If you came looking for a major death in the season 5 finale of The Walking Dead
, you might be unsatisfied with how the 90-minute episode plays out. Sure, there's plenty of blood, guts and death.
But it's also an episode all about forgiveness and redemption. So many people seek suicide, so many people seek murder; and while there's an important murder, there's a sense of hope among the bloodshed. It's a satisfying finale if you like the ones that are less about gut-wrenching cliffhangers and more about wrapping up the theme of the season, while still planting the seeds for the enemies the group will face next season. (The wolves.)
Daryl and Aaron Meet Morgan
We've been waiting all season long for Morgan to finally make a huge, important appearance and the season finale wastes no time by showing him off in the first scene. (No blink-and-you-miss end credit sequences for Morgan this time!)
Morgan is held at gunpoint by the first actual living person we've seen with a W on his forehead. The man explains that the W stands for "wolves" and he's just returning to the old ways of the natives. (He also doesn't make a lot of sense.)
The man wants everything Morgan has and wants to kill him. He tells Morgan about how the first tribes used to think men could turn into wolves, but now they're obviously turning into something else entirely.
Another man with a W on his forehead attempts to jump Morgan from behind, but he's able to fight them both off with a big stick. He offers them a chance to leave -- he seems a lot more sane since the last time we saw him -- but they refuse and he knocks them unconscious. A walker comes by and Morgan tries to kill him with one of the men's gun but learns it wasn't loaded the whole time.
After killing the walker with his stick, Morgan loads both men into the back of his car and then bangs on the car horn so walkers will come find them.
Daryl, meanwhile, is still on the road looking for additional survivors to bring back to Alexandria with Aaron. As they're walking through the woods, Aaron tells a story of a different group of survivors who didn't work out with the rest of the community. He says they drove them out and left them with a little bit of food, but took their guns.
"I can't make that kind of mistake again," Aaron tells him.
Aaron and Daryl are on the hunt for more survivors, but they eventually lose track of the ones they're looking for. Aaron suggests they go back since there are some bad people in the area and they desperately need to bring back more food and people.
It's not a total loss as Aaron finds a trailer with an Alaska license plate for his collection. Someone laid a trap, however, as they accidentally open a bunch of trailers all at once, letting out hundreds of walkers -- many of them with W's on their heads. (There's also a ton of walkers hanging on meat hooks inside the trailers without their arms and legs.)
Miraculously, both Aaron and Daryl make it back to their car alive, but there's no way to drive through them all. Aaron discovers a note in the car that warns bad people are coming and they shouldn't stay there.
Later, Aaron tells him how he watched Daryl and the group afar and how when they stuck together during the storm, he knew he had to bring them to Alexandria.
Daryl decides to be the hero and wants one more cigarette smoke before he tries to draw the walkers away so Aaron can get away safely. Aaron, however, wants them to do it together. Just before they're about to make a run for it, Morgan comes out of nowhere and starts killing walkers so they can get away.
Aaron thanks him -- and I suddenly realize that Morgan has no idea who Daryl is.
"Why?" Daryl asks him, wanting to know why Morgan rescued him. "Because all life is precious," he answers.
Aaron offers Morgan a chance to come to their community, but he says he's on his way somewhere else. When he shows him the map, Daryl realizes he has a map from Rick.
Rick Wants to Take Over the Town
Back in Alexandria, Rick starts off the episode in an unknown place. He's on a mattress on a floor. Michonne is sitting in a chair, watching over him. She wants to know why he kept Pete's abuse of his family from her and he tells her she really wanted this place to work.
Glenn and Carol enter with Abraham. Carol also wants to know where Rick got the gun he pulled on everyone. Glenn tells Rick that Deanna is hosting a meeting that night and Carol suggests Rick tell them whatever they want to hear -- namely, that he was trying to protect Jessie and her son from Pete.
Carol suggests that if the townspeople still try to kick Rick out, they should take over the town. Rick suggests which ones they take out and Glenn says it sounds like Terminus all over again. Michonne wants no part of the plan and neither does Glenn. Rick claims he hit his limit, he screwed up and now they're stuck with no other options.
Rick kicks everyone out so he can go back to sleep. Deanna, Reg and Maggie, meanwhile, are meeting across town. Reg says the meeting is just a forum, but Maggie warns Deanna to not just make a decision without considering everything going on in Rick's head.
Maggie then tries to storm off, but Reg catches up with her. He reminds her about how the cavemen evolved and how civilized people are supposed to live together. "That's what I'm going to tell everyone," he says.
