Jun 2, 2020
The Walking Dead: Civilization Means Talking People to Death
In the season finale of The Walking Dead, Rick faces the most harrowing challenge yet: a committee meeting. Plus, Morgan is a ninja now, Daryl finds himself caught in an elaborate booby trap, and absolutely do not eff with Carol, ever.
There’s a dude in an abandoned car, asleep. Hey, it’s our old buddy Morgan, who was last seen sniffing Rick’s trail like a bloodhound earlier this season. When he wakes up, he starts a campfire to eat some oatmeal, breakfast being the most important meal of the day, or at least in the top three. A prime opportunity for product placement is lost here. Quaker Oats should have jumped on that: “If our oatmeal gives Morgan the strength to face another day in the zombie post-apocalypse, it’s definitely good enough to get you through whatever meaningless crap you’re pretending is important today.”
All is quiet until another dude walks up with a gun. The new guy is pretty calm and civil, and his first words are “Looks good,” referring to the oatmeal, so the Quaker Oats people really missed the boat here. “I don’t get to meet new people very often. Once every two weeks,” says the new guy.
Morgan thinks that’s quite often given the circumstances. New guy shrugs and waxes nostalgic about going to the movies. Morgan asks why the new guy has a “W” on his forehead, and rather than the obvious answer (“9/11,” duh), he starts talking about Native American legends about wolves. So I’m guessing he’s Team Jacob.
It’s a strange but pleasant conversation until Morgan tries to take a sip of his water. “Put that down,” barks the new guy. He’s stealing everything Morgan’s got, including every last sip of water… and also including Morgan’s dead body. Well, that does put a damper on their relationship.
Yet another dude with a “W” comes flying out of the forest, directly behind Morgan, trying to stab him. Morgan pulls some Ninja Turtle shit, beating both the W boys into unconsciousness with Donatello’s staff. The ruckus attracts a zombie, and Morgan tries to destroy it with the first W dude’s gun. No bullets. So Morgan dispatches it with his staff.
Rather than killing his attackers, Morgan loads them into the car where he slept and leaves them to their fate. Rick would not approve. You take care of problems when they’re in front of you. But Morgan is still on the road to redemption, and killing living people isn’t his way.
Speaking of Rick, he’s in an empty room being… guarded? kept company?… by Michonne. She knows Rick hasn’t been keeping her in the loop, but she doesn’t know exactly what she’s been left out of. Rick doesn’t apologize, only explains. “You wanted this place,” he says.
Before she can confirm or deny that she’s gone native, in walk Glenn, Carol, and Abraham. Carol puts on a motherly face and tells Rick she’s not angry just disappointed in him for stealing a gun. Rick takes the hint and keeps quiet about their little conspiracy to conquer Alexandria for themselves.
There’s going to be a town meeting tonight where everyone gets to say what they think about Rick before the final decision is made whether or not to banish him. Carol advises Rick to tell them whatever they want to hear. “These people are children, and children like stories,” she says.
Rick doesn’t think talking is the answer. He orders his team to take Deanna and two others hostage at knifepoint if he gives the secret signal—a whistle—at the meeting. But at least he admits “I screwed up” by going apeshit in front of the locals.
Meanwhile, Maggie is cautioning Deanna not to leave Rick’s fate in the hands of the townspeople, who are all a bunch of whiny sissies who will exile Rick if he weighs the same as a duck. The fact that Rick makes them all wet their undies is exactly why they need someone like Rick around, she says. Deanne assures Maggie that, while everyone gets to talk tonight, Deanna alone will make the decision. But that’s small comfort because Deanna also makes it clear that she thinks Rick is a psychopath.
Speaking of psychopaths, Sasha is dragging away the remains of the zombies she’s been picking off with her sniper’s rifle so she can bury them in a mass grave. Then she gets in the mass grave and lays down among them. Maybe Daryl and Aaron should keep an eye out for some olanzapine while they’re out on another recruiting trip.
Speaking of, Daryl is tracking someone out in the wilderness. Aaron tells Daryl that, should they catch up with whoever it is, standard operating procedure is watch them a few days to see if they’re worth inviting back home to meet the parents. Apropos of nothing, Daryl asks about the three people banished from Alexandria a while back. Aaron doesn’t say much—only that he recruited them, they didn’t work out, and he escorted them back to the wilderness with one day of food and no weapons. No details are given, other than that there were two men and one woman. Are these the mysterious “wolves” making all the W zombies? Presumably, or else there’s no point to this conversation whatsoever.
Don’t leave anyone alive is the moral of our story tonight, boys and girls.
Carol visits Rick and tries to look on the bright side. The townspeople have been waiting for the other shoe to drop since they got here, and now they think it has. The townspeople think Rick is exposed and disarmed. They don’t realize he’s every bit as dangerous as before. She slips him another gun—the one Daryl refused.
