Of Wolves and Men
Review of “The Walking Dead” 516 – “Conquer”
Let’s get the messy part out of the way—this episode didn’t warrant an extra twenty minutes of screen time. All it did was give producers a chance to dump all the plot threads into a pool and pray it all untangles in the end. They should’ve refined the story into something a little more cohesive that fits the normal forty-two minutes per episode. Every plot element was unnecessarily drawn out. It’d be different if the time was spent on much-needed character development or laying down a solid base for next season. It wasn’t. They flung everything off the table and fans are supposed to be happy with how the story lands until October. As far as finales go, this is The Walking Dead‘s weakest. So what did happen in the finale? Let’s discuss.
You know the drill, there’s spoilers from here on out in this review.
After weeks wondering why Morgan was brought back during a couple quick scenes, we finally get an answer. Kinda. It’s entirely possible, given the state of things in Alexandria by the end of the episode, that Morgan will fill the long-empty “morality of the group” position. A role desperately needed since Hershel’s murder. We were led to believe Gabriel would fill the need, but he’s loonier than a monkey in rubber pants. Morgan isn’t a pushover. When he’s confronted by the men who’ve been mutilating the walkers around Alexandria, he attempts a passive resolution. It doesn’t work, so he thunks them over the head and locks them in the car he’d used as a hotel room the night before. Later, Morgan bails Daryl and Aaron out of a tight spot—they unwittingly walk into a trap set by the same men who attacked Morgan. These men, wolves they consider themselves, could be the big bad for next season. Honestly, they don’t feel too threatening now that Daryl, Aaron, and Morgan know where they are hiding their zombie collection. What kind of weirdo keeps a zombie collection, anyway? (Zombie bunnies don’t count, guys.)
The entire time Rick and company have been in Alexandria, it’s felt like he and Michonne are growing apart. She wanted to find home so bad and he’s fought it tooth-and-nail since meeting the townsfolk. It’s not until Rick wakes in a makeshift holding cell with Michonne watching over him that they finally understand—they want the same thing and are going about it completely different ways. She doesn’t care if he conspired with Daryl and Carol to secure emergency weapons. She’s willing to look the other way while Carol coaches Rick on how to Play The Part—tell Deanna and her followers exactly what they want to hear, just like Carol has done since they arrived. Michonne has overlooked and forgiven a lot in the name of keeping their newfound home. Being a pushover won’t work, she knows it. However, she also understands in order to get what they all want, someone and something’s got to give. Michonne is the law alongside Rick. She can’t run off like Carol, threatening to murder anyone in the way—a message Pete got loud and clear in this episode. Michonne tells Rick, “We don’t need (guns) here. I don’t need my sword. I think you can find a way—we—can find a way. And if we don’t, I’m still with you.” So even though he’s been a paranoid nutjob for weeks, one of his most capable allies is still at his side. How much is Michonne willing to overlook and forgive in her quest for normalcy, though?
Tensions are riding high between everyone, not just the town’s peacekeepers. Toward the end of the episode, there’s a huge clash between Sasha and Gabriel—the crew’s most unhinged members. Sasha spent her afternoon laying in a mass walker grave, wondering what’s wrong with her. Gabriel spent his strolling around, looking for a walker to do what he can’t—end his life. At the moment of truth, he kills the walker. It’s actually one of the best kills in an episode filled with walker deaths. But when Gabriel and his inability to commit to death and Sasha with her equally large death wish are in the same room, the claws come out. “I think I want to die,” Sasha tells Gabriel. He replies, “Why wouldn’t you want to die? You don’t deserve to be here. What you did can never be undone. The dead don’t chose, but the choices you made, how you sacrificed your own . . . .” He goes on, blaming Sasha for Bob’s death, saying Tyreese deserved his death because of what she’d done. Most of what he says is directed at himself, not her. It doesn’t stop Gabriel from attacking Sasha. In the end, Maggie pulls them apart and sits them down to pray.
Another tense duo come to blows in the midst of the big, “What do we do with Rick” problem. Nicholas lures Glenn over Alexandria’s walls and shoots him in the shoulder. The wound isn’t fatal. Throughout the middle and end of the episode, Glenn and Nicholas take turns beating the snot out of each other and the walkers drawn their way by the noise. It ends with Glenn pinning Nicholas to the ground, a gun pointed at his head. Nicholas begs, crying. Glenn visibly wants to kill him. Is psyching himself out for the kill, telling Nicholas repeatedly to shut up. He doesn’t do it. Should he have? Not in this instance. Nicholas is a coward. He made his attempt to rid himself of the one man who knows just how much of a coward he is. Now that the plan has failed, I’m sure he’ll back down. He may even become Glenn’s new sidekick.
The town meeting to discuss Rick’s attack on Pete, the gun he’d hidden, and the threats made after the fight is doomed from the get-go. Deanna’s motivations aren’t without bias. It’s obvious she wants Rick gone. He’s a thorn in her side and constantly questions how she’s run things since the settlement was created. She doesn’t even wait to see if Rick will show up to the meeting that’ll decide his fate—which he won’t, seeing as Gabriel let a zombie into Alexandria after failing to secure the gate and he’s tracking it while his crew stands up for him. All those kind words from Michonne, Carol, Maggie—and let’s not forget Abraham’s eloquent offering—they’re for naught. Once Rick walks in with a dead zombie over his shoulder, it’s pretty much sealed. Instead of rushing to save his own hide, Rick hunted a walker on his own to ensure their safety. Not even Deanna’s admission of Gabriel’s concerns, which we heard last week, matter after Rick’s little speech.
“The ones out there, 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. You know, I was thinking . . . I was thinking, how many of you do I have to kill to save your lives? But I’m not gonna do that. You’re gonna change.”
Rick’s place in Alexandria is cemented when Pete comes into the meeting fully prepared to kill Rick—with Michonne’s katana. Reg steps in the way to calm Pete and is killed instead. Without hesitation, Deanna gives Rick the order to put Pete down.
This is the chaos greeting Morgan after he reluctantly agrees to come back to Alexandria with Daryl and Aaron. How will the old friends get along after such a brutal reunion? Who knows? We’ve got quite some time to ponder how things will land in an evolving Alexandria.