Later, Carol goes to see Rick alone. Rick wants to know why Carol didn't tell them about all the guns they have stockpiled. Carol says she's not sure that everyone is with them and reminds Rick that he can't want to take the place and remain a good person at the same time.
When Rick finally leaves the home he woke up in, he gets stares from other people in town, but basically appears to be free enough that he's allowed to walk through the street without an escort. Deanna, however, gives him some serious side eye.
At home, Rick tells Carl he doesn't want him to come to the meeting that night. Carl says the town people need them because they would die without their protection. Rick warns him that he might have to kill one of them.
Later, Rick comes clean to Michonne about how many guns he and Carol have. Michonne tells Rick that they can find a way to make things work in town. And if they don't, "I'm still with you," she tells him.
After Rick leaves his house, he realizes the main gate is open. (What he doesn't know is that it's Gabriel's fault. Earlier in the episode, Gabriel seemed to want to commit "suicide by walker," but wound up killing not one, but two. When he returned to Alexandria, he seemed in shock and left the gate open, kind of on purpose, but also kind of because he seemed like he was in a trance.)
Alexandria Needs Rick
That night, everyone is gathered except for Rick and Glenn. Deanna wants to start, however, which seems odd to do since Rick isn't there.
Rick isn't there because he's obviously very, very concerned that there is a walker loose in town. He catches up to it pretty quickly and kills it. There are more, however, and Rick continues killing them while Carol speaks on his behalf at the meeting. As Rick struggles against another one, Abraham speaks on his behalf next at the meeting before Maggie says her peace.
Deanna is up next and shares with the group what Father Gabriel told her about how she shouldn't trust the group. Jessie calls Deanna out for saying something by someone not even at the meeting.
During someone else's speech against Rick, he shows up and throws a dead walker on the ground in front of everyone, telling them the gate was open and no guard was posted. Rick gives a great speech about how the living and the dead will always try to come and take this place.
"You're going to change," he says. "You're not ready, but you have to be." He no longer wants to take over the town because the people are weak -- he wants to make them strong for whatever will come next.
And then Pete comes in with Michonne's katana and slices Reg's neck open. Like, out of nowhere. It's shocking, but kind of odd.
Deanna looks up to Rick and tells him to do it -- kill her husband before he turns. Without even blinking, he shoots Reg in the head and then looks up and sees Daryl, Morgan and Aaron watching everything as the season finale comes to a close.
The other two big moments of the episode are ones about forgiveness (and perhaps teasing the episode into thinking a big character is going to die).
First up: Glenn. While out in the woods, Glenn gets shot by Nicholas and tumbles down a nearby hill. Glenn disappears for a while, but eventually catches up to Nicholas and they get into a serious, knock-down fight in the woods.
Nicholas digs into Glenn's bullet wound and a walker starts to approach. You think it's going to get Nicholas, but instead it heads for Glenn who soon has quite a few walkers to deal with. Somehow, miraculously, Glenn survives and eventually catches up to Nicholas. Glenn fights him and eventually gets him on the ground where he can put a gun to his head.
Nicholas practically begs for his life and Glenn can't pull the trigger. He even helps Nicholas make it back to town.
Back in town, the other character who seems destined for death but is really seeking redemption, is Gabriel. After failing to lock up the gate, he gets into a fist fight with Sasha, who pulls a gun on him. Maggie is able to talk her out of pulling the trigger, however. Gabriel wanted to die because he felt guilty about what he did to all those who sought refuge in his church. But he eventually prays with Maggie and Sasha for forgiveness.
Wolves Not Far
While Morgan is a huge part of the episode, we still have an after credits sequence. It starts with Michonne deciding not to put her katana back up on the wall in her home and instead putting it back over her shoulder, where it belongs.
The show then cuts back to the warehouse with the trailers full of walkers. Written on one of the vans nearby is the phrase "Wolves not far."
That's right -- these wolves, led by Joe, the man Daryl hung out with for a bit in season 4, are heading for Alexandria next season. And it's going to be up to Rick to get the town ready.
Other Odds and Ends
-- I love the scene where Carol goes to visit Pete so she can check on Tara. He tells her to get out, but she threatens him with a knife, saying no one will doubt her story that he tried to hurt her. "You're a small, weak nothing," she tells him. It's so great she finally gets to face off against an abuser.
-- I do not love the scene between Rick and Jessie, however, where Pete watches ominously. It feels a little too much like a Lifetime movie for me.
-- Did this episode really need to be 90 minutes? I'm not sure I need that scene between Abraham and Eugene, watching over an unconscious Tara. Okay, it's nice to finally hear Eugene and Abraham apologize to each other, but I feel like that ground had been covered.