Carol wonders aloud if they can trust Michonne, and Rick defends her. “I deserved it,” he says re: getting punched in the face. He’s tired of plotting behind his own people’s backs and lying to them.
“You said you wanted to take this place,” says Carol. “And you don’t want to lie? Oh, sunshine, you don’t get both.” Carol is one stone cold BAMF, and it’s awesome.
Daryl and Aaron finally catch sight of the person they’ve been tracking: some dude in a red poncho we’ve never seen before. They begin the surveillance phase of their operation.
Glenn and Maggie share their angst about the meeting tonight. It’s filler. Not sure why this scene’s not on the editing room floor. I guess they had an extra 90 seconds to pad out.
Once Maggie leaves, Glenn sees someone sneak out over the walls. Enid? No, it’s Nicolas. What an asshole.
Nicolas isn’t the only one out for a stroll. Father Gabriel heads out the front gate, refusing a firearm. “The word of God is the only protection I need,” he says.
Rick heads home to prepare for the big meeting. Carl is inside the house for once. He doesn’t want to leave town, but he’s nothing thinking of himself. “They need us. They’ll die without us,” he says.
Rick agrees. “I might have to threaten one of them. I might have to kill one of them,” he warns.
Carl says no. Talking is the answer, he insists. This is Rick’s second warning, and it’s becoming pretty clear that this is the big conflict we’re heading towards: not Rick’s people vs. the locals, but Rick vs. himself. This is civilization, and Rick’ll have to conquer them with words, not weapons. But will he realize it in time?
Back in the wilderness, Daryl and Aaron have lost track of poncho guy, but that’s okay—something better has come along. Here’s a giant warehouse of canned food, apparently untouched, other than all the zombies wandering around inside the chain link fence. Daryl would rather keep pursuing poncho dude, but Aaron can’t resist the Sirens’ call of green beans and creamed corn. Fine, says Daryl, and he rattles the gate. The zombies obediently shamble toward the noise and are easily dispatched with a single bullet each.
Daryl and Aaron head inside to the loading dock, where four entire trailers are unopened. Heavenly light beams down on them as an angelic choir sings. But good things don’t happen on this show, and Daryl at least should know that by now. Aaron opens one of the trailers, which sets off a wire that opens all of the other trailers at the same time. ALL OF THE ZOMBIES pour out.
And all of them are carved with a “W.”
Daryl and Aaron fight their way through to an abandoned car and shut themselves inside. An entire mountain of zombies swarms over the car.
Inside the car, it’s like the calm in the eye of a zombie hurricane. Daryl and Aaron calmly plot their next move. Eventually, night will fall. In the complete darkness, the zombies won’t be able to see them in the car, and they’ll lose interest and wander away. Once the swarm disperses, they should be able to fight their way to the gate without much problem.
Yeah, that might work, except there’s a handwritten note in the car. “Bad people coming. Don’t stay,” it says. Well, of course. You didn’t think the zombies set up in the rigged trailers themselves, do you?
In town, Carol makes a friendly visit to Pete’s place. Yes, that Pete. And yes, friendly. In fact, she’s brought a casserole to make nice, and she asks him if he wouldn’t mind checking on Tara since he’s a doctor and all? He’s understandably befuddled, which makes him belligerent, which is exactly what Carol’s going for. In a split second, she’s holding a large knife at his throat. But her voice remains calm and cloying. Does he realize how easy it would be to kill him? Would anyone doubt her if she said he got violent and she acted in self-defense? She lets that sink in for a second, then lowers the knife. “Come at me,” she taunts. He doesn’t dare.
“You’re small. Weak. Nothing,” she informs him. Then she hands him the casserole. “I want my dish back, clean,when you’re done.”
When Carol leaves, Pete freaks the fuck out. As you would expect. As Carol wanted, no doubt. At first, it seemed Carol might be doing this for herself—to prove to herself she’s beyond the reach of men like him now. But no, that’s not it; there is nothing but calm confidence in her face. She’s not proving anything to anyone. She’s pulling the pin on a grenade.
Outside the walls, Glenn has lost sight of Nicolas. But not vice versa. A gunshot rings out, and Glenn falls.
Inside the walls, Rick checks on Jessie. “I’m not sorry I did it,” he says. Neither is she.
Back in the car, Daryl is laughing. “Even now, this still feels more like me than back in them houses,” he says. He lights a cigarette. When he’s done with his smoke, he’s going to open the door and charge through the zombies. He’ll make it just far enough for Aaron to be able to escape. And he’s not going to tolerate any argument.
Aaron has an equally suicidal counter proposal: “We fight. We make for the fence. We do it together.”
“All right,” says Daryl.
