nerd review: WALKING DEAD Finale – S5 E16

If you’re craving more in-depth analysis than the standard WALKING DEAD recap then you’re in luck. This nerdy review also contains theories about that mysterious group known as The Wolves.

 

Fear the WALKING DEAD. No, wait, that’s this summer’s spin-off. But seriously, the SEASON FINALE last night put that phrase into full effect. Fear the zombies, and fear the survivors. And fear THE WOLVES. The exciting 90 minute finale touched on several character storylines, and saw the return of a fan favourite.

This review WILL contain SPOILERS.

Rick awakes in an isolated room, looking like Marv from SIN CITY with all those band-aids. Michonne awaits at his bedside. We still aren’t sure of her motives. Last episode, she knocked Rick out as he aggressively confronted the community after a fight with Jessie’s abusive husband.

It’s not long before Carol and Glenn enter the room. Carol is quick to scold Rick for stealing the gun from the armory. This was quite intriguing, as we know she took it. She still isn’t sure of Michonne’s motives either. This moment kept me on my toes. All I knew was, I don’t want Michonne to work against our heroes.

Rick’s storyline continues with him approaching Jessie at home. Her husband has been isolated in his own house. Jessie is still frightened though. She worries how the community thinks of Rick. She doesn’t know if they should be seen together. Rick assures her he tried to protect her. And he’d do it again. So, it looks like this blooming relationship will continue to blossom next season. He cautions Jessie about an upcoming town meeting. He doesn’t want to be exiled. In fact, he won’t allow it – no matter the cost. This sets the stakes for the final moments of this episode.

Rewind it back a bit, when we are reunited with one of our favourite characters…

Morgan’s back. That’s right, the Walkee Talkee Dad from Season One. He’s been on the periphery, popping up occasionally, but with this episode, Morgan’s the highlight. We meet him at a campfire by himself, eating lunch. A man appears out of nowhere, gun raised with a “W” branded on his forehead like all those zombies we’ve seen earlier in the season.

This Wolf threatens Morgan. He wants everything Morgan has – “every last drop”. And he wants our Lone Survivor to join his group. It was creepy how casual this menace was. W talks about how nice it is to talk to someone new. Morgan plays it cool, unaffected by a conversation at gunpoint.

W talks about the wolves. Not the possible group of exiled Alexandrians. But the animal. He reminds us of how wolves were hunted to the brink of extinction. He cautions Morgan that they’ve returned. Mother Nature allowed them to reclaim the land. The world is returning to normal, after the human apocalypse has scoured its resources and infected the environment to its breaking point.

I’m compelled by the parallel to our human survivors. It seems like they have returned to a more Natural State – like primitive man divided by Hunters and Gatherers — Wolves and Alexandrians. Our group reminds us that it’s not so black and white, as they tread the line between the two divisions.

Morgan has changed a bit since we last saw him. He was crazed. Nearly gone, when Rick met him in booby trap town. The man had scrawled on his wall like poor Jack in THE SHINING. Thankfully, things have changed.

Now, it seems like Morgan has become a peaceful man wandering the Earth like he was Kane from KUNG-FU. He still kicks some ass, like he’s carrying the BOOK OF ELI or something. Perhaps, he also commands the balance of the two halves: hunter and gatherer? In fact, he seems to save these Wolves from zombies by hiding them in a car. He honks to see if Walkers are nearby. Assured they aren’t, he leaves them behind and continues his journey.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Alexandria two of our heroes seem to be feeling suicidal. Sasha carries another zombie body to a burial heap. This was a haunting internal moment as she lays atop the pile of bodies, closes her eyes, and pretends what it’s like to be dead. Creepy as hell.

Gabriel, the priest, seems like his guilt is burdening him severely. He approaches a zombie enjoying a fresh meal. He let’s it get close enough to bite. Then he changes his mind and kills it. Only to have the Happy Meal rise up and nearly kill him.

Gabriel must be thinking this is God’s Way. Suicide is a sin that keeps you out of Heaven, so the priest finds a loop-hole to be killed. From his point of view, he must be thinking God’s asking “Do you really want to die?” Thus, the Almighty effectively demonstrates to Gabriel how much he really wants to live. If you want to repent, preach the Gospel, help those people who keep wanting to talk with you. On another note, I liked the imagery, as both of these situations were divided by the paint on the road.

I’ll briefly comment on some other storylines before getting into the main conflict of the final sequences. First, I liked how Rosita forced Abraham to finally hash it out with Eugene over earlier events. They’ve been avoiding this conversation for a while. It was funny how she loudly drops a pan to wake up Eugene so these two could talk. It was a relief when our injured hero awoke in her bed. Eugene seems to be on the right path towards heroism, avoiding his more selfish tendencies.

