The Walking Dead Recap “Conquer”

Morgan (Lennie James) in Episode 16  Photo by Gene Page/AMC

Overall I found the fifth season to be quite strong. I loved the premiere, and the Carol heavy stories. I even got really into Beth’s story in the hospital and I continue to find the possibilities of Alexandria intriguing. But it’s no secret that The Walking Dead has more characters than it knows what to do with at any given time. Even after a particularly bloody season loosing Bob, Beth, Tyreese, and Noah in quick succession this second half saw many characters fall to the background in a pretty big way. Bob came back this week with a significance that was not in any way equal to his actual screen time or story in recent episodes, and Morgan popped out of the wilderness to finally pay off his brief appearance way back in the mid-season finale.

I don’t need a show to hold my hand and guide me through everything, but when I haven’t seen a character, especially a character like Morgan, in a long time it takes me out of the moment while I do calculations in my head trying to recall what happened last time we saw him and the state of his relationships with other characters.

“Conquer”, while generally solid even when clocking in at a super-sized running time, didn’t live up to The Walking Dead’s reputation for stellar premiers and finales. Even though it was somewhat anti-climactic, I am satisfied with how it worked out. Like Michonne, Carl, Glenn, and Maggie, I wasn’t ready to leave Alexandria either.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if the finale had closed with Alexandria burning at the hands of Rick, and our rag-tag bunch heading out into the wild once again. The finale instead felt like more of a set up for season 6 than an end to season 5.

Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) in Episode 16 Photo by Gene Page/AMC

Instead of burning everything down, “Conquer” set up conflict within the group to be explored next season. Both sides agree there needs to be a higher degree of vigilance and discipline than the Alexandrians were living with, but there is a clear schism between those who want to stay and have a life, and those who are unwilling, or unable to move past the horrors they’ve lived through and attempt to build a new kind of life.

This split isn’t new, but the conflict had mediated by Deanna running the place, and the group still finding their footing in a new home. Now that she has handed over power to Rick this conflict within the core group will likely come to a head. I would love to see Michonne and Rick face off in a way that delivered real uncertainty. She has made a good foil for Rick so far. Michonne wanting to hang up her katana, seeing that as a good thing, and Rick’s contempt for that kind of thinking makes for a solid kind of internal conflict for the show.

Adding Morgan to the mix, who has been where Rick is, and has apparently come out of it with his humanity in tact adds an additional layer of conflict for Rick. These are not soft people. They have survived, just like him. And these people are telling him that there can be another way to live. I’d like to give the show credit that it will let this play out in a complex way, but I’m skeptical, and I think rightly so. Time and time again we’ve seen that this is Rick’s show and the show will insist that Rick is right.

Just last week, a friend of The Viewing Party asked, what the heck is up with Morgan. Is he ever coming back? In other words, “whyyyy?”. I was like, “Dude, I do not even know”. It was a weird tease and one not followed up on with any consistency throughout the season (add one more to my list of why it’s best to binge The Walking Dead). But the season finale brought Morgan back, and for the most part, it really worked.

Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) in Episode 16 Photo by Gene Page/AMC

Bullets:

  • Last week I wrote about Sasha’s story of alienation, and how much I loved seeing Michonne and Rosita go to her aid. And my prediction that there would be no follow through on this was unfortunately correct. To be fair they had a lot on their plates this week, but they did leave their suicidal friend alone once again to go running with the undead. This did give us the beautiful, haunting scene in which Sasha found comfort lying in a grave of walkers staring up at the sky so… that’s something.
  • For half a second I actually thought they had killed Glenn. But really, how did he get out of that one?
  • We saw Daryl and Aaron in dire straits. Did anyone think they would actually let go of this fan-favourite? I was surprised Aaron made it out of that one. I’m glad though, I quite like the little we’ve seen of him so far
  • Carol continues to be the most interesting character on the block and absolute badass. Her undercover job as an unassuming housewife continues to pay off in the finale when she defends Rick, invoking a believable “we” with the Alexandrians.
  • Morgan is totally awesome, right?!
  • So how about ‘dem Wolves?

What did you think of the finale? Did you ever think we were going to lose Glenn or Daryl? What do you hope to see in season 6?

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