All right, y'all. We made it. And so did our favorite WD peeps, which was a huge, but welcome, surprise after all they put us through in Season Five. That made us all (well, me) especially anxious heading into the finale, which producers and cast members warned would be a doozy. That amped up the tension for some already powerful, tense scenes where we got *really* close to losing Glenn, Rick and our beloved Daryl. (I can't even...)
The 90-minute episode started with a tense and brilliant re-introduction of fan-favorite Morgan, who had been trailing our intrepid survivors all season. We didn't know what to expect from Morgan, given his precarious emotional state the last time Rick, Michonne and Carl encountered him in Season Three's "Clear." Lennie James, the actor who portrays Morgan, has a compelling intensity anyway and he led this first scene brilliantly.
We don't know what to expect when he encounters the first live person we've found with a "W" on his head, who gives some insight on the Wolves mystery. He confirms my earlier theory about a group of humans who create zombies to do their dirty work, which - thankfully - was one of the only things I was right about. The "W" traveler tells Morgan that he plans to take everything he has and all that he is, and Morgan tells him that *probably* ain't gonna happen... before promptly beating this guy's ass, along with his buddy, Yoda-style with a handy wooden staff.
On the Talking Dead, Chris Hardwick said that apparently Morgan had been off training at the Jedi Academy, which sounds about right. I don't know where he learned all his crazy moves but it set the tone immediately for this episode, and for Season Six, really, that we have another kickass character for the show. After losing Tyreese especially, this was welcome news. The Walking Dead giveth just like it taketh away.
Since we already have a Samurai, Morgan appears to be eying the role of a Shaolin monk. He doesn't actually kill these two marauders, instead giving them sanctuary inside an abandoned car where they can recover and go on their merry way long after Morgan is long gone. This merciful decision, and Morgan's idea that all life is precious, will come back to bite us all in the ass later, but hey. Season Six, right?
Rick was sleeping off his latest Shane-esque episode under the watchful eye of Michonne, who had layeth the smack DOWN on Rick in the final moments of the last episode. This once again demonstrates she is really the only member of their group who could show that same level of leadership and strength as Rick's equal. She's doing whatever she can do to keep the peace, trying to keep it together, so they can all stay in this safe place that they have found with folks who don't quite grasp the gravity of the situation. If that sounds familiar, it's because it is. Michonne is now channeling Season Two's Rick from the farm, when he had to corral Shane right as he was going off the rails.
Also stepping into her own was Carol, who immediately assesses the situation, breaking it down for Glenn, Abraham, Michonne and Rick. She knows that Alexandria is full of innocent folks who just want to protect, with everything they've got, their happy ending. She knows how to use that to her advantage. Rick tells them what they have to do to "conquer" Alexandria, which perplexes both Glenn and Michonne - neither of whom want to resort to threats or violence to make their point, or secure their position in this new town. Carol has no such reservations. She's ready to do whatever needs to be done to ensure their safety in this new town, and the safety of everyone in it - both groups included.
Season Five will probably go down, for me, as the Season of Carol. This is where we see how far this character has come from the beginning. I feared for her all the way through this episode, which I expected to end much, much bloodier than it actually did. She's ready for war, and really... so are we. So when she shows up at Pete's door, with a friendly little casserole, and a big-ass knife, we see exactly how she's changed from the mousy little thing Ed the Asshole (EdHole) used to bully. In fact, Carol, though smaller and less obviously deranged than Pete, is wayyyy more threatening and dangerous when she delivers some not-so-friendly advice in a bone-chilling even tone. It promptly puts him in his place when she tells him she can kill him and there's nothing anyone will do about it, and he knows it. You know you've bitten off more than you can chew when Scary Poppins is laying down the law. "I want my dish back clean when you're done."
Maggie campaigns actively with Deanna to keep Rick as part of the group. Her husband, Reg, tries to assure Maggie that the only way they can survive is together. He wants to bridge the gap, despite the worrisome behavior exhibited by the members of our group... like say - SASHA, and her quiet, alone-time lying on top of a pile of walkers she's been collecting in a ditch.
We knew from the teasers that Daryl would encounter some trouble outside the walls, where he travels with Aaron to find new recruits for their idyllic little town. He gives some insight on the last people to be exiled from Alexandria, which remains the biggest threat for Rick at this point, again a throwback to Season Two and the decision Rick was forced to make to either exile, or execute, Randall.
Daryl and Aaron observe from afar a traveler in a red poncho, whom Daryl wants to track because he demonstrates survival skills. This doesn't really do much for Red Poncho Guy later in the episode, however, something I guess we all should have seen coming due to the color he wore, a nod, whether intentional or not, to Star Trek.
(I mean, really. Why on earth would he wear something so visible? One would think that, traveling alone in a world where you are hunted by BOTH walkers and humans, you wouldn't necessarily want to draw any attention to yourself.)
