Early in season five of “The Walking Dead,” Abraham (Michael Cudlitz, “Band of Brothers”) wrote, “The new world’s gonna need Rick Grimes.” But, can Rick (Andrew Lincoln, “Strike Back”) survive in the new world? That’s the question that drove the second half of AMC’s hit series as it found its group of survivors struggling to adjust to the settlement of Alexandria, a place mostly untouched by the horrors outside.
“The Walking Dead”
Season 5 Finale
If any quote encapsulates Rick’s philosophy in the apocalypse, it would come from fellow AMC series “Breaking Bad” ’s Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), who said, “I chose a half measure, when I should have gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again.” Rick has learned this lesson more than once. He lost his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies,”Prison Break”) when he left an enemy’s fate to chance and then his mentor (Scott Wilson, “In Cold Blood”) when he let the Governor (David Morissey, “Extant”) get away at the end of season three. This message continues to resonate as the threat of Terminus returns to attack an already weakened group in the first three episodes of season five. All this leads to a pragmatic leader, unafraid to take the brutal steps needed to survive. However, within the sheltered community of Alexandria, Rick is a product of a completely different world.
Set in the aftermath of Rick’s violent confrontation with the abusive Pete (Corey Brill, “The Normal Heart”) and his subsequent gun-waving rant, the season five finale, “Conquer,” questions Rick’s place in a civilized community. Glenn (Steve Yeun, “The Legend of Korra”) openly questions Rick’s resolve to violently take Alexandria if he is voted out, comparing his plan of butchery displayed by the residents of Terminus. However, “The Walking Dead” could have looked even farther back into its history to find the strongest comparison – season two’s Shane (Jon Bernthal, “The Wolf of Wall Street”), Rick’s former friend turned rival. Shane displays many of the traits that Rick currently possesses: Aharah survival instinct, the need to strike first and a problematic relationship with another man’s wife. The show paints Rick in a light compared to the eventual condemnation Shane faces, which demonstrates how far characters have been pushed.
In particular, “Conquer” pushes not only Rick, but Glenn and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green, “Once Upon a Time”) to points they could never turn away from. Glenn faces death at the hands of the cowardly Nicholas (Michael Traynor, “Rectify”) while Sasha, who struggles to come to grips with the deaths of her brother and boyfriend (Chad L. Coleman and Lawrence Gilliard Jr., “The Wire”), is confronted by the hypocritical Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam, “The Wire”). Both confrontations conclude with Glenn and Sasha pointing guns at their attackers, and both times, the show walks them away from the ledge. It’s a mixed-bag in term of dramatic results; while it’s enjoyable to see the usually nihilistic series give hope to its characters, there’s a sense of anticlimax, much like the downbeat midseason finale, “Coda.”
On a lighter note, it’s awesome to see the return of Morgan (Lennie James, “Low Winter Sun”) and his newfound Zen warrior philosophy and fighting style. Back on Rick’s side, there is sometimes a little too much justification on its protagonist side. The show has seen Rick walk the line between sanity and insanity multiple times, as Lincoln gives the character an undercurrent of dark madness that always risks coming forth. However, the show’s writers seem to be more cautious in embracing that darker side. Several characters defend Rick, like Abraham eloquently says to the Alexandrians, “There’s a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about.” But, the show might go a little too far in its defense of Jessie (Alexandra Breckenbridge, “American Horror Story”), the woman Rick is at times disturbingly attached to, which only solidifies his importance.
However, when Rick comes forth with the body of a walker who sneaks in, the show states that the new world needs Rick Grimes, because in the words of “True Detective” ’s Rust Cohle, “The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.” That’s why Rick kills Pete after he kills Reg (Steve Coulter, “The Conjuring”). In “The Walking Dead,” survival can’t be compromised. This is a lesson Rick knows, and Alexandria needs to learn.