Recap: The Walking Dead Season 5 finale, “Conquer” — Wolves at the door

As we head into The Walking Dead Season 5 finale, the delicate peace — at least what we assume to be peace — at Alexandria has been amassing stress fractures since the moment Our Gang arrived at the gates. The dream of “Civilization” is a good one, but it has been postponed out of necessity. The townsfolk have been exposed as being seriously unprepared to deal with good guys, let alone the absolute batshit crazies we meet tonight. The events of the episode could have been so much worse (the group cohesion that looked like it was breaking remains intact ) but as things stand, a lot of questions remain….


Dawn breaks peacefully over a crashed car. The man sleeping in the back seat is bible other than Morgan Jones, who wakes with a smile, catching sight of the rabbit’s foot dangling from the rearview mirror. He lights a fire in a clearing where he boils some water and pours something from a packet into his mug, when a visitor arrives — a shaggy-haired man with a gun, “Looks good,” he says.

Morgan seems unfazed, despite the fact that the man doesn’t put down his pistol when Morgan asks him to. Morgan inquires as to the W that adorns the stranger’s forehead, and the guy launches into a spiel about settlers, first people and wolves being hunted to extinction that have now come back. Morgan is calm, noting that all things return — a thought the stranger finds amusing.

As they continue their pleasant(ish) conversation, it becomes rapidly evident that the least crazy thing about the stranger is the W emblazoned on his forehead. He says he normally “runs through” camps he comes across, laying them to utter waste, but he views Morgan as an “equal.” He compares the mayhem to watching a movie. Morgan tries to take a sip of his beverage when the man tells him not to, He wants it — and everything else Morgan has, including his life. Morgan offers his goods, but his life is not on the table.

the-walking-dead-morganMorgan does a thing here that, at first blush, had me wondering if he was blind. Of course, a man wandering in this world for as long as he has is going to pick up skills, but Morgan seems next-level. He practically senses the second man who bursts out of the bushes behind him, getting clear of a killing blow and up into a fighting stance with his staff in one lightning fast move, Zatoichi-like move where it never seems like he’s looking at the attackers so much as sensing them. The strangers assault Morgan, but he calmly and coolly takes them out (Zatoichi was faking his blindness).

Morgan tries the stranger’s pistol on an approaching walker, but the gun is empty – strange considering that everyone else is armed to the teeth. He kills the walker with his staff, carefully wiping the blood from it after. Morgan loads the unconscious men into the car he was sleeping in and closes the doors – two courtesies they were never going to show him, and also a possibly huge mistake (then again, Morgan is on a different path here). He honks the horn to make sure the jokers who tried to kill him is the last surprise of the morning, takes the rabbit’s foot and sets off again like Caine from Kung Fu.

Daryl and Aaron are on the road themselves, looking to pick up strays before the bad guys get to them. They pull over, Daryl on his sweet new rat bike.

Rick awakens in what feels like a cell, his face covered in bandages. He’s sore and achy and he chuckles to himself. “What’s so funny?” asks Michonne who has been sitting with Rick the entire night (who is she protecting?). “What are you doing?” He fesses up that he couldn’t tell her, or anyone, about the guns, and the Pete situation had gotten out of hand too quickly for him to call for  help. Plus Deanna was protecting Pete, a fact that only Rick knows. Besides, Michonne wants to be here. To which she replies that they had to stop being “out there.” In every sense of the word.


Glenn and Carol drop by to visit, Glenn to check on the patient and Carol to make sure the story is straight. She insists that Rick take the rap for stealing the pistol – we wouldn’t want to blow Carol’s cover. Carol coaches Rick on the sob story he needs to use for the town meeting that night to determine Rick’s fate. Rick is skeptical, but Carol sums it up for him: “They’re children,” she says, “and children like stories.” But the real story is that if things start to go south, Our Gang will simply take the town by force. “Like at Terminus,” Glenn adds. No Glenn, nothing like that, nothing at all. Rick lays down for a nap.

Maggie finally gets some lines! She’s at Deanna’s place, watching Gabriel hang up his black shirt while she waits for her meeting. Maggie patiently sticks up for Rick, pointing out that sending Rick away isn’t going to work this time. The townspeople, who are frightened and have no idea what it’s like outside the walls, are not ready or remotely qualified to put Rick’s future to a vote. Reg agrees with her in the most condescending way possible, but at least it’s support from a townie.

