To say that there’s a lot of blood on the hands of “The Walking Dead” showrunners this season is an understatement. Season 5 started with “No Sanctuary,” an episode that went south quickly and found Rick and the group trapped inside Terminus in a railroad car labeled “A.” Gareth, the man who appeared to be in charge of things at Terminus, and his group were a hive of cannibals that lured survivors in under the guise of sanctuary, only to rob them and eat them. Ultimately, Rick and the group survive their potential demise and Carol is actually the hero of the day when she sets an elaborate plan in motion to destroy Terminus.
Father Gabriel is introduced in the episode “Strangers,” and, although something is off about the character, no one is quite sure yet what to make of the priest. Time and time again, Gabriel has proved to be more trouble than he’s worth, and he’s often more of a hindrance than an asset to the group, and everyone knows it. While his church offers temporary sanctuary for everyone, and he does help the group find food, it’s at the cost of Bob, who is bitten during the food run. Meanwhile, Abraham asserts the need to go to Washington to deliver Eugene and his cure. Daryl and Carol take off to find Beth and that episode ends with Bob being captured by Gareth and his men, who amputate Bob’s leg and eat it in front of him.
In the next episode, “Four Walls And A Roof,” Bob tells Gareth and the others he was bitten and they’re eating tainted meat. They beat Bob senseless and take him back to the church. Sasha takes his death hard, and ultimately Tyreese is the one to give Bob mercy when he dies with a knife to the head before he turns into a walker. We learn Father Gabriel locked all of his congregation out of his church and kept all the food for himself.
The group is divided, something that’s never been much of an issue previously, and Abraham insists they leave immediately for Washington, but Rick wants to stay and take care of Gareth and the Hunters for good. Glenn barters an agreement for more time, and eventually Gareth and Martin and the Hunters come to the church where Rick and the others slaughter them. Abraham, Eugene, Tara, Rosita, Maggie and Glenn head off for Washington in the church bus.
The storyline shifts a bit in the next episode, “Slabtown,” and we finally see what happened to Beth, who is in the Grady Memorial Hospital downtown Atlanta. Dawn Lerner, a police officer, is under control of the hospital and runs things with a strong hand. We come to find out that her grip on things is mostly an illusion, and most everyone, including the doctor and other officers, don’t have much respect for her. We’re also introduced to Noah, a laundry worker with dreams of escaping the hospital to head back to his home in Virginia.
Beth kills a police officer, Gorman, who tries to sexually assault her, feeding him to a walker after she knocks him out. Beth and Noah attempt to escape, but only Noah makes it out. Dawn punishes Beth by hitting her, leaving a deep wound in her face. At the end of the episode, when Beth is about to kill the doctor, Edwards, Carol is wheeled in as the latest patient in the hospital.
We dive into the world of Abraham in the next episode, “Self Help.” We find out a bit about Abraham’s family who abandoned him only to be eaten by walkers. When he’s about to kill himself, Abraham is encountered by Eugene, who is helpless and being overrun by walkers. Abraham kills the walkers chasing Eugene and attempts to walk away, but Eugene tells him that he’s on an important mission and has the cure for the virus, but needs to get it to Washington and needs a ride and protection.
The episode flashes forward to Abraham and his group on the church bus to Washington as it crashes, sabotaged by Eugene who doesn’t feel he will ever be part of the group no matter what. The group finds sanctuary in a library and eventually locate a fire truck to continue their journey. Eugene confesses at the end of the episode that he’s a liar and has no cure for the virus and Abraham knocks him out cold, almost killing him.
In “Consumed” we follow the adventures of Carol and Daryl as they attempt to locate Beth in downtown Atlanta. When their car runs out of gas they spend the night in a women’s shelter that Carol is all too familiar with. Later in the episode they run into Noah, who steals their weapons and leaves them for dead. Carol and Daryl almost die at one point in the episode when the van they are in falls over the edge of a bridge, but they survive and eventually catch up with Noah again, who needs their help escaping from walkers. When it ends up that Noah has information about Beth, Daryl finds him useful enough to keep alive, but in a strange plot twist Carol is hit by a car and taken by police officers to Grady Memorial. Noah and Daryl begin to form a plan to rescue Beth and Carol and they both head back to the church to get help from Rick and the group.
In the next episode, “Crossed,” everyone helps reinforce the church where Michonne, Carl, Judith and Gabriel stay as everyone else goes to Atlanta to rescue Beth and Carol. There are disagreements between Rick and Tyreese as to the methods they should use, but they eventually decide to take some police officers hostage and then trade them for Beth and Carol. In the next episode, “Coda,” the plan unfolds almost perfectly until Beth decides to have some final words to Dawn and then stabs her in the shoulder with a pair of scissors. Dawn shoots Beth in the head and the blood splatters into Rick and those nearby. Daryl, without hesitation, shoots Dawn in the head and evens the score. Noah decides to leave with Rick and the group.
