, the last 6 episodes of season 5B had a very clear goal: show Rick’s swift rise to power. It was the tight focus on this goal that made the final episodes so enjoyable. We haven’t had much to complain about since “Them” and a lot of the same praises for the writing, directing, and acting could be said again this week. While Rick most definitely came, saw, and conquered, he couldn’t have done it without his family and that help is what made the finale so special.

     

    Mental Tug-O-War

    [caption id=attachment_1899" align="alignright" width="300]Maggie talks to Deanna in the Walking Dead season 5 finale Maggie played an underrated role in the finale as she not only tried to preemptively defend Rick for the group, but she also gathered Sasha and Gabriel to pull them out of their lowest pits yet.[/caption]

    Rick was teetering on the edge of insanity for a while now and an unspoken battle reached its climax in “Conquer”. While the main conflict, on the surface, seemed to be Rick vs Alexandria, it was almost as if Michonne and Carol were fighting the real war. While neither won in getting Rick completely in their camp, they sort of cancelled each other out leaving Rick right where he needed to be. Aware of his mistakes but still willing to do what it takes to benefit his people. Michonne was like Rick’s right brain, a bit of a hopeful dreamer who didn’t approve of Rick’s actions so far and worried that he would screw everything up. Carol was Rick’s left brain, cool and calculated, pure and raw. By approaching Rick with both ends of the spectrum, they worked together to create a Rick that was able to run out the clock, to hang on just long enough for Pete to snap first. Combining this with members of Rick’s group defending him at the forum created one of the most enjoyable aspects of the night.

     

    The Carol Factor

    Did I say neither Michonne or Carol won? I lied. While neither gained full control of Rick, Carol most definitely saved the day and how she did it is what makes her one of the most interesting characters on the show. Whether she was smothering herself in Walker guts to take down Terminus or donning the ridiculous house wife garbs to fool the people of Alexandria, Carol is becoming a master manipulator. She was a survivor before the zombie apocalypse began and she’s one of the best amidst the chaos of the new world. Her victory was in her approach to Pete. She had the confidence to go face to face with the enraged doctor and push and pull him off his feet. Pete, who seemed to be struggling with his anger issues much like Rick struggled with his sanity, fully leapt from the edge after Carol left and it directly lead to the final moment of the night, the moment Carol saw her victory come to completion.

    After Rick approached the group with his dead walker and confessed, in true mad man fashion, that he was thinking about how many people he’d have to kill to save Alexandria, it was no surprise that the majority of attendees still looked scared and worried. Rick’s fate was still looking bleak until Pete murdered Reg in a fit of rage. Afterwards, Rick was given the ok to execute him and he at least had Deanna's support. This scene was fantastic and I wish we got a glimpse of Carol’s face and smug look she probably wore as she watched her seeds grow to fruition, it would have been great. I wasn’t huge on Carol before season 5 but after Terminus and Alexandria, coupled with Melissa McBride’s excellent performances throughout, she definitely rose near the top of my list of favorites.

     

    United It Stands

    [caption id=attachment_1902" align="alignright" width="300]Michonne decides to keep her sword with her in a bonus scene from "Conquer" As if the contents of the 90 minute finale weren't quite enough, we were treated to an after-credits bonus scene. The symbol circled is often used to represent rebirth. Not only fitting for Michonne and her katana blade but also for Alexandria as a whole following the events we just saw.[/caption]

    You could browse through our reviews from the past month and you’ll notice a common aspect of Alexandria that we love, the fact that so much was going on at one time. The run of episodes leading to the finale was, in a word, hectic to say the least. I was concerned on how they would tie all of it together for the finale and wasn’t even sure they would try to. When it was announced that the finale would be 90 minutes I was sure they’d make an attempt but could they succeed? The short answer is yes and they not only succeeded but they surpassed all expectations.

    Bringing all the subplots and conflicts together was surely no small task and some elements didn’t make the cut (Carl’s budding romance with Enid for example) but every important thread tied together with the rest, director Greg Nicotero impressed like usual. Just listing every element of “Conquer” would get our heads spinning, let alone watching it all unfold and trying to take in the fast and furious 90 minutes being hurled at us. Instead of dissecting everything, let’s just look at some of the highlights (and one lowlight).