Sasha, meanwhile, is off by herself, as usual. She’s got a cart with her and she’s collecting walkers to bring to her burial pit. She slips as she tries to toss one in, and slides into the pit with several she’s already deposited They’re so calm and peaceful that Sasha, in a moment of clarity or craziness, lays down in the pit with them. It’s an oddly touching moment, and feels like a bit of a breakthrough for her.

Daryl and Aaron are still on the trail of an unknown subject, who, if they do find him, they are to strictly observe. Daryl asks if Aaron has sent anyone away and Aaron tells him about three people, two men and a woman. The leader was named Davidson (I’m guessing that’s important); Aaron, Aiden and Nicholas literally drove them out of town and booted them out with a day’s worth of food and no guns. “They just went?” asks Daryl.

Aaron is haunted by the situation, and I get the feeling they might still be around.


Carol and Rick are chatting after Rick’s nap. Carol nudges Rick towards a coup de etat now that they have cover, because the townies all think Rick has been fully exposed. She hands him one of the stolen pistols, but Rick seems to be having second thoughts – his group is solid and he confesses that he doesn’t want to lie anymore. I’m guessing he mostly doesn’t want to lie to Our Gang anymore, but it would be nice not to have to lie to the townies either. “Oh, Sunshine,” Carol says, “You don’t get both.” Meaning you can’t take the town and still be a hero. It’s interesting to note that Carol calls him “Sunshine” just after calling the townies “children.” I still love her, but she is working a moral gray area here.

Daryl and Aaron spot their quarry, a lone man wearing a red rain poncho. Daryl notices the guy rub wild leeks on his face to ward off mosquitoes, which leads to the conclusion that the guy has been out in the wild for some time. They trail him, trying to get a sense as to which side he’s on.

Rick takes a stroll around Alexandria, I assume to get a sense of the mood, as well as to stretch his legs a bit. He passes by Tobin who returns Rick’s greeting neutrally, making me wonder if Tobin knew about Pete too. Or is Tobin just seeing Our Gang for what they are: Hard people trying to do right by the town and themselves? Rick passes Deanna and they exchange stares. I get the feeling that Deanna is having some major assumptions challenged here, like maybe you can’t fudge on morality. Maybe you can’t sacrifice someone to an abusive situation for the greater good. Anyone who knew about Pete has blood on their hands.

And then there’s Nicholas. He, too, is having a crisis, but he doesn’t seem to be dealing with it well. He has a serious problem with Glenn and now he’s stalking the poor fellow. Glenn is sitting by himself when Maggie drops by to reassure him that she’s going to do whatever she can to solve the Rick problem, but one wonders if he’s worried about Rick at all.

Speaking of troubled souls, Father Gabriel wants to be let outside the gate. When Spencer offers him a gun, he declines because the Lord is all the protection he is going to need — if indeed the Lord is still on old Gabriel’s side.

Rick pays Carl a visit on his walk. Carl is taking care of Judith like a boy who seems at ease in the apocalypse, a boy who doesn’t long for a kinder and gentler past because this is the world he’s known for most of his life. Carl points out that despite everything the townies need them, that they’ll die without their help. All Rick has to do is convince them that they are all that stands between life and death. Carl is afraid for the people of Alexandria, but is he afraid of the outside world or the foxes in the henhouse?

Aaron and Daryl have lost Red Poncho’s trail, a failed quest which has led them to a food distribution warehouse. Aaron is trying to convince Daryl to call off the search and stock up on supplies, but Daryl doesn’t want to leave the guy in the wild. Aaron makes the salient point that if they’re going to take in newbies, they’re going to have to feed them too.

The two break in and head for the trucks in the loading dock where Aaron spots his first treasure: a license plate from Alaska. Daryl tries one of the trucks down the way and gets a nasty surprise. All three trucks have been booby-trapped to open at the same time and walkers come pouring out. Daryl and Aaron escape by the skin of their teeth, making it to an abandoned car nearby. Oh, and we learn where the missing torso from last week’s episode went – it’s hanging by a meat hook along with several others in the trucks. Good times.

Ah Pete! He’s apparently been moved out of his home and to the house where his clinic is located. Carol drops by with a casserole (you do not want to get a casserole from Carol), ostensibly to check on Tara — but Carol, as we now know, rarely has a single agenda. Pete tells her to leave, but Carol, in full-on Den Mother Mode, pulls a nasty looking knife on him. “I could kill you right now,” she says, noting that nobody would suspect that she did it for any reason other than self-defense. She taunts him, calling him a “small, weak nothing, and with the world as it is, you’re even weaker.” Carol basically owns Pete and he isn’t capable of dealing with her. She leaves, reminding him that she wants her dish back clean when he’s done. After she’s gone, Pete throws a hissy fit and punches some inanimate objects.


