Dale had died, Shane had died, the farm burned and was overrun. Everyone was emotionally spent and things seemed hopeless as we see the prison looming on the horizon. The season finale from season 2 of The Walking Dead was my favorite. Until now. The writers, creators and cast of TWD entirely outdid themselves with the season 5 finale. Such an impressive episode!
As promised, there will be lots to discuss. So, if you need a refresher on the finale you can Click Here for a spoiler-filled recap. All caught up? Good! Let’s start throwing random thoughts about, shall we?
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. [Ecclesiastes 9:11]
Morgan’s appearance at the start of the show assured us that we were in for one helluva ride. When he told the offending Wolves that “everything gets a return,” I smiled. It reminded me of what I had written last week about how everything comes back around. Plus, it is a far cry from the you-can’t-come-back theme of season three. Nothing like a little positivity to get the episode going. I especially loved the smile on Morgan’s face over the rabbit’s foot. Morgan always did have a thing for talismans. At the start of the season when we saw him laying his little collection of items (many of which were Duane’s) at the altar of Gabriel’s church, it was evident that he was healing. The last time we really saw Morgan was in “Clear”; he was alone and had entirely lost his marbles. It took his encounter with Rick, Michonne and Carl to renew hope and give him the courage to move on. His quest to find Rick’s group would be a journey of spiritual healing. Second chances. A return. You can come back.
Now, about those self-proclaimed Wolves that wanted Morgan dead. That history lesson about the new settlers hunting all of the wolves to extinction was a fascinating load of crap. Let’s look at it this way: “settlers” in question, could be survivors. They would have to be a strong group of survivors–knowledgeable, strong, probably armed, persuasive; just as the English settlers would have appeared to the Native Americans. By ZA comparison, the “natives” would be survivors who were struggling, not as “settled”, poorly armed if at all, living off the land. These people, according to the Wolves, were easily coerced by the “settlers” to assist in hunting the wolves. But what did they get out of that? Why do it? The ZA is approximately 2 years old, right? These Wolves that approached Morgan seemed so absolutely convinced of who/what they were. How do so many adults, in so short a span of time, lose all sense of reality? It’s like Lord of the Flies out there. Someone has convinced them of this life on a Joe Carroll level of epic proportions. They drank the Kool-Aid. Someone is “making” wolves, using them as guerrilla warfare; a disruptive element for nefarious purposes. Their heads are full of nonsense disguised as confidence and strength. They are ill-prepared for any confrontation, as evidenced by the empty gun. They admittedly rely on the element of surprise, on traps, and on maneuvers that rival the raptors from Jurassic Park. Clever girl. [Side note: I had literally written the words “clever girl” in my notebook, when moments later the Jurassic World trailer aired. I felt justified.] This is an “army” built by cast-outs, probably Deanna’s cast-outs, who use the mythos of the wolf to disguise their existence as a credible threat. Because, after all, everything gets a return. And they will return. In the meantime, their active Wolves have marks on their heads that look more like brands than carvings. There appears to be actual Wolves, and those that they create from walkers, the ones who get carved. I think that the living Wolves are the ones who leave the warnings behind “Wolves Not Far” for others like them (other “tribes”?) alerting one another to traps nearby. Consider the car trap just outside of Noah’s Shirewilt Estates. Of course, the food truck trap was genius! Pure genius! Best use of a truck full of walkers since the Governor unleashed the zombie molotov cocktail at the prison. So elaborate! And the use of music and lights to wrangle them back together? Again, genius.
Aaron and Daryl had many good bonding moments in this episode. It was interesting to see things turn into a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. If they had done what Daryl suggested and continued the search for the Red Poncho Guy, RPG would still be alive and not the newest member of the Wolves. But, in doing what Aaron suggested, they learned more about the threat that is the Wolves at their door, and their peril brought us the return of Morgan. Morgan who, by the way, has become a total bad-ass. His save of these two men was nothing short of incredible. As Reedus promised, I was yelling at my TV. I’ll admit, even though I knew better, there was a moment there where I thought this was it for Daryl. He echoed the sentiments of Beth when reminding Aaron “Why we need to keep looking for the good ones.” Aaron, visibly full of remorse for his part in exiling Alexandrians, refused to let Daryl sacrifice himself. As Glenn said, we survive together. Oh my heart.
It was a nice touch that Daryl didn’t let on to Aaron that there was a connection with Morgan. You have to remember, back in season one, Rick was still trying to contact Morgan every morning at dawn via the walkie-talkie. Then, in season three, Rick, Michonne and Carl encountered Morgan on a supply run. Daryl may not have known what Morgan looked like, but he surely knew of him. Morgan telling Daryl that “All life is precious” was such an affirmation of his renewed faith.
