'Walking Dead' Ends Season With Bloodshed and Long-Awaited Reunion

Sunday's season finale also introduced a new threat to the survivors.
Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from "Conquer," the season-five finale of AMC's The Walking Dead.]

AMC's The Walking Dead ended its fifth season with a bloody finale that was capped by a long-awaited reunion as a new group of villains were officially introduced.

The zombie drama, based on Robert Kirkman's best-selling comics, started season five with its largest cast to date and featured the loss of four series regulars (Emily Kinney's Beth, Andrew J. West's Gareth, Larry Gilliard Jr.'s Bob and Chad Coleman's Tyreese as well as recurring player Tyler James Williams' Noah) as this season explored if the survivors had lost their humanity and were too far gone to return to life in a somewhat normal world.

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Sunday's finale answered that question when Rick (Andrew Lincoln) — following his outburst in the penultimate episode — was finally given the authority to execute a member of the Alexandria Safe Zone. After the abusive/semi-banished Pete (Corey Brill) accidentally killed Reg (Steve Coulter) in a confrontation with Rick, Alexandria leader Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) gave Rick — whom she was considering exiling — the authority to ultimately determine who lives and dies within the community. Rick then executes Pete as payback for being an abusive husband to Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) and killing Deanna's husband. (This follows a similar story in the comics in which Alexandria leader Douglas' wife is killed by Pete, who is subsequently taken out by Rick.) That execution came after Rick — determined to protect the community — arrived to the meeting in which Deanna was considering banishing him with a dead walker who had snuck into the gated sanctuary when Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) failed to properly close the gates.

Meanwhile, fan favorite Morgan (Lennie James) was finally reunited with Rick and the group at Alexandria after rescuing Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) from a trap set by a new group of villains called the Wolves, who seem to be the new threat to Alexandria for the show's previously announced sixth season. (The appearance of the Wolves also answers the burning mystery about the "W" letters that have been carved into the foreheads of walkers and human sacrifices alike.) 

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Elsewhere, Glenn (Steven Yeun) spares the life of Nicholas (Michael Traynor) — the man responsible for Noah's horrifying death after the lying Alexandria resident shot him in the shoulder. It shows that Glenn may not be too far gone and has been able to hold on to his humanity — and take over for late father-in-law Hershel (Scott Wilson) as the group's moral compass.

Carol (Melissa McBride) showed her true colors to Pete and explained to Michonne (Danai Gurira) that she views the soft people of Alexandria as children and has been putting on the charade because "children like stories." Both Carol and Michonne vow to support Rick no matter what he does, with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) also speaking on behalf of the former sheriff during Deanna's meeting. (The post-credits scene also finds Michonne re-arming herself with her katana, seemingly putting an end to Deanna's no weapons policy.)

Father Gabriel, meanwhile, seems to have a death wish. When Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) — who has been suffering from PTSD after boyfriend Bob's savage death — turns to Gabriel for help, he refutes her and instead blames himself for everyone's deaths. The dispute comes to blows with Gabriel begging Sasha to kill him. That's when Maggie steps in, and he confesses that everyone died because of him. The trio eventually wind up praying together.

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All told, the deaths of Alexandria residents Pete and Reg comes off a bit lackluster when compared with The Walking Dead's four previous season finales. Season one featured the death of Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) in the CDC explosion. Beth's ex-boyfriend, Jimmy, and Otis' wife, Patricia, died when Hershel's farm was overtaken to end season two. Andrea, Milton and several more Woodbury residents perished after Rick took on The Governor in season three. And season four closed out with Rick savagely ripping the throat out of one of the Claimers to free Daryl.

What the season five finale does do is set up a sixth season that could likely see Rick and Morgan's relationship further explored — especially after Morgan returns to see Rick execute Pete. The duo last saw one another during season three's wildly hailed "Clear," after Morgan — who first appeared in the pilot and helped save Rick's life —  grows unstable after witnessing his son, Duane, being bitten and killed by his zombie wife. Morgan's arrival at Alexandria comes after he took out two of the Wolves in the opening scene, offering key intel on the group. The return should come as no surprise, as showrunner Scott M. Gimple previously told THR that "there's a Morgan story to tell," when the character resurfaced in a post-credits scene during the season five premiere.

Read more 'Walking Dead' Showrunner on the Return of a Fan Favorite: "It's the Start of Something"

The episode also helps kicks off a new regime at Alexandria — the longest-running location in the comics — for Rick and Deanna, who now must contend with humanity's new world order: "You fight, or you die," as Rick proclaimed in the penultimate hour.

As for the Wolves, the renegade group seems primed to head for Alexandria after discovering photos of the picturesque community that Aaron left behind in their trap, while a post-credits scene prominently features the group, that see themselves as men, transforming back into wolves. 

What did you think of The Walking Dead's fifth season finale? Sound off in the comments section, below, and stay tuned to The Live Feed for interviews with executive producer Gale Anne Hurd as well as stars from the series.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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