     

    I wasn’t feeling much of anything towards Sasha this season and Gabriel became a pretty hated character after throwing the group under the bus to Deanna but both of these characters had a great sequence together in “Conquer”. Sasha, also balancing very perilously on the edge of insanity, was left holding a gun to Gabriel who was begging for death and accepting his sins as Maggie entered just in time to play peace keeper. Mixed in so well with the other current events created a very intense moment that was sure to be the end of Gabriel. I’m glad it wasn’t, Seth Gilliam is far too good an actor to have killed Gabriel at this point, it would have been a waste.

    Speaking of hated characters, Nicholas also survived the night. I could have lived with either outcome but hopefully he’ll also get a chance at redemption. If not, it’s always good to have a character you love to hate.

     

    [caption id=attachment_1900" align="alignright" width="300]Daryl did his best ghost rider impression in the season 5 Walking Dead finale "Conquer" Daryl's 3-point chain kill was the best of the night, if not the whole season. I still love the jack-o-lantern walker but I couldn't help but let out a hell yeah when Daryl went full ghost rider.[/caption]

     

    While I wasn’t too bummed by it, if I had to pick a flaw with “Conquer” it would be Glenn’s apparent plot armor. After shockingly being shot, Glenn managed to disappear almost immediately. If that wasn’t magical enough, he then survives being badly beaten and toppled on by several walkers. There’s no way Glenn would get an off screen death so his reappearance later was predictable. Steven Yeun’s performance was great yet again and I love seeing badass Glenn but this was handled in a silly fashion.

    Eugene and Abraham are always good for humor. On top of
    , we were treated to a lighthearted moment to cut all the layered tension when Abraham visits Tara. The shift from Rosita’s smug “accident” to Eugene’s blank stare after waking from his slumber was one of the funniest moments the trio has had yet. They’ve had so many gems that it would be hard to pick the best.

    While much is still to be determined, we got a great first real taste of the wolves. Two very creepy individuals gave us the most disturbing moments of the night. Their well crafted trap created real and believable peril for Aaron and Daryl, it seemed like one or both of them was surely not seeing the end of the night. The red poncho man was a great touch for the big, bad, wolves and even though we knew nothing about him, it was hard to watch his quick and abrupt fate. Something tells me Morgan will regret not killing these guys. Speaking of Morgan…

    Full Circle

    My favorite aspect of season 5B, besides the pure jumbled chaos of it all, was that the show sort of went full circle. There were a ton of throwbacks to previous events the group went through and we got to see a side by side comparison of the new group compared to the group we started following in season 1. It was hard not to look at Deanna as an alternate Rick from before the Governor, hunters, and Terminus did their damage. What better way to end the season than have Rick come face to face with Morgan again.

     

     

    [caption id=attachment_1901" align="alignleft" width="300]A mysterious man approaches Morgan to kick of the Walking Dead's finale "Conquer" Get used to hating this guy because he is sure to play a big role in season 6. Let's just hope Morgan doesn't pay the ultimate price for sparing his life, along with his pal.[/caption]

    While it was a bit jarring and unexpected to see Morgan has become a ninja, it was pretty much the ultimate form of fan service we could have gotten. His newly found righteousness was a nice addition to his no longer crazy character. The best moment of the night might have just been when Morgan handed Daryl the map with Abraham’s message on it, another throwback to the past and where the group came from. Lennie James has done a great job in his brief moments as Morgan in the series so far, hopefully he sticks around in season 6 and we get to see a whole lot more of him.

    Why wouldn’t he stick around? Possibly because of the moment that proved to be one heck of a pisser to end the season. Morgan, who had told Daryl that all life is precious, arrives at Alexandria just in time to see Rick execute Pete. No happy, all smiles and hugs reunion between the two, just stunned stares and a gut wrenching feeling. We’ve got a while to stew over the fate of the show’s best bromance and, of course, speculate much more than is healthy on where the show will go next season. Wherever it takes us, good or bad, we’ll always have this fantastic season to look back on. The season where the Walking Dead got its bite back.

    What did you think of the jam packed, super sized Walking Dead finale? What about season 5 as a whole? Let us know what you think in the comments below and be sure to rate the episode!



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