“Conquer” is perhaps the weakest among the season finales of The Walking Dead, mainly because it lacks the thrill, explosions, and deaths we got so used to in the show. Yes, there were deaths but they were not the people we rooted for. However, what the finale lacks in excitement, it compensates with the development of most of the characters. They were not the Kleenex moments as there are more touching episodes in the show (Remember "The Grove"?), but we get to have deeper understanding and appreciation of each character. It is a beautiful flourishing of the characters we both hate and love, and making us an inch sadder for any impending doom on them. Here are some highlights of the Season 5 finale and what it did to our favorite walker-fighting crew:
Michonne and Maggie. These two ladies have risen to be great and wise leaders in the group. Michonne, once untrusting, aloof and self-centered, have gradually shed her hardened exterior, revealing a compassionate woman who yearns to live in peace once again. In Alexandria, she demonstrated this by sitting aside her katana and working as constable. She showed her wise judgment when she knocked Rick off in last week’s episode as the latter had gone berserk. And in “Conquer,” when Rick confessed that he, Carol and Daryl had been keeping guns, Michonne was resolute in her resolve for peace when she told Rick that they do not need weapons in Alexandria and that they must find a way to coexist. Yet, she also showed her loyalty to Rick and the group when said that she will always be with them. In the "meeting," she tells the Alexandrian that Rick only wants his family to live, and that the Alexandrians are now part of his family.
Meanwhile, Maggie has no big moments in this season, even after Beth has died. However, in Alexandria, she had become some kind of advisor to Deanna and helped her give appropriate works to Rick’s group. After the incidents of last week’s episode, she took the initiative of talking with as many Alexandrians before the fated meeting. Truly, Maggie has demonstrated that with all the hardships and trials they had been through, she is still able to keep her head and heart.
Sasha and Father Gabriel. On the other hand, Sasha is already on the brink of losing her sanity. With the consecutive deaths of her brother Tyreese and boyfriend Bob, she had relinquished her sunny dispositions, her hopes and smiles, and instead turned into a distant, angry and irritable walker hunter. And when she is finally willing to talk about what heartbreaks she is carrying, she is only frustrated as Father Gabriel only ground salt to her wounds.
Father Gabriel is a character I have not yet loved in the show. He is simply a hypocrite who is so devoted in preaching about Christ, yet deep inside, he harbours secret anger and hatred. His negative feelings are not really against other people, but to himself for his helplessness and cowardice. In “Conquer,” he finally faced his demon by going out of Alexandria and killing two walkers. Well, this experience momentarily evoked madness in him, especially when he became too harsh to Sasha when the latter came up to him for confession. With vile words, he blamed Sasha for the two men’s death and told her she did not deserve to live. This led to a physical confrontation between them, with Sasha pointing her rifle to Gabriel. Weeping, Gabriel wished his death while saying “They all died because of me,” referring to the people he shut out of his previous church. Maggie intervened and in a brief second, we saw the three of them sitting around in circle, possibly letting each other’s heart out.
Daryl and Aaron. There is some kind of bromance going on between the two. They had been out of Alexandria this whole time, scouting for new people. In this season's finale, they experienced firsthand a trap laid by the people calling themselves as “Wolves.” These people were placing walkers inside container trucks, and when Daryl and Aaron opened them after thinking there were food inside, they were attacked by countless walkers. They were cornered inside a car, and Daryl, who had risen to become some sort of Rick’s right hand, offered to make himself as decoy while Aaron makes it to the fence. Well, Aaron, gentle person as he is, refused the offer. Instead, he suggested they fight together and make the run. Thankfully, a familiar figure comes to their rescue.
Glenn and Nicholas. Glenn is perhaps the season’s hero. After witnessing Noah’s death in the supply store, he maintains his composure and good sense. In "Conquer," Nicholas attempted to kill him by shooting him in the shoulder and feeding him to the walkers. But Glenn is a seasoned fighter, with all his near-death experiences in Hershel’s farm, Governor’s Woodbury, the prison and other places. So he fought through and succeeded, and instead of killing Nicholas, he lets him live and atone for his guilt. Meanwhile, Nicholas is a very despicable person, after all the things he did while Aidan was still alive and during his death. So while he was struggling against Glenn, thinking the latter will kill him, he pleaded and kept crying, “I was scared. I don’t belong out there.” Being the better man, Glenn helped him up and they walked back together to Alexandria.
Carol and Rick. Among the show’s characters, Carol and Rick have perhaps grown the strongest, physically, mentally and emotionally. From being an abused wife and having lost her daughter to the walkers, Carol had become an aggressive fighter, decisive thinker, and valuable member of Rick’s group. In Alexandria, she takes fun in cooking for anyone (casserole for Deanna, cookies for Sam) while investigating the place and its people. She demonstrates her faith in her group by hiding weapons for themselves and threatening anyone who will go against them. She even stands up against Pete (the abusive Alexandrian husband) who poses threat against their existence.
As for Rick, he has become a ruthless killing machine, both for walkers and for the living. He has killed a number of the living in order for his group or “family” to keep on living. Having experienced the world outside the walls, he knows what it takes to survive, that no matter how steady the walls of Alexandria are, the walkers will always find ways. That is the message he has been telling the Alexandrians which they refuse to accept.
Deanna and the Alexandrians. For Carol, the Alexandrians are children who love to hear good stories. For Carl, they are weak. All these are true as the Alexandrians have all been sheltered throughout this time, safe from the walkers and the living who hunts to survive. But when Rick’s group came, their little blanket of peace and security is shattered. They have armoury, but they are not trained for a battle as exemplified by Aidan and Nicholas. Deanna herself is second-guessing herself and the people. And in the “meeting,” she faces a terrifying nightmare when Pete attacks and accidentally killing her husband Reg, the second in her family to die. With bitterness, she said “Rick, do it,” maybe signalling her acceptance of Rick’s message and methods.
The Wolves. “W” is for Wolves, and in “Conquer,” we got to see how this group operates. They set traps for innocent victims to fall into. There is still not much background information about them. One thing is sure, they are a big threat to the living, especially to Rick, his group and the Alexandrians.
FINAL THOUGHTS. The season finale is all about reconciliation and redemption. The title is absolutely fitting as the characters begin to conquer their own demons – Sasha and her grief, Father Gabriel and his guilt, Rick and his doubts, and Deanna and her frailty. Rick’s other crew have also surmounted their own trials, like Abraham and Eugene finally saying their apologies, and Tara waking up after a critical slumber. The fifth season of “The Walking Dead” has ended not so eventfully, but tons of questions have arisen, especially with the appearance of Morgan who defeated two Wolves at the start of the episode. With the Wolves near the walls of Alexandria, I expect a very explosive and bloody beginning of Season 6, possibly deaths of some characters (perhaps Nicholas and Father Gabriel who will demonstrate some heroism). If not, Alexandria will still be rocked to the core in ways that may take us avid viewers to greater surprise.