The Walking Dead 5.16 Recap

The Walking Dead 5.15 Recap

The season finale of the Walking Dead opened a lot of new doors, while leaving most of the rest still hanging open. Just so we're clear, that's not a bad thing.

Spoilers ahead. And this one is running long.

I was pleased as punch to see our old buddy Morgan make his anticipated return, and I very much like it that it is he that gives us our first real meeting with the Wolves, the group I predicted would make their appearance this episode. Things have changed a lot since we last saw Morgan in action. Looks like he's done being a crazy hermit living with his pet chalkboard surrounded by lethal zombie traps, and he has instead chosen the path of the Jedi. Only instead of a lightsaber, he has a whup-ass stick. And now, a lucky rabbit's foot. 

Walking Dead 5.16 - Morgan smiling

I really like that opening scene where he wakes up, sees the rabbit's foot hanging from the mirror and smiles. The rabbit's foot is a nod back to his last appearance in the post-credits scene of the mid-season finale, where he enters the church and finds one on the altar, along with the map that says "the world needs more Rick Grimes." That smile in the car says, "Today is a good day." Morgan is happy to be alive.

His stick-fight with the ambush predators reveals a great deal about how far he's come, and a lot about his character overall. He pulls his punches and only subdues his attackers rather than killing them, which you can tell because when the zombie attacks him immediately after, he easily blasts the zombie's head open with one swing. That's control, my friends. He then fastidiously wipes the walker blood off his whup-ass stick, drags the dudes to the car where he slept safely the night before and tucks them in all nice, blowing the horn when he's done (presumably to make sure there are no other zombies in the area). 

Walking Dead 5.16 - Rick recovering

We follow the course of Rick's recovery from the big brawl with Pete. He's locked away in an unfinished reno project in the downstairs of some townhouse, and he gets a few visitors checking in on him to ask, "Rick, WTF!?" Carol, who knows the score exactly, continues to play her hand close to the vest and masterfully shifts suspicion onto Rick for having the gun - neither she nor Rick are sure of Michonne's allegiances at this point. But her darker side is still pretty close to the surface. When asked why she's been telling her "regular housewife" story to the Alexandrians, she says, "These people are children. Children like stories." Rick admits to the screw-up, but also makes plans to take control the town by knife-point at the trial-tribunal-forum-meeting thing that evening if the Alexandrians can't be made to see reason.

Nobody - not even Rick, really - wants this thing to turn into armed conflict. The Grimes Gang, who know what the world has become, recognize that aggressive actions are often necessary, and none of them want the Alexandrians - who are, after all, decent people despite their sheltered naivete - to come to any harm. The Alexandirans have put their trust in a woman who still thinks that all the world's problems can be fixed with democracy, reasoning and appeals to humanity. Deeana hasn't been out "in the shit," and doesn't realize (as the Grimes Gang does) that the humans are worse than the walkers now. And she really doesn't understand that this applies just as much to the people in her safe little community as it does to the desperate savages roaming the walker-infested wilderness outside her walls. 

Alexandria has no fewer than three bad apples:

  • Pete. That's one of the doors that gets closed.
  • Father Ratfink Gabriel. 

