Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 16: Conquer

At long last, it's the big The Walking Dead Season 5 Finale! 

With one major exception (I'm lookin' at you, Slabtown story arc), this was an excellent season, maybe their best one yet. It was also one of the most harrowing, what with the cannibalism and eating characters alive and all. And once again we learned that no one's safe on the show! There were a few episodes this season that I could barely watch, because I was certain they were going to kill off a beloved character.

Season 5 also marks a turning point for the series, as Rick and Co. finally stopped wandering the zombie-infested Georgia countryside and stumbled upon the seemingly idyllic little town of Alexandria.

The season finale was a darned good episode, and fortunately not the bloodbath I was dreading. I think showrunner Scott Gimple is still playing with us. He knows we all expect a ton of shocking deaths at the end of each season, so he holds off on them, handily subverting our expectations.

Unfortunately I didn't do very well with my season ending predictions. Last week I bet that Sasha would most likely die while Aaron would be killed after he and Daryl were captured by the Wolves. I also predicted Nicholas would be eliminated after threatening Glenn with his stolen gun (I came close on that one, but no cigar). I also said Rick would be detained while Deanna decided what to do with him (which actually did happen, sort of), and that she'd eventually banish him. I was also sure the Wolves would attack Alexandria and Rick & Daryl would have to sneak in and save everyone.

OK, so none of that actually happened— yet. Don't be surprised if some of those predictions come to pass in Season 6.

SEASON ENDING SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
Morgan Jones, still on the trail of Rick, is ambushed by two of the Wolves gang. He goes all Book Of Eli on their asses and handily defeats them with his bo staff.

In Alexandria, Rick wakes up after last week's conk on the head, only to find out that Deanna is planning a town meeting to discuss his potential exile. Carol, Glenn and Michonne agree that if it looks like things are going that way, they'll threaten Deanna and her family. And these are the good guys!

Abraham visits Tara's bedside, and forvives Eugene for his big "I Can Reverse The Zombie Apocalypse" lie.

Nicholas just happens to climb over the wall where Glenn can see him, which isn't the least bit suspicious. Glenn stupidly follows Nicholas into the woods, where he shoots him in the shoulder. The two then have a savage brawl, as Nicholas leaves Glenn for dead at the bottom of a zombie pig pile.

Daryl and Aaron track a potential Alexandria recruit, and find a warehouse, complete with semi trucks loaded with canned goods. As Daryl opens one of the truck trailers, he sets off a trap. All the trailers open up, spilling out hundreds of hungry walkers. Daryl and Aaron take refuge in a stalled car, knowing they're well and truly screwed. In the biggest series of coincidences ever, they're about to go out in a blaze of glory when they're rescued by Morgan at the last possible second. And then Morgan finds out they know Rick, the man he's been hunting for all this time.

Father Gabriel goes outside the wall, intending to offer himself to the walkers and end his guilt. He changes his mind at the last second (as usual) and escapes a walker. He reenters Alexandria, carelessly half-closing the gate like the idiot he is.

Somehow Glenn escapes the walkers and goes after Nicholas. He almost kills him, but at the last minute decides to let him live. They head back for the walls together.

Deanna's town meeting doesn't go well for Rick, as most of the long time residents seem eager to banish him. It doesn't help that Rick doesn't show up for his own "trial." Unfortunately he's a bit too busy for meetings, as he noticed the open gate and tracks down several walkers inside the walls. He's almost overpowered, but eventually manages to kill them.

Just as Jessie's praising his calm and rational manner, he shows up at the meeting covered in gore and carrying a dead walker. He finally convinces the Alexandrians that they're vulnerable and need him and his survival skills. Just then Pete, who's been forcibly moved out of his own house and away from Jessie, barges in carrying Michonne's sword. Deanna's husband Reg tries to calm him down, but Pete slits his throat with the sword. As Reg dies in Deanna's arms, she looks at Rick and hisses, "Do it." Rick shoots Pete in the head, eliminating the town's only doctor.

Just then Daryl and Aaron enter with a shocked and crestfallen Morgan, who stares at the bloodied Rick in disbelief.

Thoughts:
• So after half a season of foreshadowing, we finally meet the Wolves in the cold open. One of them tells Morgan a vague tale of how men are descended from wolves or something, as the other one tries to ambush him.

I'm hoping there's more to the Wolves than these two nimrods. Somehow I was imagining they were a larger group. Maybe these two are just scouts? If the gang does consist of just these two, they shouldn't pose too much of a threat to Rick & Co.

• Napoleon Dynamite would be impressed with Morgan's sweet bo staff skills!

• Rick wakes up in his house after being conked on the head by Michonne last week. It appears he's been out for quite some time— long enough for Rosita to patch him up and Carl to visit.