I kinda wish Nicholas was wearing something red, to be quite honest with you. I want this prick (Prickolas?) dead in THE worst way. He scales the wall and Glenn goes after him - without being armed - which was absolutely no bueno. Remember, we were promised that some sad times were a'comin, and with Daryl already out fifty miles away from safety, we really didn't need another one of our favorites in such peril, which happens later when Prickolas decides to SHOOT GLENN out of the clear blue sky.
STABBITY. Where's a grenade when you need one?
Quite fortuitously, Daryl and Aaron happen upon an abandoned food supply company with a bunch of what appear to be loaded trucks. This goldmine of a find promises enough food to feed their growing community. If it seems too good to be true, it totally is. We already knew that the Wolves were setting traps, and this one was a DOOZY, y'all. I have never been more scared for Daryl in. my. life. When Daryl springs the trap, which - btw- seems REALLY unDaryl-like, it unleashes dozens upon dozens of walkers that force our adorable little rats Daryl and Aaron into a handy abandoned car in the parking lot. Not helping things much is the discovery of a note that let them know, in no uncertain terms, they were in a trap and bad people were coming.
This nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat sequence was classic Walking Dead. I know all of us were preparing our riot gear when it appeared that Daryl had no hope, which they sold *convincingly.* My sphincter has yet to unclench.
Back in Alexandria, Rick himself is "sprung" from solitary confinement, returning home to Carl, who insists that Rick needs to do whatever he can to convince the Alexandrites to keep him around. "They need us. They'll die without us." It gives us some insight into how Carl is maturing in this new, disturbing world. Thanks to his "parents," i.e., Rick and Michonne, who has stepped in as a pseudo Mom in Lori's absence, (and doing it better, if ya ask me,) we see the best of both of these characters in Carl. It kind of makes me resent Jessie's presence, frankly. Yes, Rick has the hots for her. Yeah, she's pretty and has that whole wholesome Mom/damsel in distress thing going on. But I am soundly Team Richonne and have been since Season Three. There is more unexplored chemistry between Rick and Michonne than I've seen in Jessie and Rick, demonstrated later in that epi when Michonne tells him in no uncertain terms that she's got his back, and will go with him, regardless.
That's love, y'all.
Michonne is no Andrea. She's not going to swap the family she's chosen for a warm bed. She couldn't. And Rick knows that. That's why he comes clean to Michonne, because he knows he has to. He can and does trust her, letting her know that she was the one who could talk him down from the ledge and change his mind. Their bond runs deep.
Daryl and Aaron share a bonding moment of their own in the car where they're trapped. Daryl admits that he feels more like himself anywhere but Alexandria, even in that cramped little car where peril looms inches away from his handsome face. (Yes, I love him. Get over it.) Aaron admits that Daryl was the reason he chose to bring his group back to Alexandria. (He loves him too. So there. :P ) When Daryl decides he needs to make a run for it, despite the fact that the car is covered with snarling, hungry walkers, Aaron tells him that they do it together or not at all. As we brace for the two turning into zombie chow, Morgan shows up to save the day. I've never been happier to see ANYONE in that whole damn show, especially when his quick thinking and magical staff gets our guys to safety on the other side of the fence. Aaron immediately offers that they all go back to Alexandria, but Morgan makes it clear he's on his own mission. He's tracking Rick Grimes, for whatever reason, and he innocently offers the map to figure out where he's going. From the look on Daryl's face, we know that's probably back to Alexandria. (Yay!)
Oh, Father Gabriel. I've never wanted a man of the cloth to bite it so freaking bad. You committed what felt like an unforgivable crime, betraying our group to Deanna just like Judas. When you went out, alone, unarmed, to invite death - I was truly hoping you'd find it. Instead, like Sasha, the fight to survive kicked in just in the nick of time, denying us all the very satisfying idea of watching you be torn to shreds just like your congregation once once.
But no. You returned to Alexandria in one piece and - oddly - without one speck of blood on your pristine white shirt. It's much cleaner than your hands, which are stained with the blood of everyone who crosses your path. That you left the gate ajar, with no thought to anyone's safety, was classic Father Gabriel. If we didn't have you to fuck things up, just where would we all be?
Oh right, SAFE in a zombie-less, walled community. Thanks for nothing, Gabe. #stillnotoverit
Showing much more forgiveness than I can apparently muster this episode were Abraham and Eugene, who finally got to chat about their painfully strained relationship over Tara's sickbed. Abraham actually musters an apology of all things. It was gruff but sincere, showing his growth from the suicidal soldier without a war he was when Eugene first happened upon him. It was a nice little moment before everything started falling to shit.
Again, classic Walking Dead.
