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‘The Walking Dead’ Season 5 Finale Recap: “Conquer”

morgan walking dead

The only predictable thing about The Walking Dead is its unpredictability.

I thought I had this episode nailed: at least one major death, huge upheaval in Alexandria, the Wolves come in and conquer Alexandria. Turns out, none of that really happened.

Instead, we were treated to ninety-minutes of nail-biting, chair clenching, anxiety-driven plot dives and twists as the build-up tensions and struggles culminate into a climax.

First off, one of my predictions from last week’s episode came true: we get to finally see Morgan, and after so long too! While everyone has been facing off in packs, Morgan has been enjoying living life solo. He is suddenly approached by a man with the enigmatic, recurring “W” carved onto the forehead. “W”-man explains to Morgan the structure of the Wolves – it’s more tribal/hierarchical than anything. He then goes on to say that he won’t be returning alone – Morgan will be joining them and he’ll be just barely alive. There’s an immediate struggle when another W guy comes in and together ambush Morgan. Thankfully, we can all trust Morgan’s skills and agility in taking the two down immediately (almost TMNT-style).

Back in Alexandria, the “hero” of our story wakes up in a daze in some sort of facility. Rick soon finds out he’s not alone – Michonne is there to scold him for the previous night’s events. Between Carol, Daryl, Michonne, and Rick, it’s clear that there are different factions that are arising between the original gang. Michonne urges Rick to not be as weird as he usually is (“we had to stop being out there”).

Carol, Glenn, and Abraham join them, in which Carol pretends she wasn’t part of the brigade in taking the guns from the armory. Together they discuss the plan of attack for the forum tonight. Rick is all for giving the Alexandrians an ultimatum: we want the armory, otherwise we kill you.

Maggie is quickly maturing in Alexandria as a future leader/public speaker, under the tutelage of Deanna. As of times late however, it’s been a bit strained between the two groups and thus between Deanna and Maggie. Maggie vehemently states that sending Rick away isn’t the right thing, and that it wouldn’t be informative at all for the rest of the Alexandrians. Deanna’s husband agrees: “Civilization starts when we stop running away.” Deanna on the other hand? She’s vehement and strong-willed in what she believes in.

It’s been a bit complicated for Sasha: to say that she’s had a simple transition into Alexandrian life would be a lie. So seeing her working outside the fence and consequently lying amongst a pile of walkers isn’t completely out of the ordinary.

Back in Rick’s room, Carol has some alone time and confides to him her way of dealing with the Alexandrians: They’re so inexperienced with the real-world that they can be satiated with a little bit of storytelling, which is what Carol has been providing. She then proceeds to talk to Rick like a child, which feels a bit odd and is perhaps an ode to a possible change in leadership.

Maggie and Glenn finally have a moment together, in which Maggie tells a very solemn Glenn that she’s gonna round up everyone and spread the word of “truth” as much as she can, in order to fix this thing. As she leaves, Glenn sees Nicholas climbing over the fence, right alongside Glenn’s straight line of view. It’s clearly a trap (this is when I started screaming at the screen).

walking dead aaron daryl

Beyond the gate, Aaron and Daryl are in hot pursuit for food and supplies. Their friendship has really developed into something special for us to see, and especially for Daryl, who hasn’t had an actual guy-friend for awhile (past example: Merle). Following a mysterious poncho person, they’re led to a gated area enclosing a bunch of trucks. They get in, only to discover that the whole place is booby-trapped. They’re immediately surrounded and trapped inside a car by a swarm of walkers. After the two have shared a conversation and just as it seems like all is lost, they are saved from the outside, and by a familiar face: Morgan! Returning with his badass TMNT-styled fighting skills, the three manage to survive and escape. When Daryl asks Morgan why he bothered saving them, Morgan replies with “All lives are precious.”  He hands Daryl a map (the map), with the writing “the world needs Rick Grimes.” Reunion is clearly imminent.

At this point, Carol pays a little visit to Pete. While the intent of her visit was clearly to scare him with her nonchalant threatening people-person attitude (“come at me”), and initiate him to help Tara out, it only aggravates things for Pete.

Tensions at this point in the episode keep spiraling higher and higher. On the other side of the fence, Glenn is in pursuit of Nicholas. There’s a moment of calmness, and just when things seem to be going not so crazy, GLENN GETS SHOT. While it’s a harmless bullet to the shoulder, it still hurts.

Over at Tara’s sickbed, there’s a small, quiet reunion between Abraham and Eugene, with Rosita glancing on in the background. The two men formally apologize to each other (albeit Eugene’s apology is a lot more wordy and Yoda-ish).

In the meantime, thoroughly irrelevant Gabriel is trying to find his own way out in the wilds, perhaps to test the power of God in helping him. He barely survives an attack by two walkers, however, and quickly realizes that times have indeed changed for him – and for the worse. When he arrives back at Alexandria, he is in such a whirlwind of emotions that he forgets to close the gate completely.

Just a couple of hours before the forum is about to start, Rick and Michonne have alone time to discuss their future. Rick explains to Michonne that he didn’t tell her the whole truth at first because he was afraid she would talk him out of it (meaning she would talk him into being more civilized). Michonne quickly corrects him: she’ll always be on his side. The only issue is that something is always gonna happen – Rick’s gotta make sure that he’s not the perpetrator of said something.