Once again, this is not how head injuries work in the real world. If you're knocked out for more than half an hour, you need to seek immediate medical attention. If you're out for more than a couple of hours, well... if you ever do wake up you're gonna need someone to feed you.

• Man, was Sasha creepy in this episode or what? She really needs to find a new hobby. Lying in a mass grave full of walkers is not healthy. Mentally as well as physically.

• Father Gabriel exits the safety of the walls and offers himself to a walker to end his pain. Hasn't he already pulled this "suicide by walker" schtick at least once before? Jesus, just do it and get it over with already.

• Daryl and Aaron follow a man in a red poncho, who they feel may be Alexandria material. I'm guessing the red poncho was a Little Red Riding Hood homage? You know, because he gets killed by the Wolves? Eh, get it? Eh? Either that or it was a Star Trek redshirt reference. Maybe both.

By the way, Aaron mentions that they're currently fifty miles from Alexandria when they lose sight of Red Poncho Guy. They didn't follow him that far, did they? Is it really cost or time effective to devote so much time to recruiting one single person? Even one who knows to rub leeks on his face to ward off mosquitoes?

• Daryl and Aaron demonstrate a couple of new ways to kill walkers this week. Daryl decapitates three at once with a chain, while Aaron dispatches one with an Alaska license plate!

• Welcome to Coincidence Theater! Daryl and Aaron are trapped in a car, surrounded by zombies. A second before they open the doors to make a run for it, they're rescued by Morgan.

If that wasn't enough, Morgan, who's looking for Rick for some reason, just happens to stumble upon two of his friends.

• Did you catch the Dawn Of The Dead homage when Aaron buried his machete in the walker's head? It's too close to have been anything but a shout out.

• I don't quite understand the point of the Wolves' little trap. So they have this fenced in compound, and they fill it with enticing semi trucks seemingly filled with food. Then when someone opens one of the trailers to get the food, BAM! They're surprised by hundreds of walkers inside, and are eaten alive.

So what's the purpose of all that? Are they just sadistic assholes who like to watch people be killed for their own amusement? Or is there some greater, as-yet unknown point to all this?

• You'd think Daryl and Aaron would have been able to smell the hundreds of walkers locked inside the hot, stifling semi trailers before they opened the door.

Or not. Maybe this entire world smells like a charnel house, and they've become immune to the smell of death and corruption.

• Apparently Glenn has learned how to teleport in times of stress or great need. In the woods, Nicholas shoots Glenn in the shoulder as he stands on a slight rise. Glenn falls backwards out of sight, and when Nicholas rushes up to finish him off, he's nowhere in sight. Either Glenn ran a hundred yards (while injured) in just under three seconds, or he teleported to safety.

Then after they wrestle on the ground for a bit, Nicholas leaves Glenn for dead at the bottom of a zombie pig pile. Glenn desperately tries to fend off the walkers lying on top of him, their rotten teeth snapping away, as several others approach. There's clearly no way out of this situation.

Then a few minutes later Nicholas stops to rest, and Glenn tackles him. So how'd he escape the mass of walkers piled on top of him? The only possible explanation is he teleported away. Handy!

• Somehow Father Gabriel manages to decapitate one walker and stove in the head another without getting a single drop of blood on his pristine white shirt! Ta-daaa!

• To that Alexandria door guard— you had ONE job! "Don't let walkers in." And what do you do? You trust twitchy, visibly disturbed Father Gabriel to get the door while you scamper off on some infinitely more important task. Brilliant!

• Once again Abraham has the best line of the night: "There's a vast ocean of shit that you don't know shit about. Rick knows every fine grain of said shit and then some.”

Runner up: Carol, who tells Rick, “You said you don’t want to take this place, AND you don’t want to lie? Oh, sunshine. You don’t get both.”

• Carol was quite the badass again this week, as she pulls out a nasty looking kinfe and confronts the abusive Pete, saying, “I could kill you right now. Who’s gonna believe I did it because I didn’t like you? No one. COME AT ME.”

• Somehow I just knew that after everyone at the meeting put in a good word for Rick, testifying as to what a good and rational man he is, that he'd show up drenched in blood. It was inevitable.

• Reg, we hardly knew ye! So much for Alexandria's resident architect, as Pete "accidentally" slashes him in the throat, killing him.

On the other hand, maybe now they'll replace him with someone who knows the supports should be on the INSIDE of the goddamned walls.

• After Reg's death, Deanna orders Pete's execution, which Rick carries out with gusto. So much for Alexandria's only resident doctor! Lucky for Tara she was treated before he died.

• I have to wonder if Deanna would have been as quick to condemn Pete if he'd killed someone besides her husband?

• This entire season has followed the comic book quite closely, but nowhere was that more evident than in the final scenes. Rick's facial bandages were almost identical to the ones he had in the comic. Pete staggering into the meeting while brandishing a knife, and Reg (Regina in the comic) trying to talk him down but getting killed in the process was right out of the comic as well.

