The Walking Dead: Conquer Review

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead is adapted from previous source material. This review is not meant to compare similarities and differences between the show and comic. It’s meant to be read purely as a take on the episode as it stands.

That being said, SPOILERS AHEAD.

“Everything gets a return.”

Much of “Conquer” centered on revealing more information about who is responsible for many of the strange occurrences happening around Alexandria. Many of them are predicated on walkers and individuals sporting a “W” branded in their heads, but it goes further than that. There’s a glee taken in causing harm to the walkers and putting that damage on display, as if it’s a reflection of the damaged humans who are still managing to survive. That damage extends to luring walkers into trailers as a trap; for what end remains to be seen.

Gabriel is one the best examples of that damage on the survivor side, seeking a seemingly eternal penance for his inaction when those at his doors needed help. Sasha is damaged in some ways as well. It’s one thing to bury corpses of walkers in a shallow grave; it’s another thing entirely to lay down in the grave with them. In Sasha’s defense, she does seek out help from Gabriel, knowing that he is a man of the cloth. His inability to reconcile his faith with his decisions, though lost, gets him killed at the hands of Sasha. Fortunately, Maggie appeared to calm things down.

Maggie confronting Deanna earlier was good if for nothing else because it brings her back into the loop. There was a pretty big plot point when she overheard Gabriel confessing to Deanna that Rick and the gang weren’t good people. Since that reveal though, there’s really been little attention paid to her overhearing that. Her meeting with Deanna proved to be strong enough to reinforce her defense of Rick at his trial. Deanna instead decided to use that information as a means of inferring Rick killed Gabriel after his confession, simply based on the fact that neither of them are present at the hearing.

Rick’s stay in solitary is likely for his own good, as he was quickly going off the deep end beforehand with paranoia. His motivations have largely been pretty self-explanatory: he wants to ensure that his people aren’t taken advantage of in any way. His mind has perverted that sense of protection into a sense of paranoia. Rick’s always been somewhat fallible as a leader in that you could argue that he was never really a leader in the truest sense of the word. He’s become quite a leader in the process of the show, demonstrating a remarkable capability to learn to make the tough decisions when situations call for them.

Carol more or less sold Rick out on the fact of the gun, which was interesting. She essentially played dumb about Rick getting the gun, when in fact she was in on the plan as well to get a gun. For as much as Rick has seemingly become unstable, Carol is equally as stressed about being safe (as opposed to sorry). She trusts Rick implicitly and the two of them have been through quite a bit to this point. Rick is a little more cautious around Michonne, unsure of how she would react to knowing that he, Carol and Daryl made the deal to hide the guns. Michonne’s been a loyal compatriot since joining the group and—even though there are times when it’s a little unclear how she feels about something—is more than willing to back Rick through anything.

Eugene and Abraham formed a camaraderie on the notion that two needed one another in order to survive in the world. That partnership made Eugene’s reveal that much more damaging, but it’s good to see that the two can find it in them to apologize to one another. Getting over that major lie will allow them to both move forward and continue being good partners. Even though Abraham, Eugene and Rosita have joined up with Rick and the others, the three of them share a dynamic special to them. A fracture between Eugene and Abraham obviously damages that dynamic, so it’s good that at least they can reconcile as friends and continue to contribute.

Daryl and Aaron continue their scouting tour, seeking out other survivors who could possibly be invited into the Alexandria settlement. Daryl’s superior tracking skills continue to impress Aaron, but it also gives the two of them a chance to discuss a time when Aaron was forced to kick someone out of the settlement. The conversation was possible foreshadowing for the events of the town forum that evening. In the present, another glimpse into the depravity that is the person responsible for putting their sadistic treatment of walkers on display. Daryl and Aaron were tracking a potential survivor for Alexandria, but they actually stumbled upon a pretty harrowing trap. Aaron showed that he’s a member of Alexandria who puts the safety of another before himself.

It’s been a while since Morgan’s made an appearance, but when he does, he’s in full-on survivor mode. He hasn’t lost much of what makes him so dangerous, as proved by his capabilities in handling himself against possible assailants. Those assailants came branded with Ws on their foreheads, offering a bit more insight into the workings of that group dynamic. Morgan is a character who largely seems to remain mysterious when it comes to motivations, but when he’s on it’s pretty fascinating. He’s presumably trying to catch up to Rick and find out if he’s even still alive, yet that hasn’t really been made clear.

The crescendo of the episode had multiple instances of chaos breaking out simultaneously. Gabriel pretty much let his desperate attempts to rationalize his decision-making get to him, assaulting Sasha in the process. Glenn exchanged blows with Nicholas, who decided to capitalize on being a weasel and attempting to draw Glenn out. Meanwhile, Rick is late for his hearing as he is forced to deal with walkers who have broken into Alexandria. And that hearing is still going on, despite all the chaos surrounding it, which serves as a perfect demonstration of the differences between Rick and Deanna.

Deanna is pitched as being somewhat sheltered and that’s made abundantly clear since Rick has arrived at Alexandria. Rick’s “trial” featured everyone in his group more or less extolling his virtues and why he’s valuable while Deanna and her group listen somewhat incredulously. The fact that Rick, Glenn, Sasha (and even Daryl) are all doing what needs to be done to survive in the meantime was a pretty powerful reminder of the dichotomy between knowing how to survive and knowing when to survive. Rick’s testimony and evidence was probably the strongest case made for him and his ways, as it underscored his experience in the world. It also helped that Pete helped Rick make his case even better in killing Deanna’s husband with Michonne’s blade.

That singular moment when Deanna asked Rick to execute Pete was the moment when she realized just about everything Rick said was right. The fact that Morgan was there as well (courtesy of Daryl and Aaron) to witness it was even more poignant, as it showed Morgan that Rick was just as damaged as he was. Morgan’s last major appearance had him holed up in a town full of booby traps, but Rick showed him compassion. Rick didn’t show Pete a similar compassion in executing him and it’s something that will likely haunt many of the citizens of Alexandria next season.

Much of season five of The Walking Dead hinged on the notion that the walkers weren’t the real danger in the world; it was the survivors. There are multiple reasons as to why survivors could be dangers to others, but the fact is that those dangers can be mitigated if you’re prepared. The citizens of Alexandria are woefully unprepared and Deanna essentially handed over rule of the city to Rick by making him an executioner. The next season will likely play into this concept even further, pursuing the notion that survivors need each other to survive in most instances. Those survival skills will likely be put to the test as the identity of the being carving Ws in walkers and survivors is expected to be revealed. In the meantime, fans will just have to wait and marinate on the fact that Rick is now running Alexandria.

Rating: 5 out of 5


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