After his chat with Maggie, Glenn catches Nicholas going over the wall and decides to follow, maybe out of curiosity or maybe to keep the schmuck alive. He trails him back to the scene of Nicholas and Aiden’s original humiliation — the clearing where they had chained the walker (still there by the way) for taunting. A shot rings out and Glenn is hit in the shoulder, knocking him backwards down the hill. Nicholas rushes to finish him off, but Glenn is gone.

Back in town, Rick, still on his walking tour, stops to check on Jessie who is surveying the hole where her front window used to be. He tells her he’s not sorry for what he did, no matter what happens at the meeting. While she may be grateful for the sentiment, she suggests that Rick probably shouldn’t be seen hanging around with her … small town gossip and all that. When he turns to go, she assures Rick that he was right.

Of course, Pete is watching because Pete is a casserole smashing creep.

Trapped in a useless car by a sea of walkers (and finding an ominous note therein) things are feeling a little hopeless for Daryl and Aaron. Daryl, being Daryl, offers to go first so Aaron can make it safely to the fence. Aaron, being the kind of guy HE is, insists they go together, whether they survive it or not. Just before they make their move, a zombie’s head explodes outside of Aaron’s window. He and Daryl take the cue and bust out swinging, taking down walkers left and right. With the help of Morgan, they clear a path to the fence and close it behind them, where they make their grateful introductions. Daryl asks Morgan why he risked his neck for them: “Because all life is precious, Daryl.” says Morgan serenely. Aaron offers him a lift to Alexandria but Morgan declines; he is on another quest. He claims to be lost, and shows them the map that Abraham had left for Rick back at the church. Funny how that works out.

Gabriel is doing his own soul searching on the road into town. He throws his arms open wide and calls for a walker to come for him because “he’s ready.” While he is suicidal, Gabriel isn’t THAT suicidal, so when the walker does get close enough Gabe quickly has a change of heart and uses the noose (?!) around the monster’s neck to decapitate it, then breaks down on the road and cries.


In one of the episode’s lighter moments, Eugene is asleep in a chair at the clinic where Tara is recovering. Abraham, not wanting to wake him, tries to creep in but Rosita knocks a pan over loudly (and purposefully). Eugene wakes up and he and Abraham reconcile.

Spencer opens the gate for Gabe and requests time for a chat so he can get something off his chest about Aiden. Spencer takes off and asks the Padre to close the gate, which he almost does, but neglects to close it tight, lock it and close the interior gate because he’s too wrapped up with his own inner demons.

Nicholas is now hunting Glenn in the woods when he comes across a stray walker. He tries to take it out with a knife but chickens out and shoots it instead, giving Glenn a golden opportunity to pounce. A nasty fight ensues. Unfortunately, a wounded Glenn has a hard time with Nicholas who eventually overpowers him and prods his gunshot wound, leaving Glenn to the fate of a group of descending walkers.

Rick is back in his room preparing for the town meeting, spending that time with Michonne. Rick confesses to her that he, Carol and Daryl all knew about the stolen guns and, in fact, he has one on him now. When he tries to hand it over, Michonne asks point-blank: “You think I’d try to stop you?” he replies that, well, she did club him on the head. She did it for him, not “them.” Michonne lays it out that they don’t need the guns in Alexandria, and that they can find a way to make things work. “And if we don’t, I’m still with you.” Finally, she delivers some ominous words of wisdom: “Something’s gonna happen; just don’t make it happen.” Indeed. He offers her the pistol but she pushes it back to him.

It’s dusk and Rick is making a final pass around when he spots the gate that Gabriel neglected to close. He finds indications — blood and body tissue — that the gate has been breached and goes on a mad tear to find whatever has gotten in. He locks the gate first though.

Sasha is waiting at the “church” when Father Gabe gets back. She’s looking for a little comfort, maybe some guidance, but all she gets is heaps of scorn. “I think I want to die,” she offers. “Why wouldn’t you want to die?” is his comeback. Father Douche. Gabe goes all righteous on Sasha, blaming her sinning ways for Bob’s and Tyrese’s death. Not smooth, Gabe. Sasha starts to lose it.


The next sequence thematically weaves the various plot threads into a larger whole. so rather than tease them out, I’ll leave them as they are.

At the fireside town meeting, Michonne explains the world to the townies – that being out there is bound to make anyone a little crazy, but all Rick wants for his family is to live and  for “all of you,” to live, too. “Who he is is who you’re gonna be… if you’re lucky,”  she assures them. Yeah.