They even mentioned Davidson, the man who helped build Alexandria but was exiled along with two others. That all happened in the comic too.

• Poor Morgan "All life is precious" Jones. For months, maybe even years, he's been dreaming of the day when he'd finally find his friend Rick again. And just as he's finally reunited with him, he watches in horror as he blows an unarmed man's head off.

It'll be interesting to see how Morgan reacts to this event next season.

• I hope everyone stayed tuned and saw the Marvel-style after credits scenes! Michonne starts to hang her sword back above her mantle, but changes her mind and decides to carry it again. Then we see the now zombified Red Poncho Guy shambling around in the Wolves' compound.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for: It's The Fourth Annual The Walking Dead Season End Awards, Even Though This Is Season 5! 

Accounting Best Practices Award:
This award goes to the cannibalistic inhabitants of Terminus. When Rick and Co. are about to be killed in their slaughterhouse, Gareth, the leader of the compound, interrupts to ask the butchers about their shell counts. Priorities!

Nimble Feet Award
When Carol, Tyreese and Baby Judith are running from a walker herd on their way to Terminus, they cross a railroad track. Every single one of the shambling walkers steps daintily over the tracks, instead of tripping over them and doing a face plant like you'd expect.

Badass Of The Year Award
Carol Pelitier, come on down! In the episode No Sanctuary, she disguises herself as a walker by smearing her poncho with blood and guts, and caking her face and hair with mud. 

She sees Rick & Co. being taken to slaughter inside Terminus, so in a totally Macgyver moment she shoots a propane tank full of holes and fires a bottle rocket at the escaping gas, creating a massive explosion. She then calmly walks through the walker herd, hiding her weapons under her poncho as she infiltrates the compound.


Later inside Alexandria she feigns being a scatterbrained housewife to throw the residents off her trail. She then threatens to tie a child to a tree and leave him for dead if he tells anyone she stole weapons from the armory, and in this episode she threatens to kill the abusive Pete with a large knife, knowing everyone will think she did it in self defense.

She is not a character to be messed with.

Most Useless Character Award
This year's nominees are Eugene Porter and Father Gabriel Stokes. Eugene lied to everyone about being able to cure the zombie apocalypse, and up until a couple weeks ago steadfastly refused to use or carry a gun. Father Gabriel locked his own congregation out of his church and listened as they were consumed by walkers, and is now planting seeds of doubt about Rick in Deanna's mind.

It was a close call, but I'm giving the award to Father Gabriel. As despicable as Eugene's actions were, he at least managed to redeem himself somewhat in the past few weeks, as he rescued Tara & Glenn during Aiden's disastrous supply run.

Father Gabriel is just a huge load who serves no useful purpose in the group, and actively tried to get them exiled. Congratulations, Father G!

Best Use Of Old School Technology Award
In the episode Strangers, Maggie, Glenn and Tara search a local gun store, which they find by consulting... the Yellow Pages!

Priorities Award
In Four Walls And A Roof, Rick once again shows where his true feelings lie. When they find the maimed Bob dumped uncerimoniously in front of the church, Rick asks him, "Does Gareth have Daryl and Carol?"

Hey Rick, how about asking Bob if he's OK before you start worrying about the more important characters?

Man Of His Word Award
In No Sanctuary, Rick is about to be slaughtered and promises Gareth that some day he'll kill him with a red handled axe. A few weeks later in Four Walls And A Roof, he does exactly that.

Worst. Subplot. Ever. Award
Without a doubt this award unanimously goes to the Slabtown arc. The whole storyline was dull, slow moving and pointless, and nothing about it made the least bit of sense. Worst of all, the whole point of the arc— rescuing Beth— was made moot when she was killed after she escaped from Dawn and the hospital! I'm convinced the entire thing was there just to pad out the season.

Short Memory Award
Congratulations, Maggie Green! Her sister (and only living relative) Beth was missing and presumed dead for the entire first half of the season, so of course it only made sense that she agreed to toddle off to Washington D.C. with Abraham, Eugene and Rosita instead of searching for her sibling.

Smartest Idea That's Immediately Ignored Award
After their bus crashes in Self Help, Tara suggests they find bicycles to ride the rest of the way. Of course despite her awesome idea, no one ever goes looking for any bikes and the group either tries to find a working auto or just hoofs it.

Extreme Callback award
In Consumed, Daryl and Carol make their way through the ruined streets of Atlanta, passing an abandoned tank. This is almost certainly meant to be the same tank that Rick hid in, way back in the very first episode.

Nuking the Fridge Award
In Consumed, Daryl and Carol are trapped inside a van perched precariously on the edge of an overpass. They strap themselves in as a horde of walkers push the van head first off the highway, where it somehow lands on all fours a hundred feet below and they walk out without a scratch.