Prickolas shows some growth out beyond the walls, abandoning his gun for a knife to handle a walker. So he can be trained. Still don't care. He gets promptly tackled by Glenn (YAY) and they get a few good licks in before Prickolas once again leaves someone for dead when a small horde shows up. Again he puts our Glenn in peril, and AGAIN I'm ready to go through the TV and slit the douche bag's neck my own damned self. I felt relatively sure going into tonight's episode that our Glenn was safe and sure to survive. He'd been on the Talking Dead in recent weeks, which I thought for sure was a dead-giveaway that he'd be in the clear. A fan favorite like Glenn would get a proper send-off, I was sure. And there's still that whole ugly business with Negan coming, where Glenn played a big part of his introduction in the comic book. Yet despite that, I truly feared for his safety this episode, which made it even more stressful to watch. I know it's going to hurt to lose Glenn one day and I ain't ready. There. I said it.
Rick soon discovers the open gate, realizing at once that a walker, or several, have infiltrated the town. He skips the community forum that night track down these walkers before they get to anyone, particularly the ill-prepared Alexandrites he's been charged now, by his son (and probably his own conscience,) to protect. They are clueless to this as they gather to argue his fate in their fine hamlet. It's up to Maggie, Carol and Michonne - and even Abraham in his unique poetic way - to make inroads for the absent Rick. "Who he is is who you're gonna be, if you're lucky." Little do they all know it means learning how to shove a gun right through the brain of a walker in one of the nastier Finger Shields moment of the episode. (Ick.)
Meanwhile Sasha, our sharpshooter, has taken a mental health moment to find sanctuary in the makeshift church, turning to Father Gabriel (ick) for emotional and spiritual guidance. Instead he harshly condemns her behavior, telling her that she doesn't deserve the safety she now enjoys within the walls. He stokes her emotional instability by invoking images of Bob and Tyreese. This doesn't go well for the near-suicidal priest, who finds himself at the hands of a woman equally at the end of her rope.
I may or may not have been yelling, "Do what you gotta DO, girl!" at the TV. But I'm not bitter. :/
Maggie channels Hershel a LOT in this episode, using reason to reach the fearful Alexandrites. When Deanna shares with her community that Father Gabriel had come to her, to warn her about the group, it becomes clear that Maggie did not and would not act on this information, though she was privy to it the minute it happened. This comes into play when she happens upon Sasha holding a gun on Father Gabriel. When Father Gabriel finally owns his most heinous act, leaving his whole congregation to be torn to bits just outside the church walls that kept him safe, it is Maggie who reaches out a hand to him, literally, to pull him up from his lowest point, literally. She is the spiritual center for these two lost people, holding them together in a way that would have made Hershel proud. Her act of mercy mirrors her husband's as he has Prickolas at gun-point, with the sniveling little weasel begging for his life. (WHAT ABOUT NOAH, YOU ASSHOLE? HIS SCREAMS STILL RING IN MY EARS.) I may or may not have been yelling, "Do what you gotta DO, baby!" to the TV. As mad as Glenn was, as well as Steven Yeun NAILED that performance, he didn't shoot the fucker point blank like he deserved. Instead he leads him back to safety arm in arm, typical Glenn. I fear that Glenn's act of mercy, not unlike Morgan's, will come back to haunt them all in Season Six. I trust Prickolas about as far as I can throw him at this point. But who knows what kind of justice he will face when he gets back to Alexandria?
Things are changing there by the second after Rick hand-delivers a walker to this frightened community meeting, taking a cue from Carl to "make them listen," to what he has to say. Reckoning back to his Ricktatorship speech of Season Two's finale, his "How many of you do I have to kill to save your lives?" speech makes it crystal clear that they need him, and he'll do what he needs to do to keep them safe whether they like it or not.
Enter Pete, wielding Michonne's Katana. :/ In a scene taken almost straight from the comics, Pete slits poor Reg's throat and he dies in his wife's arms. Deanna, overcome with her grief from her back-to-back losses, gives the green light to Rick to do the dirty deed she could never do. Leave it to Rick to finally get ONE gratifying death of the finale. He doesn't waste a second to waste Pete right in front of everyone, including Jessie. And of course this is where Aaron and Daryl happen upon the gruesome scene. They have returned with "All life is precious" Morgan, who is STUNNED to see how far Rick has come since the last time they met. It is truly an "Oh Shit" moment worthy of a season finale.
Given the Wolves are now virtually at their back door, fifty miles away but armed of the knowledge of their community and what all they possess, this deftly laid drama promises to make Season Six interesting to say the least.
I, for one, was glad to see Michonne put the Katana back on her back where it belongs. We know she'll need it.
Though the episode was expanded, I did not think it dragged for one minute. It had enough suspense, and I was terrified enough at what might happen, that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. When it ended I took several deep breaths, glad that all of Rick's group, particularly the five (or six, really) that we started with in Season One, are still breathing. Even so, I'm kinda glad we get a break till they start the craziness again in October. Whether these "wolves" are two loners who just figured out a way to survive with their zombie army, or are a part of a larger, more dangerous group (Negan,) remains to be seen. There's plenty of time to speculate as we all catch our breath and put Season Five to rest at last.
I'll just say I'm excited that we have the full crew + Morgan to handle what comes.
And I guess that's it for now. See y'all again in October!