After the intensity of “Try,” the Season 5 finale of The Walking Dead, “Conquer,” addresses the increased tension between the people of Alexandria and their new residents. By fighting with Pete and waving a gun around in the streets of Alexandria, Rick only worsened the conflict and faces the possibility of being expelled from Alexandria. The tension between Glenn and Nick also remained high after Noah’s death in the episode “Spend.” Season 5 of The Walking Dead has kept us on the edge of our seats, leaving a lot of issues to resolve in the season finale “Conquer.”
We do what we need to do, and then we live.
—Rick Grimes, Them (Season 5, Episode 10)
Morgan is sleeping in a car in the woods. We haven’t seen Morgan since the first episode of Season 5, “No Sanctuary,” when he found a note indicating that Rick and his crew were on their way to Washington, D.C. There’s a rabbit’s foot hanging from the car mirror. We’d say Morgan’s luck has been pretty mixed, having lost his wife and son, though admittedly he’s still alive after everything that’s happened.
As Morgan is making breakfast at a campfire, a man with a “W” carved on his forehead shows up with a gun. When Morgan asks about the “W” on his head, the man explains that the first settlers killed all the wolves in the area, but now, with everything that has happened, they’re coming back. Morgan replies, “Everything gets a return.” He tells Morgan that his group, the Wolves, run through camps and set traps. He informs Morgan he is going to take everything he has and kill him. When Morgan objects, he says, “Just be still. Just be still.” Another Wolf sneaks up behind Morgan, but he fights both men off. He’s a pretty impressive fighter. He warns them to leave, apparently not wanting to have to kill them, but they continue to fight until he knocks them both out. He puts their unconscious bodies in the car he slept in earlier, snagging the lucky rabbit’s foot before he leaves. It appears that Morgan has gone from the crazed isolationist we saw in “Clear” to a man of serenity, if not peace. It’s quite a reintroduction to a character we initially met in the very first episode of The Walking Dead.
These people are my family. And if what you’re hiding somehow hurts them in any way, I’ll kill you.
—Rick Grimes, Strangers (Season 5, Episode 2)
Rick is recovering from his brutal fight with Pete in a recovery room of sorts. When he wakes up, Michonne is there, waiting. She tells him that he could have let her know about Pete and Jessie. By way of explanation, he says it all happened too fast, which, all in all, is not a very good excuse. Glenn, Carol, and Abraham arrive and interrupt their heart-to-heart. Carol immediately asks Rick where he got the gun, pretending in front of the others that she wasn’t involved. We are starting to think that Carol may be a better poker player than Deanna. Glenn tells Rick that Deanna has called a meeting to discuss what happened the night before. Carol tells Rick what to say at the meeting, pointing out that she has been telling the people of Alexandria stories since she got there “because these people are children and children like stories.” Rick comes up with a plan in case things go bad at the meeting, and Michonne, Abraham, Glenn, and of course Carol, appear to be on board. At least no one expresses any objections out loud. Glenn asks Rick if he wanted this, and Rick acknowledges he made a mistake.
Over at Deanna and Reg’s house, Maggie tells Deanna that it doesn’t make sense to have a meeting to discuss Rick and what he did with a group of scared people who don’t know the whole story. Despite Maggie’s advice, Deanna is committed to the meeting. Maggie storms off and Reg follows her. He tells Maggie, “Civilization starts when we stop running, when we live together, when we stop sending people away from the world and from each other. That’s what I’m going to tell her. That’s what I’m going to tell everyone.”
Carol returns to see Rick on her own. She gives Rick another gun. She’s like his dealer, giving Rick the very thing he wants but that could destroy him. Rick questions why she lied about the guns earlier. Carol doesn’t believe that everyone in their group would be on board, pointing out that Michonne was the one who knocked him out. Rick is tired of lying. Carol tells him, “You said you don’t want to take the place. And you don’t want to lie. Oh, Sunshine. You don’t get both.” Carol is in full-on sociopath mode.
Rick leaves the recovery room and goes back to his house, where he finds Carl. Carl tells his dad that Alexandria is now their home, saying, “They need us. They’ll die without us.” Carl tells his father that he has to tell the people of Alexandria what they are facing. When Rick claims he already tried to, Carl responds, “You should tell them so they can hear you.” When did Carl get so grown up?