The Dim Bulb Just Got Dimmer Award
In Self Help, Eugene admits he lied about having a cure for zombie-ism. Abraham is so incensed by this that he punches him right in the nose, knocking him out. Eugene spends the next two episodes unconscious. Eventually he wakes up and is none the worse for wear. Nope!

As I've already pointed out, concussions are serious business, and if you're out for more than a couple of hours, you're gonna be a drooling vegetable. If you wake up at all.

Lone Wolf & Cub Award
In Coda, Michonne fights off a walker horde inside Father Gabriel's chuch with Baby Judith strapped to her back!

Most Pointless Death Award
Without a doubt, the award goes to Beth Green in Coda.

Beth is held hostage in Grady Hospital by Officer Dawn for several interminable weeks. When she's finally rescued at long last by Rick and Co., she stupidly tries to stab Dawn with a pair of scissors, prompting her to blow off Beth's head with a handgun.

I'm still not sure what Beth was trying to prove with the stabbing; she was free and all she had to do was walk out. If she really felt the need to disrespect Dawn at this point, she could have blown her a raspberry or flipped her off or something.

Most Imaginative Zombie Death Award
The award goes to Noah, who in What Happened And What's Going On, stabs his zombified little brother in the head with a model airplane.

Runner up: In The Distance, Rick shoots a flare into a walker's eye socket, turning its headinto a tasteful lamp.

Father Of The Year Award
In The Distance, Rick tries to feed Baby Judith mashed acorns.

Raw acorns are extremely bitter and can even be toxic in large amounts! I know you're all hungry, Rick, but acorns aren't the answer.

Much Ado About Nothing Award
The award unanimously goes to Aaron and Eric, the show's first gay couple. The producers went to ridiculous pains to make sure we all understood that these characters are gay.

Meanwhile, Tara is a lesbian, and no one's said boo about that for a couple seasons now. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if most viewers have forgotten that particular fact about her.

It's A Trap Award
As Rick and Co. are outside the walls of Alexandria, he hesitates to enter, fearing it's a trap. He finally relaxes when he hears the laughter of children coming from within the walls.

But so far we've seen what, one kid inside? Where'd all that laughter come from?

Second Chance Award
It's no secret that the writers seriously botched the character of Andrea. The comic version of her is awesome, the TV version was much, much less so.

It appears the writers realize this, and are doing their best to turn Sasha into the new Andrea. I applaud this decision.

Manscaping Award
For the second year in a row, the award goes to Rick Grimes, who, despite the fact that he's living in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and is on the verge of starving, somehow manages to find the time to shave his chest.

Architectural Oddity Award
And the award goes to Reg Monroe, who built the walls of Alexandria, but inexplicably put the supports on the outside, making them extra easy for walkers (or evil humans) to knock down from without.

The Relationship That Launched A Thousand Fan Fiction Novels Award
The award goes to Daryl and Aaron. For several years now, fans with nothing better to do have speculated Daryl is gay. The producers adamantly denied this, to no avail.

Once the gang reached Alexandria, Daryl struck up a friendship with known homosexual Aaron. The two of them now roam the countryside, "recruiting" new members (!).

Hear that noise? It's the sound of a million Daryl/Aaron slash-fic stories furiously being typed by sweaty fans.

Holy Crap, Carol Award
Without a doubt this award goes to its namesake, Carol Pelitier. In Forget,  Carol sneaks into the armory and is discovered by Jessie's son Sam. When Sam says he's going to tell, Carol quietly leans over him and sweetly says, "You can never tell anyone. Especially your mom. Because if you do, one morning you'll wake up and you won't be in your bed. You'll be outside the walls. Far, far away, tied to a tree. And you'll scream and scream because you'll be so afraid. But no one will come to help, because no one will hear you. Well, something will hear you. The monsters will come. The ones out there. And you won't be able to run away when they come for you. And they will tear you apart and eat you up all while you're still alive. All while you can still feel it. And then afterwards, no one will ever know what happened to you. Or... you can promise not to ever tell anyone what you saw here. And then nothing will happen. And you'll get cookies. Lots of cookies. I know what I think you should do."

Yikes!

Missed The Obvious Award
For the entire second half of the season we've seen walkers with the letter W carved into their foreheads. Apparently the characters can't see the Ws, don't remember they've seen them, or think such a thing is unremarkable.

I have a feeling this oversight is going to come back and bite them in the ass next season.

Redest Redshirt Award
The award goes to Noah, who I'm convinced was created as cannon fodder, just so the producers could kill him off. Case in point: They never even bothered to give him a last name!

Punishment Worse Than The Crime Award?
In Spend, when Carol finds out Pete is beating his wife Jessie, she immediately tells Rick he needs to kill him. Really, Carol? Just like that? No trial or anything? No trying to separate them? Just go directly to kill?

See you back here in October 2015!

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