The Walking Dead season 5 finale put the series at a crossroads…in a good way
The Walking Dead “Conquer” saw the return of Morgan, who was already established as quite the survivor. Although, yes, he seemed to be off his rocker in previous episodes, he seems saner by episode 516. He must’ve had some effective coffee beans in his daily routine because his energy in facing “the Wolves” was obvious. Walking stick versus guns? No problem! He also seems to be able to stop, be patient, then come out of the shell when necessary.
When we saw Morgan in his mental derangement phase, he seemed like he was dragging a man, and like that man was himself. Much like others in Rick’s group, one might say he was comparable to a zombie (or “walker,” as The Walking Dead so often calls them). So, in many ways, this Walking Dead episode is about resilience, or the human’s ability to regain acuity. Just as the Governor was psychologically damaged by the death of a little girl, Morgan was crushed by deaths in his family. However, in this episode, Morgan rushes in and says “No!” to victimization — at least while he has a fighting chance.
The Walking Dead: Frantic stuff (the Pete situation)
Though Morgan’s return is somewhat triumphant, he’s still at risk of being killed by bandits or having a walker tear his skin off and eat it. It’s also true that, even when he finds Alexandria, it’s more awkward than some grand “He’s back!” moment full of rejoicing. Before he enters the gates, Rick and crew were dealing with the issue of Pete. Would they make him scramble up and start running for the road, or would they simply end his abuse with a revolver?
Being that it’s a community, Rick can’t quite tell Pete, “It’s only the two of us.” He also can’t tell Jessie, “I think you’ll be safe with me,” with Pete still being around. In a way, it’s comparable to the overall security situation at Alexandria. Their defenses are limited, and so are their roles. Nobody there has an F-16 or anything. In fact, they don’t even have a lowly old army tank.
The buildings aren’t particularly secure, with everything seeming like a half-assed social experiment. If that’s not enough, these survivors still don’t have anything like an advanced research lab, complete with plans to create the vaccine for “walker-ism.” When Eugene revealed himself as a fraud, that particular group mission was all but totally scrapped. So, oddly enough, Pete is one of this episode’s chief motivating factors, in addition to these wacky “Wolves” (who Daryl and Aaron also become vaguely aware of).
Skepticism about life’s value
Throughout its run, characters in The Walking Dead come across as skeptical of life’s value, as decency and determination are constantly being challenged. In this episode, both Sasha and Father Gabriel continue breaking down, and something convinces him to go along a particularly erratic path. After he attacks her, she can barely escape, and we question their mental states. This episode also has a sequence where Sasha climbs into a pit of slain walkers (as if blending in).
Gabriel confesses to guilt feelings over members of his congregation being killed. However, it’s not like Gabriel’s little church was going to magically be an “Ark” to float above it all and escape the planet’s troubles. There were bound to be mutilated corpses in the wreckage, but he is too weak to continue the charade of inevitable salvation, either by his belief structure or some more earthly benefactor.
Abraham and Eugene
For a little while, Eugene was almost the linchpin of hope for the group. He seemed to have the answers for assisting in the vaccine, and soon. However, much like other characters on “The Walking Dead,” he proved inadequate, becoming too weak to continue in a different way: He revealed he was lying the whole time. This led to Abraham, his most loyal supporter, attempting to punch Eugene’s face into hamburger meat (until the two were separated).
“Conquer” changed the rules again, with Abraham showing signs of forgiveness. Then again, there have been similar moments on The Walking Dead, which fans should shove in the face of critics claiming the show is absolutely, relentlessly bleak. The biggest example would be Tyreese William forgiving Carol for murdering Karen and David. There are plenty of additional examples of this forgiveness angle; Take your pick, as it’s a pretty big selection!
Why this season finale is different
Yes, the storyline was well written, the characters were interesting, the music was good, and all of that. However, this season is more like a buildup season, especially with the return of Morgan. We immediately assume that Morgan continues onwards with a newfound sense of purpose, until he eventually meets up with Rick, Carl, Michonne, Glenn, Tara, Maggie, Aaron, and Rosita, etc. to augment their situation.
By this point, it’s obvious that decision making at Alexandria will be a primary focus, with the possibility of a heated debate on power, voting, and what rules should exist and how they’ll be enforced, but it’s all complicated by recent events.
Rick doesn’t exactly plead with Deanna to give him a chance to save his people. Instead, he basically tells her that she will have to make a choice to adapt to their ways or get crushed by a future threat. It’s not a remorseful Rick who apologizes to Deanna for killing Pete. In fact, after Pete killed her husband, Deanna demands he follows through on the execution. Deanna does not even request Rick’s apology, and is forced to instantaneously adopt his worldview (in fact, is it reasonable to even call it a “worldview” when it’s so grounded in situation)?
The biggest message of season 5?
The biggest message of season 5 of The Walking Dead season 5 seems to be this: When you don’t have someone to protect you, you turn into something you didn’t want to be, and that is the biggest threat to the future of the world. Rick’s belief that killing people was for the greater good seems to have pushed him to the edge. It seems there’s very little to prevent him from going over. Michonne stands as a stark contrast to Rick, and also to Carol because Michonne seems eager to avoid conflict.
While The Governor and Michonne were never going to begin making out in the RV (season 4), Michonne at least was moving on from The Governor’s trauma. So, when Michonne suddenly pulled out a gun on Rick at Alexandria, it gives the impression that she recognizes a bit of good ol’ Philip Blake in him. We’re left asking questions like, “Will she ever need to put a bullet into Rick’s leg” to teach him a lesson? Yes, Rick does seem potentially dangerous at this point, even though we surely understand his life’s journey and how it’s shaped his mindset.
What are your thoughts on the season 5 finale of The Walking Dead? Conquer the topic in the comments!