The Walking Dead: Conquer

Posted on March 30, 2015

The-Walking-Dead-Season-5-Episode-16-Television-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLORoss Marquand and Norman Reedus in AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

 

We were on the edges of our seats, all throughout this finale. Unfortunately, we kind of sunk back into them with disappointment when it ended. What started out as a wonderfully tense hour where it seemed every single one of our characters were in extreme mortal danger ended with one barely defined asshole dead, two warmed-over villains practically indistinguishable from any of the others in the show’s history, a prayer circle, and the re-opening of a philosophical argument that the show has beaten into the ground like a ripe zombie head. There are not enough “That’s it?”s in the world.

When you’re cutting back and forth between all the major characters, all of whom are in some sort of dire situation, you’re implying to the viewer that it’s all going to lead somewhere; that something explosive is about to happen. And look, we cheered when Morgan showed up to rescue Daryl and Aaron. And we even breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Glenn, even though we’re sick of seeing character’s clearly overrun by walkers and then showing up later with little explanation of how they managed to survive. It’s sloppy and lazy. Even so, we didn’t want to see these characters die and that’s a testament to how the show has made us care for them. But honestly, we not only expected Sasha and/or Gabriel to be dead by the end of the episode, we found ourselves disappointed that neither of them were. There’s playing with the audience’s expectations and then there’s just failing to live up to them, and the prayer circle ending was a particularly limp and unsatisfying way to end the extreme tension created by her mounting craziness and his betrayals.

The entire episode leads up to this important town meeting, which we’re told will not only decide the fate of Rick, but decide the fate of all the Alexandrians. There’s all this tension about how it’s “going to go down” and whether or when Rick should pull out his gun and start taking hostages and who’s going to have his back when and if he does so. What we got looked like a small barbecue in someone’s backyard, a gathering so lame that Beth could’ve taken them all out with no help. All the tension leading up to the scene was instantly deflated. Are there really so few Alexandrians? Didn’t we all have the impression that we were talking about a community? Because this doesn’t even qualify as a neighborhood. Why stage such a dimly lit scene when you could easily fit this small group of people in someone’s living room? Why would they all sit outside around a fire when they all have electricity and candles inside? For the same reason that Father Gabriel can decapitate a walker and beat a dying man’s head in and not get one drop of blood on his pristine white shirt. Because the plotting required it. Gabriel’s shirt needed to be clean in order to be let in without incident and charged with closing the gate, because if he’d been covered in blood, as he should have been, that plot point couldn’t occur. Similarly, everyone put on jackets and huddled outside in the dark instead of having a meeting in one of the houses because Pete showing up unexpectedly followed by Morgan stumbling in just as Rick kills him would be too hard to stage if there are doors and rooms involved. This is just straight-up poor writing, forcing nonsensical and unlikely scenarios on the audience because they can’t or won’t figure out a plausible way to get from Point A to Point B in the story.

Which isn’t to say there weren’t moments to be enjoyed. Basically, any scene with Carole was golden (especially when she called Rick “Sunshine”), and we’re loving the growing – and surprisingly believable – bond between Darryl and Aaron. Even the ending, as clumsily staged and heavily forecasted as it was, offered some visceral satisfaction as Deanna finally saw the light, so to speak, and ordered her first execution, right in front of the whole community.

And finally, here’s Morgan to tell us that “Every life is precious,” which will presumably be the big point of contention between him and Rick when the show returns. In the entire run of The Walking Dead, if it has had one theme, it’s been the exact opposite of that. Didn’t we just spend a season listening to Tyreese say roughly the same thing and then dying because on some level he knew it was no longer true? What’s going to distinguish the coming argument between Rick and Morgan from the argument between Rick and Shane or Rick and Dale or Rick and Tyreese or Rick and Carol?  It’d be one thing if this argument was equally weighted on both sides so it could remain an interesting question to ponder, but we’ve been hammered over and over again with the idea that weakness and kindness go hand in hand and that survival requires hardness and even the killing of fellow people.  Since Morgan let the Wolves go and they went on to kill someone else, he’s already been proven to be wrong before he’s barely uttered a word about his philosophy, so what’s the point? What could Morgan possibly bring to this conversation outside of his Jedi skills?

It’s a shame, because this Alexandria storyline has been, we’d argue, the most interesting one in the show’s history. And we have reason to believe it will continue to be an interesting development going forward. But this was a lame bobble of a finale that essentially took a political argument and added a lot of pointlessly tense scenes that mostly led nowhere in order to spice it up. All of that buildup and it just ends because Pete’s a clumsy asshole.

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[Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC]

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