    Walking Dead 5.16 - Father Gabriel and Sasha

    I no longer consider him a part of the Grimes Gang since he turned traitor on them. Now he's a selfish weasel who hates himself, and rightly so. He locked his flock out of his church and let them die, he turned traitor against the group that saved his ass and brought him to this safe haven, he is too absorbed with his own self-loathing to take a moment to secure the town gate against walkers, and he takes his own pain out on poor Sasha when she finally, in desperation, tries to reach out to another person for help. Instead of stopping Sasha from painting the floor with Gabriel's brains and then  praying with him, Maggie should have beat his ass. I hate this guy. 
  • Nicholas, who has taken a particularly strong dislike to Glenn after their last post-warehouse-disaster chat. He bugs out over the wall, Glenn chases him and is shot for his efforts. The Glenn-versus-Nicholas manhunt situation switches back and forth a couple times, each man playing both the quarry and the hunter at various times, sometimes both at the same time. In the end, Glenn - shot and left for dead under a dogpile of walkers - gets the upper hand, pistol-whipping Nicholas into submission but proving himself the better man, yet again, by giving the sack of shit one final stay of execution. This is his second and final strike - if Nicholas pushes Glenn again, I don't think Glenn is going to show him any more patience or compassion. If he hasn't learned not to be a traitor by now, he won't.
  • The Alexandrians' naivete is made clear when Reg gives Maggie the little speech about how the nomadic cavemen died out, then evolved into civilized people who lived. Again, Reg is trying to be a good person here, and Maggie sees that... but she also knows that caveman Rick is better suited to the actual real world full of walkers. Most of the Grimes Gang wants to rally behind Rick and also help the Alexandrians, even though those two goals seem to be incompatible at the moment. 

    In the words of Carol, "Aw, Sunshine... you don't get both."

    While all this is going on, Daryl and Aaron are out trying to find Red Poncho Guy, the elusive survivor who inadvertently leads them into a walker-trap set by the Wolves. There is an interesting dynamic between these two, like a friendly people-raised dog making friends with a feral barn cat. I've actually seen that happen; the cat's name was Frodo and the dog was Buckwheat. They were unlikely but awesome pals.

    Walking Dead 5.16 - Morgan rescues Daryl and Aaron

    Jedi Morgan saves the day again, rescuing Aaron and Daryl from a swarmed car, because he now believes that all life is precious. Aaron extends the invitation to join them in Alexandria, but Morgan politely refuses, saying he is on his way somewhere but is lost. He asks for their help finding out where he is, and hands Daryl the map he scrounged from the abandoned church, upon which Abraham had scrawled "the world needs more Rick Grimes." 

    We get to look in on all of the Grimes Gang this episode, even if they aren't so involved in the central drama revolving around Rick's potential exile and the building friction with the Alexandrians. Rosita even gets a couple of lines helping Abraham and Eugene make peace with one another, while Eugene holds vigil over Tara, who is unconscious for most of the episode but wakes up at the end when all the story threads are getting tied off. 

    While a series of beatdowns happens in other locations (Glenn vs Nicholas, Rick vs unlocked-gate-zombies, Sasha vs Father Gabriel, Wolves vs Red Poncho Guy), the town of Alexandria holds its meeting about the Rick Grimes situation. To be honest, I'm not sure which direction Rick was going to take when he headed out the door: Michonne's plan of talking things through and reaching a mutually-acceptable solution, which seems to be supported by his memory of Bob Stookey telling him that "this is a nightmare, and nightmares end," or Carol's plan of "let's take them by surprise with our knives and try to minimize the casualties." I'm not sure Rick knew, either... but he went prepared for the worst. 

    The Gang's opinion on the matter is most eloquently and succinctly summarized by Abraham Ford, who makes the third-best case for keeping Rick around:

    Walking Dead 5.16 - Abraham Ford

    "Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit that you people don't know shit about. Rick knows every fine grain of said shit. And then some."

    Ah, Abraham, you're a poet. Really paints a word-picture. 

    Rick, however, makes the second-best possible case for himself, showing up to the meeting covered in gore and carrying the zombie he just finished killing and dumping the body on the ground in front of everyone. He makes an impassioned speech about how what's "out there" will not stop trying to get in, and admits that he was thinking, "How many of you do I have to kill to save your lives?"