In “What’s Happened And What’s Going On,” we find the group dealing with the tremendous loss and desolation they have just experienced. It’s an episode that sets the pace for the second half of the season. The group takes Noah back to his hometown in Virginia and they find it’s been decimated by walkers. They attempt to gather up anything of value from the houses and push on further. When Tyreese and Noah enter his old house, Tyreese is bit by one of Noah’s brothers who is a walker. When Noah runs for help, Tyreese has intense visions and conversations with those who have died recently, including Martin, Bob, The Governor, Lizzie, Mika, and Beth. Tyreese dies and is buried with Gabriel handling the funeral.
The group is broken and desperate for water in the next episode, “Them,” and they search for hydration when their van breaks down. After a long walk, and dealing with a herd of walkers, they find temporary sanctuary in a barn. After they take shelter they find bottled water in the road and a note that it’s left by a “Friend.” They argue if they should drink it or not, and just then the rain begins to pour down upon them, and they try to capture as much of it as they can.
Later, Rick gives the group a speech inside the barn and declares that “We are the walking dead,” and Daryl is quick to say “We ain’t them.” Rick echoes Daryl’s statement, but Daryl gets up and is agitated by the conversation. A herd of walkers tries to break into the barn, but the massive storm slaughters them all, leaving the barn untouched. When Maggie and Sasha take a morning walk they are confronted with Aaron, the mysterious “Friend” who left them water, who asks to speak to Rick.
Aaron explains in “The Distance” that he’s a recruiter from the Alexandria Safe Zone, and he’s been tracking the group. Aaron wants Rick and the others to come back with him to Alexandria and help them rebuild civilization to what it once was. Aaron argued the reasons that Rick and the group should follow him back to Alexandria where his sanctuary awaited them. Subtle interactions within the group redefined relationships and group order and rank.
Michonne stepped up her role as a leader that week, and while not directly challenging Rick, she definitely asserted a new level of influence that was previously unseen. After much debate, the group drives through a hoard of zombies on the way to Alexandria, and upon arrival they are forced with an option to give up their weapons for sanctuary.
“Remember” picks up where last week left off, with Rick Grimes and the group at the gates of the Alexandria safe zone. There’s a quick and terse negotiation for the group to give up their weapons if they want to stay. The group agrees to talk to the leader Deanna, who is said to know everything about the safe zone. Everyone is interviewed on videotape. We’re also introduced to Jessie and it’s apparent immediately that Rick and her have a connection. Carl meets some new kids, including a girl named Enid, but he’s in a bit of shock to really absorb what’s going on.
Deanna’s son Aiden and Glenn don’t see eye to eye, and they’re set up for future conflict. Deanna tries to give everyone a job and appoints Rick and Michonne the new Constables of Alexandria. The last scene is Rick speaking on videotape as he walks down the stairs of his new home in a police uniform. On the porch he talks to Daryl and Carol and they discuss everyone sleeping in their own homes. Rick tells them, “We won’t get weak. That’s not in us anymore. We’ll make it work and if they can’t make it, We’ll just take this place.”
In the next episode, “Forget,” we begin to see Sasha melt down. She’s lost Bob and Tyreese and can’t seem to wrap her head around the situation. She’s focused on killing walkers and it’s consuming her. Rick, Carol and Daryl meet together in private and they discuss the need to get some of their weapons back just in case they need them. They kill a walker and on his forehead is carved the letter “W.” It’s most likely a piece of a larger puzzle that will reveal itself in time. Carol says that the best thing about Alexandria is that she gets to be invisible again. Later, at a party in Rick and the group’s honor, Rick meets with Deanna and her husband Reg, who seems impressed with Rick keeping as many members of his group alive that he has.
Rick talks to Jessie, who’s husband Pete seems to have some nervous tension regarding Rick. Jessie’s son Sam places a giant red “A” stamp on Rick’s hand, reminiscent of the “A” label on the train in Terminus. Jessie tells Rick, “You’re officially one of us,” and walks away while Rick is a bit dazed and confused as to what exactly just happened and deals with the flood of emotions rushing in.
Meanwhile, Aaron asks Daryl if he wants a job as a recruiter for Alexandria and tells Daryl that he picked him because he knows how to judge someone who is good from someone who is bad, a key skill in recruiting. Daryl accepts the job willingly, stating that he doesn’t have anything else going on. In the last scene of the episode, Rick hears a noise at the wall and runs over, placing his “A” stamped hand on the metal that divides the outside world and Alexandria.
