'The Walking Dead' recap: Rick wins, but who loses?

'Walking Dead' season finale recap: Rick and the Wolves

For the fifth season finale of "The Walking Dead," Rick finally won his power struggle with Deanna for the hearts and minds of Alexandria. On the one hand, yay, Rick won't be cast out into the wilderness. But judging by his very first act as leader -- shooting Pete the accidentally killing abuser -- doesn't bode well for the path of civilization and peace.

Of anyone in the crew, it seems Michonne understood most deeply the dangers and sad reality of Rick's way, when we saw her stoically take her katana blade down from the mantel where she had previously hoped it would stay. She saw there was a chance for them to survive without their weapons, but that window seems to have closed. At least for awhile.

Most symbolically, the other active voice for peace and forgiveness, Deanna's husband, Reg, was the victim of Pete's accidental slaying, getting his throat sliced open during a confrontation at Rick's trial. With Reg gone and Deanna without any sort of grounding, it looks like she'll be part of the ever-widening circle of leaders making decisions from a place of raw loss and pain next season. It may keep them safe from threats such as the Wolves in the short term, but that kind of brutal, authoritarian society almost never goes well. When can Rick ever loosen his tense grip on the town now that he has it? When will he ever feel they're safe enough to relax? The answer is never.

But that's a debate for the long-term health of Alexandria. In the short term, the town will have to deal with the threat of the Wolves, the gang of an indeterminate number of people, who are carving Ws in the foreheads of walkers and setting traps for unfortunate travelers. The final image of Season 5 was of some Wolves graffiti, saying, "Wolves Not Far," which is reminiscent of Terminus' chest-thumping graffiti, "We first, always."

But we've seen crazed gangs rampaging across a post-zombie apocalypse landscape before. What's really making the wait for Season 6 long is the anticipation over what will happen between Rick and Morgan, one of the only characters who has been on the series for as long as Rick, though he's made only a handful of appearances.

Where Rick has steadily grown more and more unhinged over the course of his adventures, Morgan appears to have found inner peace. Maybe he just discovered some really good coffee. Either way, Morgan is no longer the man Rick once knew. And likewise, Rick is no longer the man Morgan once knew. Yet, now they are here in Alexandria. And how that relationship plays out will be one of the best parts of the new season. Or at least the season premiere. Actor Lennie James would reveal only that he will be in one episode at least next season when he appeared on "Talking Dead."

In other developments, Father Gabriel finally tried to act on his suicidal thoughts by letting some walkers enter the walls and then came to near-deadly blows with Sasha, who was also coming unhinged. But when Maggie stumbled onto them, she seemed to bring both of them to a more spiritual and balanced place. No doubt, Father Gabriel's trial and fate and how Rick will handle it will be a part of the new season. No way can this new Rick-led Alexandria let a guy like Gabriel run around unpunished.

And another trial may be held for cowardly Nicholas, who tried to kill Glenn. But Glenn finally turned the tables and nearly killed him, instead. Glenn, in the end, decided to spare him. But how can those two live in peace side-by-side? Will Nicholas fall under the Rick hammer, too?



8:05 a.m.: A previous version of this post misidentified Nicholas as Enid.


There's still a decent, kind person inside Rick. But with each passing episode, that person gets pushed a little further away. Here's hoping next season will bring him back from the brink.

After he gets rid of those Wolves, of course.

Follow me on Twitter: @patrickkevinday


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