Rick comes to check on Jessie and she tells him, “People shouldn’t see us talking right now.” He tells Jessie that he isn’t sorry that he confronted Pete and she admits that he was right. It turns out that someone did see them talking and it was Pete. That can’t end well. Couldn’t they have found a house for Pete that was further away?
Later in the episode, Michonne comes to get Rick for the meeting. He confesses everything about the guns to Michonne. He admits he didn’t tell her because he was afraid she’d talk him out of it. Michonne tells Rick that they can find a way to make it work in Alexandria, but if they don’t, she’s still with him. She warns Rick, “Something’s gonna happen. Just don’t make something happen.” After Michonne leaves, Rick thinks back to Bob’s warning not to let himself take things too far: “This is a nightmare, and nightmares end.”
Never let your guard down, ever.
—Rick Grimes, Strangers (Season 5, Episode 2)
After his conversation with Rick, Glenn is sitting outside waiting for Maggie. Nick is nearby, secretly watching Glenn. Maggie arrives and tells Glenn about her conversation with Deanna. Glenn doesn’t tell her about Rick’s plan, but instead tells her he loves her. This immediately has us worried that Glenn is going to die in this episode. Maggie tells Glenn, “We’re gonna work it out. I know it,” and leaves to talk to the others. After Maggie departs, Glenn spots Nick climbing over the wall.
Glenn follows Nick outside of Alexandria to find out what he is up to. As Glenn stands in the woods, looking to see where Nick went, Nick shoots him. Noooooo!!! Nick runs over, presumably to finish him off, but despite his wound, Glenn is already gone.
Nick begins searching for Glenn. When Nick shoots a walker, Glenn surprises him. As they fight, more walkers arrive, and eventually Glenn needs to focus on protecting himself from the walkers. Glenn and Nick confront each other once again. It appears these two are set to fight to the death, with only one returning to Alexandria. Glenn eventually gets the upper hand and holds the gun on Nick. Nick pleads for his life saying, “I was scared. I don’t belong out here.” Glenn eventually points the gun away from Nick, letting him live. Glenn can’t change who he is, and won’t kill Nick if he doesn’t have to. At the end of the episode, Glenn and Nick limp back to Alexandria, supporting each other.
People are the real threat now.
—Rick Grimes, Forget (Season 5, Episode 13)
Daryl and Aaron are out on recruiting duty. Aaron tells Daryl about another group he had brought into Alexandria, but who didn’t work out. Aaron, Aiden, and Nick had to drive them away and leave them with a day of supplies but no guns. He tells Daryl that he can’t make that mistake again.
Daryl wants to continue to search for the traveler in a red poncho they spotted earlier, but Aaron believes they would be better served to check out a nearby food factory. At the factory, Aaron finds a new license plate for his collection—Alaska! It’s nice that Aaron can still get excited about things like this—it’s what makes Aaron so likable. Daryl opens one of the large shipping containers and it’s full of walkers with “W” carved on their foreheads. This triggers all the other containers to open, and walkers pour out. Aaron and Daryl lock themselves in a car and consider hiding themselves until the walkers disperse, but then Aaron finds a note that says, “Trap. Bad people coming. Don’t stay.” We can only guess what happened to the poor soul who left the note.
Aaron and Daryl are weighing their options in a pretty hopeless situation. They are trapped in a car surrounded by walkers, waiting for the “bad people” to come. Aaron acknowledges that they should have kept looking for the man in the red poncho; they should have tried to save him as Daryl had wanted. Daryl decides he will leave the car and try to lead the walkers away. Aaron refuses, saying they will fight together. They are about to leave the car when Morgan rescues them in kickass superhero style.
After brief introductions, Daryl asks Morgan why he rescued them and Morgan responds, “Why? Cuz all life is precious, Daryl.” Morgan tells him he is trying to get somewhere and takes out a map to ask for directions. Daryl is surprised to see that it’s the map they left back at Father Gabriel’s church, on which Abraham wrote “The new world is gonna need RICK GRIMES.” Looks like that rabbit’s foot is already bringing Morgan some luck.