They count to three. But before they open the door, zombie heads start exploding. It’s Morgan. He’s whipping his staff around like Gandalf at Helm’s Deep. Hey, remember how your head was about to explode with all the AWWWWW, HELL YEAH, AWESOME after seeing the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers? Yeah, Aaron totally feels like that right now. He’s like Rich Lowry staring at Sarah Palin’s vagina. He can barely get the words out of his mouth to invite Morgan to live with them forever and ever in Alexandria and they can be best friends and build a tree fort together and laugh and play all day long, please, pretty please?
Morgan politely declines. He’s already on his way somewhere, but he’s a bit lost. Would Daryl mind looking at this map and pointing him in the right direction? It’s the same map Abraham wrote a note to Rick on, last seen in Father Gabriel’s old church. Looks like Alexandria is exactly where Morgan wants to be after all.
Did you forget about Father Gabriel out in the wilderness with no guns and nothing but honey-covered locusts for brains? Well, he’s found a zombie munching on a random person, although how a lone person survived this long only to be overcome by a lone zombie on an empty road is hard to explain so the screenwriter doesn’t try. “I’m ready. I’m ready,” he mutters, then whistles for the zombie’s attention.
The reverend holds still as long as he can take it, but when the zombie is inches away, he freaks. Immediately, he’s got a noose around the thing’s neck, and he pulls until the head pops off. Where did he get a freakin’ noose? Best guess, and it’s only a guess: he was planning to hang himself, then saw the opportunity to die by zombie, then didn’t have the guts to go through with either. He picks up a rock and smashes the head of the zombie victim in the road so it won’t rise. Then he breaks down and cries in the middle of the road.
Meanwhile, among characters we give a damn about, Abraham shows up to visit Tara, who’s still unconscious from her head wound. When he sees Eugene there, he tries to slip out again, but Rosita stops him. Eugene’s asleep, she says, so don’t mind him. But as soon as Abraham is standing next to Tara, Rosita not-so-accidently knocks over a pan and wakes Eugene up.
Eugene’s got something to say to Abraham. “You got us here,” he admits. “I thank you.” Then he apologizes for all his lies about a zombie cure. Abraham tries to apologize, too, but Eugene tells him that’s “completely unnecessary.”
“I almost killed you,” says Abraham.
“Yes, there’s that,” admits Eugene, but it’s clear he holds no grudges. And that’s all the happy nice time you’re gonna get.
Next, Father Gabriel is returning to town. A local man who’s guarding the gate wants to chat with him sometime about some of the troubles in his life. Gabriel agrees, but he’s not really listening; he’s in a stupor. The local’s heart is lighter already, and he heads off to get ready for tonight’s big meeting. He calls out to Gabriel over his shoulder to remind him to shut the gate. Gabriel halfheartedly slides the gate shut, and it bounces back open a bit. He doesn’t notice.
Outside the walls, Nicolas is headed home, mission accomplished, which a lone zombie comes shambling in his direction. He pulls his gun, then hesitates. Glenn and company wouldn’t be scared of a solidary zombie, and they wouldn’t waste bullets, either—so Nicolas holsters his gun in favor of a knife. The zombie is nearly in stabbing distance when Nicolas’s nerves overtake him. He pulls his gun again and shoots it in the head.
That’s when Glenn attacks!!! He’s not quite dead yet, and he’s beating the shit out of Nicolas. But Glenn is low on blood, and Nicolas is smart enough to jab Glenn in the bullet wound in his shoulder. Three more zombies are approaching, and Nicolas holds Glenn down until the zombies can grab him—then runs like the coward he is.
Back in town, Michonne comes to get Rick for the meeting. He decides to let her into the loop. Carol gave him another gun, he says. They’ve been plotting to take over the town since the beginning. Why didn’t he mention this before? “You did hit me over the head,” he reminds her.
“That was for you, not them,” she says. Then it’s warning number three that violence is not the answer tonight. “I think you can find a way. We can find a way. And if we don’t, I’m still with you.”
She leaves him alone again, so I’m not sure why she came in the first place. Rick remembers a conversation he had with Bob: “You’re going to find yourself back in the real world,” Bob warned him. “This is a nightmare, and nightmares end.”
Okay, so finally Rick heads out to the big meeting. But he happens to walk by the front gate first and sees that it’s open. There’s some zombie ooze on the ground, creating a trail like slug slime. Rick follows it, not bothering to alert anyone.
Over in the church, Father Gabriel is sitting alone and sulking. Aw, did somebody not have the courage to kill themselves? Poor widdle guy!
In comes Sasha, looking for guidance. “I came here because I don’t know what to do with what’s in my head,” she says. Ironically, that’s the only question zombies would be able to answer for her, although she might not like their recommendation. “Can you help me?” she asks.
“No,” says Father Gabriel coldly.
