Perhaps the best compliment that can be given to ‘Conquer’ is that it really didn’t come across like a season finale. Much of the episode seemed to continue, rather than conclude, the various arcs that have been built up, and it was only in the final ten or so minutes that things came to a head. Those ten minutes featured incredibly strong material though, showcasing the very best elements of The Walking Dead.
Saying that, we only got to that point via the illogical moment where Gabriel leaves the gate swinging behind him when told to close it. As tropes go, the ‘born in a barn’ one has to be right up there, so to see a show like TWD employ it as the crux of the episode, leading as it did to every significant development within Alexandria later on, was a bit disappointing. And when you think about it, that genuinely is the case – it caused the walkers to get in, giving Rick his platform for heroics, and it also caused Spencer to leave the meeting to go and fix the problem, meaning the one guy with a gun wasn’t there when Pete appeared with the katana.
Going back to Gabriel and at least this episode we finally got something resembling character progression. Perhaps now they can start to justify the use of a genuinely good actor like Seth Gillam, because until now it was a role that could easily have been played by a less compelling actor. His scene near the end as he willed Sasha to kill him exemplified his talent, and the following one, as he, Maggie and Sasha prayed together, hopefully signals new developments for him (and Sasha, incidentally, who holds second place in the stalled arc stakes).
Perhaps the biggest event though was the eventual reintegration of Morgan. Once again, it was maybe a bit illogical that he actually managed to track the group all the way from Terminus to Alexandria, happening upon Daryl and Aaron rather than the two crazies who set that weird trap. I for one am thrilled to see Morgan though, as he’s the show’s ace in the deck when it comes to Rick. He was there at the very start and they share a great bond through their mutual occurrences (the loss of their wives for one). Hopefully this means Lennie James is back for good, at least as a recurring if not starring cast member, as he’s famously been unable to reappear much before due to his engagements on TV over here (he currently stars on Sky 1’s Critical). If not, at least he’ll make a huge short-term impact as we start the next season.
Talking of which, what happens next is anyone’s guess. Beyond the importance of the guys with the ‘W’s imprinted on their foreheads, and the shift of Deanna’s mentality, there is a lot up in the air. Season six certainly has all the elements in place to ensure it’s another fantastic installment.