Not everyone escapes the Wolves. At the end of the episode, we learn that the two Wolves that Morgan spared have captured the man in the red poncho. They take him to the Food Factory where they use him to distract the walkers so they can reset their trap. In a sign of things to come next season, the Wolves find the pictures of Alexandria in Aaron’s abandoned backpack.
I know we’ll be okay. Because this is how we survive. We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead.
—Rick Grimes, Them (Season 5, Episode 10)
At the start of “Conquer,” Sasha is out by the wall burying walkers. She does shoot a lot of walkers, but we’re not sure when she started burying them. Perhaps they started piling up outside the walls of Alexandria or else she just needs to constantly distract herself from her agonizing thoughts and feelings. Sasha accidentally slides into the mass walker grave. She sighs, lies down on top of the dead walkers, and closes her eyes. She has a moment of peace, imagining herself away from this world and all the pain she lives with every day.
Father Gabriel decides to go for a walk outside of the gates, bringing only the protection of God with him. He finds a walker who is eating a still-living man. It’s surprising the walkers are able to find, let alone catch, any human flesh to gorge on at this point. Gabriel offers himself up to the walker, not to save the man, but so that he can die. Perhaps its some kind of ridiculous test he has created to determine God’s will. We hope that God’s will is for Gabriel to die, but we suspect he will somehow live. At the last minute Gabriel decides to fight and manages to survive. He doesn’t want to live, but he something in him doesn’t want to die either.
Gabriel returns to Alexandria, which probably wasn’t his original plan. Spencer opens the gate for him and tells Father Gabriel that he needs someone to talk to. Apparently, so does Father Gabriel. Spencer leaves the dazed Gabriel to close the gate—a big mistake.
When Gabriel returns to the church, he finds Sasha waiting. Apparently Sasha has decided to reach out to someone else, and that person is Gabriel. Perhaps she was once a person of faith, or maybe she senses that he is just as wounded as she is. She asks Gabriel if he can help her, and he says no, telling her she doesn’t deserve to be there. Sasha recognizes her own suicidal impulses in Gabriel and tells him she knows what he’s doing. He continues to try to antagonize her, saying, “Bob was mutilated because of your sins.” Sasha eventually freaks out and attacks Gabriel. Really, who could blame her?
While the meeting is going on, Sasha and Gabriel struggle, but Sasha quickly gets the upper hand. She stands over Gabriel with her rifle aimed at him. Gabriel tells Sasha to shoot him, but Maggie has left the meeting for the church, and arrives in time to intervene. Maggie takes the gun from Sasha. As Sasha stands there crying, Gabriel tells Maggie, “You should let her. They died. They all died because of me.” Maggie responds, “They did,” and takes his hand to help him up. At the end of “Conquer” we see Gabriel, Sasha, and Maggie silently praying together.
I owe you everything.
—Rick Grimes, Strangers (Season 5, Episode 2)
In another thread of the narrative, Abraham brings flowers to the still unconscious Tara at the infirmary, but he is reluctant to come in because Eugene is there. It appears they haven’t made amends since Eugene admitted he didn’t have the cure and Abraham beat the crap out of him in “Self Help.” Rosita tells him that Eugene is sleeping, so Abraham goes in. Rosita then proceeds to “accidentally” drop some pans, waking Eugene and forcing the two of them to talk. Eugene breaks the ice, telling Abraham:
“You got us here. All I did was craft a top-shelf lie, to which a person with strength and heroism could apply their talents. My bet was you needed that. I thank you. I am sorry.”
Abraham apologizes for almost killing Eugene. Until we saw this scene, we wouldn’t have guessed how much we would have missed it had it not been included in the finale. They are an entertaining group of characters. Later, Abraham and Eugene go to the meeting, but Rosita stays back with Tara. While everyone is at the meeting, Rosita is there when Tara finally regains consciousness and opens her eyes. There is a lot of reconnecting going on.
We know what needs to be done and we do it. We’re the ones who live.
—Rick Grimes, Try (Season 5, Episode 15)
Rick discovers the gate has been left open, and quickly realizes that something has gotten inside the walls of Alexandria. He begins to search for signs of walkers. While the meeting is going on, Rick is fighting the invading walker. Rick finally kills the unusually strong walker and its head explodes all over Rick. This is why we can’t have nice things.
