TV Show Review

TV Review: THE WALKING DEAD: Season 5, Episode 16: Conquer [AMC]


AMC‘s The Walking Dead Conquer TV Show ReviewThe Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 16: ‘Conquer,’ by its very title, was a repudiation of the last episode’s apparent low-point, for the season. To put it simply, for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), and other strays, from the road, the season finale was a case of do, or do not – there is no ‘Try.’ For anyone expecting the season finale to follow through on its threatened promise: look – Morgan’s (Lennie James) back!

It would have been one hell of a surprise intro, had it not been for the internets. It would have been a really cool sit & chat moment, had W for Wannabe not gone and made it a life & death matter. Well, nothing says “son, you done just messed up,” like the look of disappointment that came upon Morgan’s face. Good for us, though. The scene went Book of Eli so fast, I half wondered if Morgan had gone blind, a few times. I was hoping that honking the horn was his way of ensuring that the Wannabes would be trapped by Walkers, thus ensuring him a head start. Well, it turned out that Mad Morgan had turned a new leaf, at some point, and was out to thank his ‘sponsor.’ Turned out not so good for another solo roadie; but more on that, later.

There was no immediate fallout, from Rick’s try at sparking a revolution; and from the ongoing conspiratorial tone, of the Team Rick meeting, I suppose the likelihood of their walls having ears has been completely ruled out. There was still the matter of the group’s hard core – now down to just Rick & Carol (Melissa McBride) – not showing all their cards to the others. On that, Rick was faltering; but Carol doesn’t do falter.

For one thing, she made it clear that, where Rick’s blowup was concerned, she liked his kung-fu, but thought he lacked discipline. More to the point, however, Carol maintained her Cold Warrior cool; alternating between subtly pulling on Rick’s strings, like a spy master, and pulling a Mr. Miyagi on Porch Dick Pete (Corey Brill).

The odds were fairly stacked against Rick being able to remain in Alexandria, so Maggie (Lauren Cohan), as the roadies’ designated politician, took it upon herself to lobby on his behalf. Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) was a closed door, but Reg (Steve Coulter) would again provide some early encouragement; so death was again imminent.

Not to speak ill of the Reg, but nomads continue to exist to this day – despite civilization.

An underlying theme, to the Alexandria arc, has been the re-domestication of feral Humans – whether it is a good idea, even possible, and, if so, who deserves the effort. Gabe (Seth Gilliam) – the Father having been forfeited – has been willing to have Team Rick cast out, to secure himself a place; Rick has made it clear that he didn’t think the domesticated deserved the security they thought they had. Both had crossed a breaking point, of sorts; so ‘Conquer’ basically boiled down to which brand of crazy the townies would side with, while deciding which of the two actually wore their crazy better.

Save your money – there were no long odds to bet on, in this regard.

‘Conquer’ amounted to the key players of the arc finally facing/ living up to their respective demons – some more conclusively/ convincingly than others – in time to be on the same page, when the next chapter drops.

You know you’ve fallen into a love/ hate relationship, with a show, when its happy moments inspire dread. It just doesn’t make me feel good, when there are feel good moments. On the other hand, I guess I’m not supposed to. On the third hand, Rosita (Christian Serratos) forcing a reconciliation, between Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) & Eugene (Josh McDermitt), was hilarious.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say the showrunners deliberately seeded this episode with farewell moments. Glenn (Steven Yeun) & Maggie having a loving moment, before he was obviously lured outside the walls, by Nick (Michael Traynor); Aaron (Ross Marquand) offering to go 50/50 on some suicidal heroics, with Daryl (Norman Reedus); Gabe bringing God to a zombie baiting.

Daryl & Aaron, they dropped the ball, regarding the tracking of a prospective Alexandrian roadie – spiffy red poncho, and all – for a food haul. I was so disappointed in Daryl, for not figuring the hanging cans as a tip off – especially since I was certain he caught a whiff. What followed was precisely the kind of hopeless situation that Glenn & Noah were in. Only, I think the showrunners had already made their point; so more points for Morgan, and only red ponchos were harmed, by the conclusion of this thread.

Gabe was clearly broken (as evidenced by his inability to follow through on suicide by Walker); so the sight of him being trusted to deal with the wide open gate, behind him, was not a very subtle way to get a climax going.

The actual trial of Rick, in absentia, was done more for the townies’ benefit, than ours; serving, instead, as a backdrop to parallel resolutions-in-progress.

Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), having made the transition from Walking Dead, to Lying Dead, finally had a genuine come-to-Jesus moment; only it was timed to coincide with Gabe’s final solution, to his ring-around-the-collar crisis. The fact that Sasha hesitated at all, in the titular role of suicide-by-cop, likely meant that Maggie wasn’t all that necessary, in resolving this conflict; but she did help get Gabe beyond the fate so many of us thought/ thinks he deserved.

The Glenn reveal would have packed more of a punch, had Nick’s wandering scenes not gone on as long as they did; as it sort of telegraphed what was coming. More kudos, however, to the continued restraint (given what had been said about a certain police chief, at a hospital) that should only strengthen Team Rick’s hand (alongside the must-be-done matter of Gabe’s confession).

On a side note: it’s my understanding that oral bacteria makes all the difference, regarding Walker encounters being fatal, or not. That said, I’m not sure how Rick made out, after taking a face full of Walker face….

Rick, of course, took his new case to the deliberation – just in time for the final player to fill his part. Throw in some likeable collateral damage, in the form of a needlessly fatal intervention effort, and any outrage that stood before Rick, was now firmly behind him.

The fact that all it took was another personal loss, for Deanna to reverse her thumb, meant that yes, I did overestimate her.

Rick, for his part, carried out the order with too much expediency to have had any thoughts/ feelings on the matter, one way, or the other. It was a foregone conclusion, made an episode back, that was only now being implemented. He might as well have been a guillotine – the blade falls effortlessly, once released. Unfortunately, that blade fell just in time for the resolution to the side story that predated Alexandria.

It would have been one hell of a reunion, had the recovering maniac not seen his ‘sponsor’ take a hatchet to the wagon….

‘Conquer’ will undoubtedly come as a letdown, to some; with a series of resolutions that all seemed to line up for a semi-idealized wrap up to the season. I contend, however, that the central cast needed to be saved from itself. Since the prison, we have been watching them slowly turn into the “wrong people.” The Alexandria arc had become a matter of whether that line had been crossed, from survivors to takers, and that question demanded a fairly definitive answer. This was an admittedly expedient way to do it; but I’d sooner have this end, than have any of these sanctuary pissing matches get in the way of a (potentially) perfectly good war with the Wolves.

And war is coming. The final message wasn’t meant to promise us what comes next, as it was a reminder of what the Wolves are capable of. The same message was left at the remains of Noah’s home community.

“Looks like Michonne picked the right week to quit hanging up her sword….”

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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