As Rick is getting ready for the forum, he notices that the gate has been left open. He runs over to quickly close and lock it up, but realizes that there are traces of walkers around the area. They’ve been infiltrated.

Sasha finds herself at the church, awaiting Gabriel’s arrival. She pleads to him that she needs help from him and God, but it’s very easy to see that Thoroughly Irrelevant Gabriel (that’s how I’ll be referring to him from now on) has completely lost all faith in hope and resurrection. He quickly blames Sasha for the deaths of Bob and Tyreese, and it’s certain that conflict is arriving.

And the conflicts don’t just stop there. In three separate locations, three separate battles are being wound up, and it’s actually so terrifying. We have no idea what’s going to happen, who might die, and who might live to conquer. On one hand, we have Glenn facing Nicholas. While it takes a bit longer than expected (granted Glenn has a bullet wound), he ultimately gains the upper hand, and instead of easily killing Nicholas, he helps him onto his feet and they return to Alexandria.

glenn walking dead

In another battle, Sasha and Thoroughly Irrelevant Gabriel square off with each other in the church. As Sasha is clutching a rifle, it goes off and breaks a window nearby.

Rick, who has been scouring the perimeter for signs of walkers, is finally approached by them. Of course, we all know that Rick can take them down. But it gets real uncertain at a point, when Rick kills a walker on his back by suspending him and breaking his head off, spewing its blood all over his face (maybe Rick’s just into that look nowadays).

Meanwhile at the forum, Carol, Maggie, and Michonne urge the Alexandrians to believe in Rick and how he has united them all in various ways. Even Abraham has something to contribute (which perhaps culminates in the best line of the entire episode): “There’s a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit of, and Rick knows every fine grain of said shit. And then some.”

Deanna explains to the group what Gabriel had said earlier to her (in the previous episode), though it is quickly met with skepticism. Maggie goes off to find Gabriel, and instead finds him held at gunpoint by Sasha. She quickly calms down Sasha and alleviates the situation.

On a quick sidenote, the episode takes us back to the gated-booby trap area, where we see the two Wolves (who confronted Morgan in the beginning) holding the mysterious poncho man. It becomes clear that they own this place, as they proceed to kill the man, and immediately after, enable music to play from one of the trucks, essentially rounding up the walkers into one place.

Finally, Rick arrives at the forum, carrying one of the walkers over his shoulder. He declares to the Alexandrians that he—along with the rest of the group—will show them how to survive together. But they’re going to have to change. He isn’t exactly sorry for what he said the previous day in his wild stage (post-Pete fight) – he’s only sorry that he didn’t say it sooner.

Tensions seem to be winding down. Everyone seems to be down with Rick’s idea. Over in the “hospital-wing” area, Tara has woken up and is greeted by Rosita (I SHIP IT). The air seems so hopeful that it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for everyone at the forum to grab each other’s hands, sway in the wind, and sing Kumbaya. But alas, unpredictability strikes.

It’s a problem that has yet to be resolved, and we knew this was going to come up eventually. A drunk Pete arrives on the scene, declaring that Rick’s not one of them. Deanna’s nice, pleasant husband (alarm bells should have been ringing off) goes up to him to try and calm him down, but it has the reverse effect: Pete swings at him with a sword and cuts deeply into his neck.

Deanna falls onto the ground, grabbing her quickly dying husband. Abraham has locked down Pete. Everyone is standing still, awaiting judgment. Then Deanna turns to Rick and quietly mutters: “Do it.”

And with no hesitation at all, Rick shoots Pete in the head.

At that very instant, we hear a quiet voice say “Rick?” and as Rick himself looks up, he sees Daryl, Aaron, and in the middle, a very shocked Morgan.

Well, even though not a lot happened, EVERYTHING HAPPENED. These are the types of episodes that really make The Walking Dead standout. For the entirety of the ninety minutes, we really had no idea what was going to happen in each of the individual struggles that took place. And with just the right recipe, the finale has led us with a ton of questions but the right amount of incentive and reasoning.

Big Finale Moments

  • MORGAN IS BACK! My prediction from last episode came true (though retrospectively, it would have had to)! Now that he’s back, it’s time to guess what his character might be built into in Alexandria. I have a very good feeling that Morgan will be the moral compass of the gang, and will maybe try to work Rick into somewhat of a more toned down version of himself.
  • Resolution with Pete: In a way, it’s good that Pete killed Deanna’s husband, as it forced Deanna to join ranks with Rick. Now that this happened however, there’s a lot of mess to clean up, especially from Deanna’s perspective.
  • The Wolves Are Here. My only critique of the episode is that I would have liked to see more exposition of the Wolves. Of course in ninety-minutes, that would be a bit rushed. It is very clear however, that the two sides are going to face each other in conflict, and by the looks of the wolves’ tribal ways and savagery, it’s not going to be pretty.

While the episode’s title “Conquer” makes it a bit ambiguous as to who the real conqueror is, there is no doubt that it has solidly built up to even more conflict and development next season. Overall, Season 5 did a tremendous job in the second half of creating a stronghold/base for the crew in Alexandria, allowing us time to develop relationships with both the old and new characters. It’s with this strong character and story development, and beautiful camera work and direction, that we’ll be anxiously waiting for the premiere of Season 6 and the conflict with the Wolves (crossing my fingers that it won’t be as underwhelming as the Termites).