Maggie confronts the Mayor, trying to sway her opinion to keep Rick in Alexandria. She makes a good counterpoint to Gabriel. I like how Maggie maintains the upper-hand by not informing the Mayor she overheard the earlier warning from the priest. It won’t be long before the Mayor understands what Maggie’s talking about.

Sasha & Maggie earlier in the season

By the end, Maggie has a really nice moment with Sasha and Gabriel. It seemed like the priest still wants to die. He pushes Sasha’s button. She’s nearly snapped. He knows how volatile she is, but he keeps pushing. Luckily, Maggie steps in before it goes too far. Is this another sign from God? Gabriel says something like he deserves to die – he abandoned his flock. He’s done bad. Maggie simply retorts, “I know,” and reaches out with her hand. In a way she’s saying “We all have”. In another she’s saying, “Now what?” The scene ends with a beautiful moment as the three pray together. Never give up hope.

A real highlight for me was watching Carol confront Jessie’s abusive husband. She seems innocent at first, armed with a casserole. She quickly turns the tables, by pulling out a knife. She is clear and to the point, no one will question why I killed you. So behave. Or else. He is genuinely scared. He only vents when she leaves.

Carol, in effect, confronts her former husband. She has changed for the better, she won’t be abused again. This Carol would have killed her own husband by the time he raised his fist.

Meanwhile, the larger mystery of The Wolves continues to build as DARYL and Aaron scout the wilderness. 50 miles from Alexandria they discover several transport trucks full of canned goods. They had been following a Red Poncho Survivor through the wild. That was the light they saw in the distant in last episode: Poncho’s campfire. Now they must decide if they should abandon the recruitment process in favour of food supplies.

It’s THE WALKING DEAD, so of course each decision has heavy ramifications. Nothing is simple or clear-cut. Those trucks are booby-trapped. The doors open, revealing dozens of zombies within. A trap! This was the most intense sequence. Is this the moment Daryl dies? Did Aaron set up the trap? He’s the one who wanted to ditch Poncho for Canned Goods. Once again, I feel like all is lost and there’s no possible way these two will survive the Walker onslaught. Since regular cast members regularly die, it’s not far-fetched to run through these ideas and emotions.

But Daryl’s a fighter. A survivor. He fights his way through – with inventive weaponry. The chain attack was frickin’ rad. Three Walkers down with one whip slash. Aaron joins in the creativity using an Alaskan license plate as a blade. Fight all they like, they’re being overrun. They hide inside a car, as the zombies surround them. Looks like yet another CATCH 22. Daryl summons his Samurai honour and volunteers to run for a distraction to save Aaron – once he’s done his smoke, of course.

Luckily, it didn’t come to that as Deus Ex Machina himself, the righteous Morgan swoops in to save the day. It seems like Morgan will risk his life for people he doesn’t even know. He knows there’s baddies out there like W earlier, but he still can’t walk by someone in need of his help.

Aaron is quick to invite Morgan to Alexandria. What happend to the lengthy recruitment process? I guess a true act of altruism guarantees an invite.

Morgan insists on travelling alone. He’s looking for directions. He hands Daryl the map, scrawled with a revelatory message. Morgan’s on a mission. To find Rick Grimes. I love how this was handled. We know these storylines and characters will eventually collide, but I really enjoyed how the writers decided on this one. Now, Daryl’s on board with Aaron. They’re bringing Morgan to Alexandria.

Meanwhile, Glenn spies Alexandrian #3 (who was responsible for Noah’s demise) climb the Wall. He follows him through the woods. What is buddy up to? We don’t get to find out. Maybe he lured Glenn into this situation. A situation where he can kill our hero. The Alexandrian shoots Glenn in the shoulder, drawing nearby Walkers’ attention and leaving him to die. This was another super intense moment, as zombies pile on top of the fallen Glenn. How can he possibly survive? Cut to commercial.

ROUND ONE… from an earlier episode

Fast forward. And we never see how he survived that Catch 22. Once again, Glenn springs into action and fights Alex #3. He nearly kills him. He seriously considers it. But Glenn’s not like them. He can’t do it. They are all in this together. Our heroes are exactly the type of neighbours the Alexandrians need. More proof next…

The Mayor calls a Town Hall meeting. The sun sets, and it’s full on spooky time. The whole community awaits Rick and Glenn’s arrival to jury process a punishment. They must decide if Rick should be exiled. I like how Jessie stood up for Rick as they waited. Is she contemplating leaving with Rick should Alexandria allow her husband to stay?

Before Rick goes to the meeting he comes clean to Michonne. He reveals how Carol stole the gun. He hands it to Michonne. But she tells him to keep it. She’s still on their side. She knocked him out because he was doing more harm than good when he confronted the community. She says, “You’re right”, echoing Carol’s earlier sentiments as they approached the Walls of Alexandria for the first time: “Even though you’re wrong, you were right.”

