The Walking Dead Season Finale Review: "Conquer" (Season 5, Episode 16)
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The Walking Dead Season Finale Review: “Conquer” (Season 5, Episode 16)

In the season finale of The Walking Dead, an old friend returns and members of the group deal with the trauma of the year that was.


I loathe to quote Chris Hardwick on any account, but that really is how you do a season finale. This season of The Walking Dead has tested a lot of expectations and assumptions, and on top of it all, it’s been positively dripping in blood. For that reason, it was fairly safe to assume that the finale was going to see casualties, and if it wasn’t going to be one or two major deaths, it was going to massive deaths, because, as often repeated in the episode, the people of Alexandria are just too safe and coddled to make it on their own. But the lesson of the episode, and the season, I think, is that one can have civilization even amidst the rampant chaos of a civilization in ruins.

To begin with, we finally catch up with Morgan Jones in a way that’s longer than a minute and half. He first appeared in the tag of the season premiere back in October, and then he was in the tag of the winter finale. Then, we spent seven episodes not hearing from him at all, and we were forced to ask the question: what is the point? Easter eggs are fun, but looking back, having Lennie James occasionally pop up following in the survivors’ wake was more frustrating than fun. And why start all the way back at the beginning of season five? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting and compelling to build up to Morgan’s reunion with Rick across the entire back-half of season five?

Well, having said all that, it was worth the wait to have Morgan, and James, back again. We find Morgan still on his own, having camped out for the night, in an abandoned car and now eating breakfast. When he’s accosted by a couple of guys with a “W” carved into their forehead, they want to roll him for his supplies, but he quickly dispatches them with skill and grace. His weapon of choice: his walking stick. And then what? Well, he puts them gently in the car, honks the horn once to make sure the immediate area is clear of walkers, and moves on.

I wondered if Morgan was being set-up now as the anti-Rick (despite how we left him the last time we saw him). Instead of being turned by the ugliness of the world and to look at everything as a kill before you’re killed opportunity, Morgan sees life as precious, which is why he gave the W guys every chance to walk away, even if walking away meant leaving with his supplies. I assume that Morgan’s new found peace of mind will be explored in season six, and perhaps his arrival in Alexandria will mark some kind of turning point for Rick, who could desperately use some peace.

Also left over for next season is the full-blown threat of the Ws, or the Wolves as they’re called. Apparently, the name’s routed in Native American myth, that when the white man arrived they wondered if maybe the wolves were given human form. The metaphor’s a little ham-handed, but okay. Names aside, it’s obvious that the Wolves are clever, sadistic, and definitely not interested in sparing anyone, even if they’re willing to give up what they have. Obviously, Rick’s paranoia about the human adversary out in the world remains well-placed, even if his madness seems off the charts.