Suddenly it’s dark outside, and everyone is gathered for the big meeting. Well, not everyone. Rick’s not there, nor Nicolas, nor Father Gabriel… all of which is a disappointment to Deanna. But she’s sick of waiting, so she calls the meeting to order. Yay, finally the excitement of a committee meeting after all of this boring life-or-death violence.
Back in the church, Sasha tells the good reverend father, “I think I want to die.” He is entirely cool with that. Encouraging, even.
“You’re brother deserved to be here. You don’t,” he says.
Meanwhile, Rick is stabbing zombies.
Also, for the second time in five minutes, a not-quite-dead-yet Glenn ambushes and beats the shit out of Nicolas. Seriously, he’s like Kathy Bates in Misery all of a sudden. Glenn’s awesome and I don’t want him dead, but come on.
In between shots of Glenn and Rick kicking ass, we see Rick’s people give their testimony at the meeting. Michonne tells the townspeople that Rick is who they’re all going to become someday, which may be true, but I’m not sure is the best way to win friends and influence people. Carol is much more sly and manipulative, doing her best Stepford Wives impression and warning everyone that “people like us need people like him.” Abraham simply tells the townspeople they don’t know shit about shit.
Then we break away from all the various scenes we’ve got overlapping right now to see the two W guys outside the canned goods warehouse. They’ve captured red poncho dude, and they tell him, “Welcome home.” Then they slit his throat and start resetting the trap at the loading dock.
Back at the meeting, Maggie is pouring her heart out. “Rick is a father to me,” she says. She assures the townspeople that Rick isn’t heartless or coldblooded, and she tells them they want to be part of Rick’s family.
Deanna doesn’t like how convincing Maggie is, so she decides it’s time to step in. Since Father Gabriel isn’t here, she says, she feels it’s important to pass along the warning he gave her. Gabe told her that Rick’s people don’t belong here and can’t be trusted.
Meanwhile, Rick’s pinned under a zombie, but he’s got both hands around its throat.
Meanwhile, Glenn has taken Nicolas’s gun and is pointing it at Nicolas’s head.
Meanwhile, Sasha is pointing her sniper’s rifle at Father Gabriel.
POP! Rick squeezes the zombie’s head of with his bare hands. Then he hauls the zombie’s headless body over to the meeting and drops it on the ground. The gate was open, he explains. Dude who was guarding the gate says he asked Father Gabriel to shut it behind him. Various people run off in various directions, looking for Gabe.
Outside the walls, Glenn is sobbing: “I was scared! I don’t belong out here!” Glenn shakes his head. He puts the gun away.
In the church, Father Gabriel is almost begging: “Do it.” But that’s when Maggie comes in. Sasha lowers the rifle. “You should let her,” says Gabe. “They all died because of me.” But the moment has passed. There will be no violence in the church tonight.
At the meeting, Rick is monologueing. “It go inside on its own. And they always will. The dead and the living. Because we’re in here. They’ll trying to kill us, but we’ll kill them. I’ll show you how,” he says. “We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You want me on that wall! You need me on that wall! You’re damn right I ordered the Code Red!!!”
Are the townspeople getting it? Is Deanna?
Doesn’t matter, because the grenade Carol pulled the pin on is about to explode. “YOU’RE NOT ONE OF US!” bellows Pete.
He’s just arrived, drunk, and carrying Michonne’s sword. Mr. Deanna steps in to calm Pete down. He’s such a nice, friendly, sincere, caring guy. So, this being The Walking Dead, you know what happens next. Pete drunkenly bats him away with the sword, but swords are sharp. The blade catches Mr. Deanna in the throat.
Someone tackles Pete, and for a few moments, Deanna holds her husband in silence while he dies. Then she looks up at Rick. “Do it,” she says.
Rick calmly raises his gun and shoots Pete in the head.
This is the moment Daryl and Aaron arrive, leading Morgan into town. It’s the first thing Morgan sees. It’s amazing how much heartbreak he can put into one word: “Rick?”
Michonne is cleaning the blood off her blade. She considers putting it back on the mantle, but instead dons the scabbard. It’s part of her police uniform now. Just in case you were unclear that Rick and gang are staying put.
At the canned food warehouse, red poncho zombie walks alone behind the chain link fence. The other zombies are all in place in the trailers. On the side of the car where Daryl and Aaron hid, someone has painted “WOLVES NOT FAR.”
Wait, was that there the whole time, or did Morgan paint the warning after the rescue? If so, will anyone know what it means? It’s a pretty crappy note.
Also, two dudes with an unloaded gun and an elaborate 1960s Batman villain trap that our heroes are already aware of and have escaped from isn’t much of cliffhanger for next season. Even Carl could drop these two losers in a heartbeat, and then spend the next 41 minutes of the episode working up the courage to make out with Enid. That’s the real cliffhanger: will Carl ever get to first base?