‘The Walking Dead’ Season Finale Review: ‘Conquer’
The Walking Dead Season 5 brings to life its 16th and final episode with Sunday’s “Conquer,” as Rick’s outburst puts the group’s place in Alexandria at risk, while Daryl and Aaron discover a sinister source of the mysterious “W” walkers.
Last week’s The Walking Dead installment, “Try,” saw Rick upsetting the Alexandria order in dealing with Jessie and her abusive husband Pete, while Daryl and Aaron made a shocking discovery outside the walls. So, what does the final episode of Season 5 bring?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about The Walking Dead Season 5 finale, “Conquer”!
The time spent in Alexandria really has afforded the best The Walking Dead has to offer, allowing us to examine the series’ central questions of humanity and brutality in a light that actually allows real consequences, rather than an afterthought lost in the shuffle between set pieces. True, the unnamed extras among the community aren’t terribly different than the Woodbury survivors migrating to the prison, in that any one of them might fall prey to dead or the living without much consequence to the story at large, but their presence allows Rick to actually take stock of his humanity, and decide on a balance between honesty and reality.
There’s a strong sense of timing to the climactic meeting of townspeople tonight, in that Deanna comes forward about Gabriel’s warning, which Rick managed to bring to fruition just one day later, while no sooner has Rick arrived, dropping off a dead walker like a caveman’s prize and warning Alexandrians of threats from all directions, does Pete show up to fulfill Rick’s own prophetic words. The incident that places culpability on either side, simultaneously moving Deanna to see Rick’s value as a killer, and a protector, in that just as Rick’s group can make mistakes that endanger lives, so too can Alexandria fall prey to savagery, finally sewing the two sides together as equals.
Apart from a padded runtime and notable effort give every character due, “Conquer” felt appropriately like a Rick-centric hour, as the former sheriff learned valuable lessons both about honesty and sticking to his convictions. An expert manipulator like Carol laughs off the idea of Rick keeping honest about himself without taking Alexandria by force, where that same honesty with Michonne or Carl that helps Rick keep his humanity, and resign to educating,rather than harming any Alexandrians in his way. Where things go from here remains to be seen, after Deanna allows Rick authority to end Pete’s life*, and with a number of Alexandria residents still terrified, but “Conquer” at least pinpointed a need for compromise over conquest.
*You’re warned of some comic spoilers for this little sidebar, though the moment in which Pete killed Reggie passed by almost entirely too late in the hour to resonate, and was almost immediately overshadowed by Morgan’s return. Despite how closely the Alexandria arc has stuck to the comics however, I would have thought for certain Pete would accidentally slash Carol’s throat, or perhaps Deanna herself, to closer match the image of a woman’s death. Not to mention, we’ve little attachment to Reggie, while Carol’s confrontation with Pete would have brought her abused past full circle, and made her a likely target.
A show like The Walking Dead is no stranger to killing off regulars, and if anything, last year’s closer taught us to not necessarily expect any major deaths, making the fairly minor stakes this year somewhat unsurprising. The hour still covered a great deal of ground, between Morgan’s climactic return —
— and a bit further insight into the mysterious “Wolves,” though most of the major developments seem to have been tabled for Season 6. Some storylines merited closure, as “Conquer” took time to place a button on Abraham and Eugene’s relationship, or showcase Tara’s survival, though other threads like Carl and Enid’s relationship, or Glenn and Nicholas’ return seemingly fell by the wayside.
Not everything worked with the same degree of effectiveness, as The Walking Dead still hasn’t afforded much audience investment in Gabriel, making his increased disregard for anyone’s safety (including his own) stronger reason to kill off the character than keep him around another year, while Sasha too seems to have exhausted the well of post-traumatic pathos. It was also of interest to see Glenn choosing to spare Nicholas in their side-story, as well to see Aaron and Daryl further bonding in their time trapped in the car, though again, without any direct payoff this year, we won’t necessarily know what to do with the characters for another few months.
Season 5 has undoubtedly proven The Walking Dead’s most transformative yet, beginning the year in an attempt to escape one sanctuary, while closing it with a firm settlement in another, giving Season 6 more possibilities to look forward to than ever prior. Tonight’s finale itself may not have delivered much in the way of lasting consequences for that transition, though worth considering is the moment in which Rick instinctively refers to Alexandria as “home,” telling Carl to avoid the meeting that decides his fate. The Walking Dead too has found more home than it realizes, a meaningful base of operation with which to keep things both poignantly exciting and explorative.
Will the so-called “Wolves” tear everything down and repeat the cycle? Maybe, but for the first time in years, we can be excited by The Walking Dead’s unpredictability once more.
AND ANOTHER THING…
- The Walking Dead has yet to announce Lennie James as a series regular next season (how could he not, really?), though his scenes brought an incredible charge to the hour, and not solely for the visual of a martial-arts master taking on all comers with nothing more than a staff. More of that forever, please.
- Daryl again atop a motorcycle, albeit now complete with sunglasses. Subtlety in the zombie apocalypse? To shreds, you say.
- We may have reached an apex for overly convenient zombie kills, between Daryl decapitating three with one chain-strike, or Gabriel somehow keeping his pristine white shirt free of blood in two zombie kills.
- Between Rick once again rocking the hand-tape, or donning his brown coat with corduroy collar, there seemed to be an effort to showcase Rick in a number of his past phases.
- I’m not necessarily on board with Richonne shipping, but boy would tonight’s scenes between the pair have made a case for it.
- The Walking Dead should really abandon their trend of post-credits scenes. At the very least, publicly tweet viewers to look for it.
Stay tuned for more coverage of The Walking Dead season 5’s latest, check out the spinoff trailer, and join us tomorrow for more coverage of The Walking Dead Season 5 and beyond!