Rick checks the perimeter walls before attending the Town Hall. The gate’s opened and there’s evidence that zombies got inside. This segment of the show got really creepy, cross-cutting between events – the meeting and Glenn in the woods. The impending score thrummed with a rising pulse reminiscent of John Carpenter’s THE THING. This combination of editing, music, and danger was so effective. I thought Glenn was going to die. I thought Rick was in trouble. I thought a zombie was going to pop up and snack on the Mayor.

Needless to say, Rick single-handedly defeated the zombie intruders. One of the nastier kills was the pistol jammed up into the Walker’s skull. Rick arrives at the Town Hall Meeting tossing a Walker onto the ground. This is why the new world needs a Rick Grimes. The collective Alexandrians couldn’t do what Rick just did – by himself. 

But it gets worse for our heroes. Jessie’s hubby shows up with Michonne’s sword. He’s out for blood. Rick’s.The Mayor’s husband steps in to defend his new citizens. That abusive dick slices his throat. The Mayor yells out in agony, holding her dying groom. She aim’s her “gun” – Rick is the “bullet”. BLAM!

Without hesitation, Rick executes the abusive husband. Now that the Mayor knows what can happen. Now that she feels the effects. She knows. Rick is needed. Some situations need to be handled in ways that go against ethical principles.

WALKING DEAD debates these important philosophical issues each week.

an earlier encounter between Morgan and Rick

The onion continues to peel its layers away. Daryl returns at this very moment, with Morgan. And our righteous wanderer realizes this is not the same old Rick he met long ago. Does Morgan want to stay here? It seems like he’s been avoiding these type of people. He may see a parallel to The Wolf he encountered at his campfire. I’m quite curious to see what happens next. How will Morgan react once he recovers from the shock?

The epilogue saw Michonne return her sword to its resting place as a mantle-piece. A moment. She hesitates. The blade was still dangerous up on that wall, Jessie’s hubby stole it after-all. But it’s more of a symbol. She remembers what it means. Hanging up the sword meant hanging up that monster within. It symbolized her freedom, safety, the dream-like illusion of a utopian Alexandria.

Now, Michonne is reminded of reality. Her dream fades. She needs that monster to survive. She grabs her sword and sheathes it on her back, ready for an attack – like the sheathed monster within. No matter how safe she feels, she still needs to hold onto that invisible monster to survive. Like she said earlier, Rick was right.

It was so satisfying to watch all of these character arcs come to an end for the season. Every one seemed to have a moment. There was no shocking cliffhanger or anything mind-blowing, but the finale was intense. Exciting. Scary. Ultimately satisfying.

The mystery of The Wolves continues into next season. Are these guys a marauding group of thugs? I  think they could be exiled Alexandrians who want their town back. I think Rick and our heroes will defend their new home.

But I still have lots of questions. Like how big is this pack of Wolves? I’m thinking it’s more than the two we met with Morgan. I’m thinking these guys are out scouting just like Daryl & Aaron. These two scouting groups mirror one another. They both seek the Red Poncho Survivor, but their paths never cross.

I’m definitely wondering why these guys are gathering a whole horde of Walkers with the Rave Vans? What do they want them for? Are they planning to unleash them on Alexandria? Is that what happened to Noah’s old neighbourhood? Why did they add Red Poncho Zombie to the gang? If they are collecting zombies why did we see that Truck O’ Torsos earlier in the season? Why were the limbs severed from those corpses?

And who left that crumpled note in the car warning Daryl “it’s a trap, they’re coming”? Was it Carl’s new girlfriend? How’d she get out there? Is she a Wolf? Should we be dubbing her ILSA of the SS?

Five seasons in and THE WALKING DEAD continues to barrel along, charging forward with certain momentum.

In between all the horror and excitement there is a significant exploration of character and theme. It’s so surprising to have internal aspects and complex characters in the zombie genre. These combined ingredients make WALKING DEAD one of the best shows on television. 

There is still a lot of intrigue left as we endure the long wait for Season Six. Let’s hope this new spin-off FEAR THE WALKING DEAD helps with the wait when it airs this summer. 

 


What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Or hit me up on TWITTER @slipthroughnerd if you like.

Will the spin-off this summer fill in some gaps? Will we  encounter the early days of Alexandria?

Or will we finally figure out who exactly these Wolves are in FEAR THE WALKING DEAD?

What does the future have in store for our characters and their relationships within the community?

 Did Rick just earn Alexandrian Citizenship?

If you’re craving more theories about The Wolves or some of the religious / pagan / Nature stuff check out some of the earlier reviews.

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