This episode is exactly what Sasha needed in order to begin healing. We saw Ethan approach Gabriel, seeking counsel as he grieves for the loss of his brother. After a day spent laying in an open grave, pondering the meaning of life, or perhaps mulling over Rick’s declaration that “We are the walking dead,” Sasha eventually makes her way to the chapel, also seeking counsel. She has hit her breaking point. Michonne and Rosita reminded her in their unspoken way last week, that they’ve all experienced loss. But, that together, they can all come back. Sasha is finally ready to talk, to grieve. How could she possibly know that Gabriel had spent his day seeking to end his life?
Gabriel removed his frock. He walked into the wild, unarmed, whistling his way to death’s door. But, when the moment finally came, he couldn’t do it. Instinctively, Gabriel fought for his life. Not only did he dispatch the walker, but he also put down the person the walker had attacked, sparing the man the torture of turning. Crying in the road, Gabriel once again feels as though he has failed his God in some way. His shirt remained remarkably white, by the way. Which calls to mind:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. [Isaiah 1:18 NIV]
In Gabriel’s lowest moment, he lashed out at Sasha, speaking of Bob and Tyreese in a cold manner. Clearly, he was projecting onto her. Sasha recognized this and her reaction to his words are the exact opposite of what you’d expect from a woman who earlier that day welcomed death, herself. The two clash; Gabriel wishing for death, Sasha unable to take a life. When Maggie comes along and brings them precisely what they needed. All along, Gabriel has sought forgiveness. He needed to know that there would still be some kind of redemption when his days come to an end. In a world turned upside down, it’s difficult to believe that God even exists let alone listens to your prayers. Maggie offered Gabriel absolution. Everyone has done things. Terrible things in the name of survival. But that’s not who they are. Gabriel can finally begin to heal. And, by this example, Sasha can come to grips with the past and learn to move forward. Oh look, once again this season we are tapping into the Serenity Prayer [God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference]. What goes around, comes around. The bible tells us to forgive the sins of others so that God can forgive yours. The final shot of these three in a circle of prayer brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written and portrayed.
I’m not exactly sure what good Glenn thought would come of following Nicholas over the wall. Regardless, Glenn followed. And, naturally, Glenn got shot. He and Nicholas fought for what seemed like an entire afternoon and well into the evening hours.
In the end, though, Glenn was the bigger man and spared Nicholas’ life, even helping to carry him home. Morgan spared the lives of the two attacking Wolves (which, as we learned, was a mistake), Glenn spared Nicholas, Gabriel spared that stranger, Sasha spared Gabriel, Maggie spared them both, Rick spared the lives of the Alexandrians by eliminating the walkers and later admitting that he was choosing to let them change rather than take them by force. Everyone was in forgiveness mode this episode. Even Abraham and Eugene shared a moment of forgiveness, letting bygones be bygones.
Then Rick had to go and say something ominous to the crowd: “Luck runs out.” Thanks, Rick. This made a nice bookend to the episode, a glaring juxtaposition to Morgan and his rabbit’s foot. It seemed like the only people not on the redemption/absolution/forgiveness kick were Deanna and Carol.
Deanna, drowning in her grief and confusion, spends nearly the entire episode attempting to justify exiling Rick. When Reg is accidentally killed, without hesitation, Deanna orders Rick, “Do it.” And, Rick immediately shoots Pete, hopefully in the head. [Side note: Who do you think will have the honors of poking a hole in the brain of Reg? Touchy subject, I’d imagine.]
Carol used her time in this episode, to threaten Pete into providing medical care for Tara. This woman held a knife to the man’s throat and said everything she’d probably always wanted to say to Ed when he was alive. “Come at me,” elicited mixed emotions from me. On the one hand, I was totally stoked at how awesomely fearless Carol had become. On the other hand, I was yelling for her to shut up, lest she be killed. I love who she has evolved into, but I fear Carol’s bravado may be her undoing. There’s a fine line between bravery and insanity. Keep your eyes open, sunshine.
In the end, fans of the comic book got exactly what they expected to see. This storyline was lifted-almost-entirely from the pages of The Walking Dead. If the writers choose to continue along this path, then season six should offer us Jessie and her family being eaten by walkers, Morgan and Michonne having a bit of a fling, and Abraham and Glenn taking their leave. Of course, the show’s writers have been known to twist things around a bit, creating a new mythos from what we understand is merely ‘source’ and ‘reference’ material.
All in all, the season five finale was fantastic. There was just the right balance of tension and humor, desperation and hope, evil and goodness. I feel that Morgan will be the thing that finally helps Rick to heal. He has been broken since Lori died. Morgan has been to the brink and found his way back. He is the perfect guide to bring Rick Grimes home. Let’s just hope he does it before Negan shows up.
Until next season…
What are your thoughts on the season finale? Did you enjoy season five? Favorite moments? Best quotes? Zombie Kill of the Week? [Obviously, that prize goes to Daryl for beheading three at once with a piece of chain] Least favorite moments?