In the next episode, “Spend,” we begin to see Gabriel melt down a bit. Gabriel notices a page in his Bible that has torn and slowly tears the page away, and then another. He ends up ripping half the book apart and slams it shut. On a table nearby is a welcome card and some strawberries, but his church is empty. Eugene, Noah, Tara, Glenn, Aiden and Nicholas head out for a supply run in a van, which is pumping techno music as they depart. In what ends up to be foreshadowing, the music blurts out, “Now you’re going to die.”
When everything seems under control, it all spins wildly out of control when during their departure from the warehouse Aiden shoots a walker that has on full riot gear, including some dangling grenades. The grenades explode and Aiden is impaled on a metal post. Tara is also hurt with a massive head wound. Things are momentarily a complete disaster on an epic scale. The previously fenced in and contained walkers in the warehouse are now stumbling around and hungry.
Eugene meanwhile grabs Tara and runs with her to the van, setting in motion a plan to get out of the warehouse alive. When Nicholas and Aiden have some last words together, it comes out that they were responsible for the last supply run gone bad. Nicholas, Noah and Glenn leave Aiden behind and he’s devoured by the walkers in one of the bloodiest scenes of the season so far. back at Alexandria, Pete comes to visit Rick and offers him a beer. It’s an uncomfortable and tense scene, made more uncomfortable when Pete brings up Rick losing Lori. Pete claims that his group has lost things in Alexandria and they’re fighting to hold onto what they have. Pete and Rick are set up for a showdown. Rick, in many ways, begins to mimic Shane.
Nicholas, Noah and Glenn get trapped in a revolving door between two hoards of walkers, both outside and inside, on their way out of the warehouse. Eugene drives by with loud music blasting and the walkers outside the door head towards the van. When Nicholas, in one door compartment by himself, sees a moment that he can push the door open and run outside to freedom, he takes the opportunity, but it’s at the expense of Noah and Glenn in the other compartment. Noah is exposed to a hoard of walkers, who drag him back inside the building and rip him to pieces. Glenn looks on with shock and horror as a thin piece of glass separates the two from life and death.
Gabriel visits Deanna and tells her that Rick and the others are not what they appear to be and starts quoting the bible. Gabriel explains that Satan disguises himself as a false light, and that Rick and his group are dangerous. Deanna thanks Gabriel for his confession and tells him that she has a lot to think about. Maggie hears the entire conversation from the stairwell, unknown to Deanna or Gabriel. In the last scene of the episode Carol tells Rick that Pete has been hitting Jessie and Sam and she says, “You’re gonna have to kill him.” Rick stares back at Carol with a determined look on his face and the episode comes to close.
Finally, in last week’s episode, “Try,” everything seems to be falling apart for everyone. The opening sequence might be the most visually dystopic montage that we’ve seen yet this season, and it’s quickly evident that life within the walls of Alexandria has begun to mimic life outside the walls of Alexandria. It’s bleak and dark times for everyone. Michonne seems conflicted with her job and uniform, but ultimately she turns out to be one of the best voices of reason within the group right now. It’s not convincing that Michonne will keep her sword hung up for long.
Rick and Glenn have a heart to heart and Rick expresses his disappointment that no one inside Alexandria knows what they’re doing. Glenn, a voice of reason, argues that they’ll learn in time. Rick really considers shooting Pete when the two come face to face at the water where a red helium balloon is inexplicably present. The red balloon actually appears throughout the episode, and it’s a symbol perhaps of Rick’s sanity. When the balloon flies away during Rick and Pete’s knock down drag out fight, it’s a reminder that Rick is now officially out of his mind and floating further away from the group.
Carol and Rick also have a few moments together to discuss the Jessie and Pete situation. Rick goes to Deanna and suggests Pete be executed for physically abusing Jessie. Deanna scoffs at Rick, her new lawman, and tells him that exile is the most logical way to deal with Pete, but Rick knows that would make Pete a bigger threat than he is right now. Rick is certain that Pete must die and so is Carol, for that matter.
Michonne is ultimately the keeper of the peace in this episode when she slams Rick in the back of the head with a rock, knocking him out and off Pete, who he was choking to death just moments before. It seems like everyone in town comes to watch Pete and Rick bloody each other up. The situation was definitely escalated by Jessie’s acceptance of protection from Rick. The bright light of hope in the episode is that Carl may be finding out what young love in the apocalypse might be all about as his relationship with Enid seems to be blossoming into something for the pair. The dark light in the episode is that Rick Grimes is becoming more like Shane all the time.
“Conquer,” the Season 5 finale of “The Walking Dead,” will be 90 minutes long and, “There will be blood. It won’t all be walker blood,” according to Gale Anne Hurd on last week’s “Talking Dead.” Be prepared for more bloodshed in the zombie apocalypse and be prepared to say goodbye to one or more cast members. The preview for the episode showed Carol barging into Pete and Jessie’s house and pulling a knife on Pete, telling him to go take care of Tara and then threatening to kill him. Pete looks genuinely scared and Carol takes another step towards the dark side.