Deanna starts the meeting, even though Rick and Glenn are not there yet. Little does she know they are both fighting for their lives, and in some sense for the community. As the meeting begins, Rick’s compadres have a lot to say. Michonne tells them, “Rick just wants his family to live. He wants all of you to live. Who he is, is who you’re gonna be, if you’re lucky.” Carol the sociopath tells everyone that he saved her life over and over. She doesn’t mention anything about him making her leave the prison, of course. She tells the people that he rescued her, adding, “People like me, people like us, need people like him.” It looks like Maggie is giving Carol a look during her “I’m helpless” speech. Perhaps members of Rick’s group are starting to sour on Carol’s act. On the other hand, maybe we’re starting to tire of it a bit and we’re just projecting. Abraham’s speech is something only Abraham would say, but it reinforces that the people of Alexandria need Rick. Maggie reminds everyone that Rick is a father and has made their group a family, saying the people of Alexandria should want to be a part of it too.
Deanna seems unmoved by their testimony. Deanna shares that Father Gabriel had come to her to warn her about the new group. Deanna claims that Rick just demonstrated all the things Gabriel had described. Jessie speaks up, asking if Deanna taped what Gabriel said and pointing out that Gabriel is not even there. Tobin says that he just wants to keep his family safe, but before he can finish, Rick walks into the meeting covered in blood and carrying a slain walker. He drops the walker and says his piece:
“It got inside on its own. They always will, the dead and the living, because we’re in here. And the ones out here, they’ll hunt us, they’ll find us, they’ll try to use us, they’ll try to kill us, but we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. I’ll show you how. I was thinking … I was thinking, how many of you do I have to kill to save your lives? But I’m not going to do that. You’re gonna change. I’m not sorry for what I said last night; I’m sorry for not saying it sooner. You’re not ready, but you have to be, right now you have to be. Luck runs out.”
Just as it appears the meeting is moving towards some resolution, Pete shows up with Michonne’s sword in hand. He is muttering about Rick not being one of them. Reg tries to intervene, but when Pete pushes him away he inadvertently slices Reg’s throat open with the sword. Abraham restrains Pete while Reg dies in Deanna arms. Pete continues to blame Rick and to struggle. Deanna looks up at Rick and says, “Rick, do it.” Rick immediately shoots Pete. Daryl, Aaron, and Morgan arrive just in time to see Rick kill Pete in cold blood. It seems that Pete didn’t play his cards right after all.
The Season 5 finale of The Walking Dead resolved a lot of the tension that had developed over the second half of the season. Nick (Michael Traynor) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) are coming to terms with each other, despite Nick’s murderous intent. Glenn not killing Nick seemed like a form of acceptance, if not forgiveness. With Pete’s (Corey Brill) death the community loses a doctor but gains a measure of peace. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) helps both Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) find the forgiveness the are looking for. Maggie’s strength seems to be in bringing people together and helping others to heal. We won’t be surprised if she replaces Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) as the leader of Alexandria in Season 6. There was a lot of forgiveness and determination to start on a new path. This will help to more fully integrate Rick and the others into Alexandria and perhaps they will function as a unit by the time Season 6 begins.
In terms of the characters, it will be interesting to see how Carol (Melissa McBride) changes, or if she changes, as the community integrates. Carol felt out of step with everyone else in “Conquer.” When she threatened Pete, which we loved, it appeared as if her goal was to antagonize him into an action that could lead to his death or expulsion from the community. As these two groups learn to trust each other and possibly become one, will Carol keep up her manipulative charade or begin to act more genuine? The complexity of Carol’s character is what makes her so compelling to watch.
With Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) bringing Morgan Jones (Lennie James) into the Alexandria, both his fighting skill and moral certitude will certainly have an impact on the community. It’s not clear how Rick (Andrew Lincoln) will responds to Morgan’s involvement. Will he be influenced by the idea that all life is precious or will it create conflict?
Rick’s promise to help the people of Alexandria to learn how to survive can’t come to soon, with the wolves being at their door. “Conquer” ends Season 5 of The Walking Dead with a very strong episode that provides us with closure while whetting our appetites for Season 6.