    The best pro-Rick case is presented by Pete, who comes storming in with Michonne's katana and shouting, "You're not one of us!" before slashing Reg's throat. It looks unintentional - careless handling of a large, unwieldy, deadly-sharp sword which got in the way of a shoving match, resulting in a slashed throat. Intentional or not, the result is the same: Reg dies, Deanna is pretty much instantly sold on Rick's brand of justice and tells Rick to "Do it." At which point, Rick pulls out the gun Carol snuck in to him and executes Pete without hesitation. Much to the surprise and dismay of Morgan, who shows up at that exact moment with Aaron and Daryl, just in time to see the execution, but not the "we're going to get along" speech that came before it. The season closes with Rick and Morgan staring at one another, neither apparently sure what to make of the other guy. 

    Walking Dead 5.16 - Rick executes Pete

    Kinda brilliant, if you ask me. All the main-cast characters survived for a change, which was surprising. Reg's death was certainly unfortunate because he seemed like a genuinely good (if terribly naive) person. He had more lines than Rosita has had this half of the season, and his connection with Noah, giving the kid hope and dreams just before he was cut down, somewhat endears him to us... but he's been expendable from the start. I haven't read the comics, but I knew that Pete was going to kill someone before he was put down, and I'm relieved it was the guy we have only known for a handful of episodes rather than one of the Grimes Gang. 

    This has been probably the best season of the show since Season 1, where the whole thing was still new and you had no idea what was coming. The gang has been run through a hell of a ringer, on the move and desperate right from the start. The walkers are starting to seem like less of a real threat now, and more like a hazardous nuisance compared to the human element. They've survived cannibals, cops-turned-empire-builders, and their first encounter with the Wolves. Having not read the comics, I'm not 100% sure what to expect from that group, but I am certain the next meeting will not be a happy one. 

    Rick and Morgan are each going to have to come to terms with what the other guy has become. Rick has turned into a battle-hardened war-machine who kills without hesitation and wants to show everyone else in the community how they, too, can do it. Morgan has become a Jedi Knight, who believes that all life is precious now that there is so little of it left in the world. The men they each once knew have been long ago left behind in a different world, and it's going to be difficult for both of them to come to terms with that fact. 

    Morgan returns

    For next season, I foresee:

    • a lot more encounters with the Wolves, especially between them and Daryl and Aaron on their recruitment runs. They're going after the same targets, albeit with completely different agendas. 
    • a tense and short-lived reunion. I don't think Morgan is destined to be around for very long, and I think his departure will come at the hands of the Wolves. Probably the two he let live, because I think those are the guys who found Aaron's pack and the photographs contained within.
    • main-cast deaths - see previous recap, because I think the situation hasn't changed enough yet to make that list significantly different. Except that Pete is dead. 
    • Alexandria being a semi-permanent setting. I think it could last longer than the prison did, because it is sort of a symbol of hope. Alexandria gives the gang something to fight for. The prison sort of did, too, but, like... it was a prison. Alexandria is just as secure as the prison, but it has nice houses and lawns.  

    The two post-credits scenes also spoke volumes about what's to come. Michonne hesitating returning her sword to its spot above the mantle, and then resignedly strapping it on - she's been telling Rick, "We don't need them here. I don't need my sword anymore." But now it's clear that they do, and she does. And I think her heart broke a little when she came to that realization. Then we see Red Poncho Guy wandering around all zombified at the canning factory where the trailer-trap is, all freshly reset, and a warning about the Wolves painted on the side of the station wagon there. I'm not sure who would have left that warning, though - it couldn't have been Daryl, Aaron or Morgan, because that area was packed with walkers when they left. And it isn't likely to have been the wolves themselves, because why would they want to warn people away when they're trying to lure people into clever traps? Could it have been Red Poncho Guy before he got his throat slashed?

    Another open door for Season 6. Fall seems like a long time away, so we'll have to make do with Fear the Walking Dead in the Summer interim.


    I hate Nicolas, he needs to go! I also don't want to wait until fall!!!

    I am pretty happy that Pete is gone. What a dink. I wonder if Rick will hook up with his estranged wife? I can't remember her name.

    I wish Morgan would have just killed the Wolves. Why on Earth allow them to live? They tried to kill him!

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