The Walking Dead’s fifth season was filled with some of the most gruesome, gasp-inducing deaths the show has ever seen. It zipped from location to location—from Terminus to the road to Washington to Alexandria—at an exciting pace, avoiding some of the biggest mistakes of seasons past (namely, getting bogged down in one setting with one overblown villain for seasons at a time). And now, here we are. The Walking Dead just aired its fifth season finale, stretched to a whopping 90 minutes and hyped as a “bloody” episode that we’d need boxes of Kleenex to cope with—and yet, it looks like everyone is OK! Tara roused from her coma, Glenn made it through with only a shoulder wound, and both Carol and Daryl are safe and sound.
In fact, the only people to bite the dust in this episode were Pete, the wife-beating douchebag who deserved to die anyway, poor old Reg, and two strangers—one in a red poncho and one eaten by a walker out in the woods. No one from Rick’s group died. Sorry? Some viewers may feel ripped off after all the anticipation, but this season has already offed so many main characters that I’m chalking this up as a victory. The show has made its point: Sometimes good people die for no good reason, despite how invested you may have been in them, their histories, and their hopes for the future.
Rather than bloodlust, this episode focused on redemption and forgiveness: Abraham and Eugene apologized to each other and made up; Sasha, Gabriel, and Maggie ended their gunpoint confrontation with prayer; Rick proved his point to Deanna and the Alexandrians about the town’s vulnerabilities and about Pete; and Glenn took the moral high ground by sparing Nicholas’s life and carrying the treacherous slimeball back to town. Bravo, everybody, good karma all around.
The episode did, however, leave a few holes open. Despite a half-season of buildup, there were no major reveals about the Wolves—we still don’t know how many there are, who their leader is (assuming they have one), or what to expect from them, besides, obviously, a future attack on Alexandria, judging by that Wolf pawing through Aaron’s photos of the community. We did get a weird metaphor about settlers and Native Americans hunting literal wolves almost to extinction and those wolves making a comeback. But all this is to say that the Wolves will be the Big Bad at the start of Season 6, which you already knew.
And there is still the problem of Rick and Jessie. Some have pointed out that Rick’s infatuation with Jessie is less than believable, since the two have spent so little time together and since Jessie has only ever been neighbor-friendly with Rick. This could be on purpose; there’s a point to be made about Rick shoehorning Jessie into the vision of an ideal life he once shared with Lori. (Shortly after arriving in Alexandria, he mentioned driving through “neighborhoods like this” with Lori, dreaming about the day they could move in, too.) What happens now that Jessie is no longer the damsel in distress and Rick’s big hero moment has passed? Do we see him process the fact that Jessie doesn’t owe him anything, despite his big gestures? Alas, we’re stuck waiting until next season to see how Jessie feels about any of this.
But really, this episode was for Morgan. Magical, fan favorite Morgan, purveyor of magnificent dialogue and master ninja fighting moves, finally caught up to Rick’s group after trailing them all the way from Georgia. His is the first face we see, before he unleashes all hell on two Wolves who underestimate his Jedi mastery. He’s still got that rabbit’s foot that we saw him offer at the altar in Gabriel’s church—which he wisely brings along with him, for luck.
Not that he needs it so much. He ass-kicks his way through a mob of walkers unleashed by the Wolves’ traps and saves Aaron and Daryl as they’re trapped inside a car. In the episode’s last—and greatest—moment, he and Rick lay eyes on each other for the first time since the Season 3 episode “Clear,” when Rick found him inside a homemade fortress back in their Atlanta-area hometown. At the time, Morgan was half insane and didn’t even recognize Rick—making this meeting, here in Alexandria, a reunion of epic proportions. Morgan, taken aback by the bloody scene in front of him, calls Rick by name. Rick looks up aaaand…
Then the screen cuts to black. We don’t know what those tree markings Morgan followed here were, why exactly he chose to come find Rick now, or if he’s here to stay—but here he is, all the same. I’m taking that as a victory, too.
A short after-credits scene shows Michonne deciding against hanging up her katana for good (atta girl!) and another shot that reiterates what we already know: “Wolves not far.” That’s it! That was your 90-minute finale: a load of cool fight scenes (Daryl deserves some kind of award for Ghost Rider-whipping three walkers’s heads off in one fell swing), some Carol cookie realness (“You said you don’t want to take this place, and you don’t want to lie? Oh, Sunshine, you don’t get both”), Rick conquering Evil Pete, and lots of setup for the conflicts of Season 6. No major characters died, but think of that as a good thing: Having people die every midseason and season finale is too predictable a strategy anyway.