Cut to Rick going stabby on the walkers that got through the gate, while, outside, Nicholas is looking a little … lost.

Carol then lays out her story (for the children) that Rick has saved her life over and over (and vise versa, but never mind that part) — “people like me, like us, need people like him.”

Cut to Rick bustin’ walker heads, while Glenn catches up with Nicholas, knocking him to the ground.

Then Abraham: “You know what? There is a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about… Rick knows every fine grain of said shit, and then some.” Creative way to make a point.

Rick has a walker on top of him, driving his hands deep into the creature’s skull and popping its brain. At the same time, the wolf brothers have returned to their warehouse with Red Poncho and immediately slit his throat (that’s their version of a welcome apparently).

Maggie lays out Rick’s case – heck, the group’s case – that it’s because of Rick that Our Gang survived and became a family and that the townies should want to be a part of that family: “You can’t stop that. You don’t want to.”

In the “spirit of transparency,” Deanna comes forward with the news that Father Gabriel had pronounced the group unfit, selfish and dangerous, and the very next day Rick confirmed Gabriel’s assessment. Jessie calls Deanna on hearsay, because Gabe isn’t there himself. Maggie leaves to retrieve the good Padre for a bit of truth-telling.


In the woods, Glenn is on top of Nicholas this time, calling the kid out on his douchbaggery. Glenn tries to tell him how the world is — he tries to help Nicholas and keep him safe, and Nicholas tries to kill him? Not cool. Glenn puts a gun to Nicholas’ forehead.

At the same time, Sasha has Gabriel pinned down, her rifle aimed, I’m assuming, at his head while the Wolf brothers turn on the flashing lights and disco music that gets the walkers to return to their trailers. Who knew all they really wanted was a dance party?!

Tobin steps up this time, explaining that he’s trying to keep his family safe, too, when Rick appears at the meeting covered in sweat and gore, and carrying one of the dead walkers on his shoulder. He tosses the thing in front of the fire, shocking everyone…

… Glenn is still throwing down on Nicholas who is whimpering about not belonging and Glenn just wants the blubbering kid to shut up. Instead of ensuring that with a gunshot, Glenn backs off — which is something only Glenn would do.

Meanwhile, Maggie gets to the church just in time to get Sasha to lower her weapon, somewhat disappointing Gabriel who seemed to want to be killed. He confesses that his entire congregation and everyone at the church died because he was a coward. Oh. Well, then. Maggie takes his hand and helps him up.

Rick informs the shocked townspeople that he found the gate unlocked and unguarded. Spencer leaps away stammering, stunned that Gabriel didn’t follow his orders. “It got inside … on its own,” says Rick of the thing he deposited before them. “They always will, the dead and the living.” As long as the gathered people are alive, they will be hunted.

As Rick’s speech goes on…

…Glenn and Nicholas walk back to town together, both beaten and bruised.

… Tara wakes up smiling. Rosita smiles back.

… the wolf brothers find a backpack, likely Aaron’s, with photographs of townsfolk including Our Gang. So not cool.

… back to Rick: “But we’ll kill them. We’ll survive.” Rick has his own moment of “transparency” when he tells the crowd that he was wondering how many of them he would have to kill in order to save their lives. But he’s not going to do that, because they are going to change. They aren’t ready now, but they have to get there before their luck runs out.

… cue a drunken Pete arriving at the party swinging Michonne’s katana wildly and being a general idiot. Reg tries to step in and talk Pete down and gets his throat slit for his troubles. Abe manages to wrestle Pete to the ground as Reg gasps and gurgles and finally bleeds out. An enraged Deanna looks at Rick who has his pistol ran and pointed … at someone on the ground.

Deanna: “Rick, do it.” Rick does it — just as Daryl, Aaron and Morgan show up.

Cut to blackness.

Afterward, Michonne is about to put her sword back in its place above her mantle but, she pauses thoughtfully then straps it on again.


I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that the person Rick shoots is Reg. Pete will be dealt with differently and I doubt it’s going to be exile this time… or ever again.

My other prediction is that the Wolf Bros were themselves exiled from Alexandria, in fact, they’re the very ones who Aaron was talking about with Daryl, which dovetails nicely with them stumbling upon their lair. While they don’t seem like the threat that the Governor posed, they are completely insane and we don’t yet know the magnitude of the threat.

I hope prayer is going to be adequate for Sasha and Father Gabe to get their heads back on straight, because I don’t think the new regime is going to tolerate the crazy.

Then there is Nicholas….

Share your own thoughts and theories on The Walking Dead Season 5 finale in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC