[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's Season 5 finale of The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]
The Ricktatorship is in full effect on The Walking Dead.
After Rick (Andrew Lincoln) turned lots of heads in Alexandria with his brawl with Pete (Corey Brill) and bloody-faced condemnation of Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) and her leadership methods in the penultimate episode, the finale's centerpiece involved a town meeting in which the residents of Alexandria decided Rick's fate in the community. Although Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Carol (Melissa McBride), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) all speak up in Rick's defense, Deanna still seems intent on exiling him. Fortunately for Rick, (deadly) unforeseen circumstances actually worked in Rick's favor. But we'll get to all of that in a minute...
First, let's celebrate the long-awaited return of Morgan (Lennie James), who spent most of this season relegated to post-credit teaser sequences. The finale began with Morgan facing off against two humans, who like so many walkers we've seen this season, had large Ws on their foreheads. "The native tribes believed wolves transformed into men," one of the thugs said, explaining his group's name — The Wolves — before attacking Morgan, who deftly (and surprisingly) handled his opposition with some skillful use of his walking stick.
That same walking stick would later come in handy when Morgan rescued Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Aaron (Ross Marquand), who had fallen into a trap set by the Wolves at a cannery. When Daryl and Aaron went to open what they assumed would be huge truck full of canned goods, instead they unleashed hundreds of walkers. Daryl and Aaron eventually found safety inside a car, but just before they decided to make a (suicidal) break for the fence, Morgan showed up and saved the day, busting enough heads for Aaron and Daryl to escape safely. Aaron immediately suggests Morgan come back to Alexandria, but Morgan refuses, claiming he is headed somewhere else but has gotten lost. However, when Morgan hands Daryl his map — the one Morgan found with Rick's name on it --Daryl puts the pieces together.
Elsewhere in the episode, Alexandrian Nicholas (Michael Traynor) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) remained the two worst people ever. Both snuck outside the walls for nefarious reasons. Father Gabriel went outside completely unarmed with a death wish. But when he encountered a walker he might have wished would kill him, he actually stepped up and did some killing of his own. When he returned to Alexandria, his rattled mental state led Gabriel to leave the gate unlocked.
As for Nicholas, who was still upset about being threatened by Glenn (Steven Yeun), he snuck outside to get the gun he'd hidden. But when Glenn followed him, Nicholas shot him. The two later engaged in a fistfight that ended when Glenn was trapped by a group of walkers. Somehow (which we didn't see), Glenn managed to survive and once again caught up to Nicholas, but Glenn just couldn't bring himself to kill him in revenge.
Also unable to pull the trigger was Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), who was waiting for Gabriel when he returned. She wanted words of comfort from the priest, but Gabriel, perhaps still hoping to die, baited Sasha by blaming her for both Bob and Tyreese's deaths. Although Gabriel successfully goaded Sasha into holding him at gunpoint, she was ultimately unable to kill him as she had so many walkers in the past. So the idiot lives to ruin another day.
Gabriel's recklessness at the gate actually worked in Rick's favor though. Just as the sun is going down and the townspeople are gathering for their public forum, Rick notices that the gate is open. He tracks down the walker that managed to get inside and brutally blows its brains out. Rick then takes the corpse to the town meeting and throws it at Deanna's feet, basically resting his case about how unprepared and ill-equipped the people of Alexandria are to survive in this world.
"The dead and the living will get in, because we're in here," Rick says. "They'll hunt us; they'll find us. They'll try to use us; they'll try to kill us. But we'll kill them. We'll survive. I'll show you how. I was thinking, 'How many of you do I have to kill to save your lives? But I'm not going to do that. ... I'm not sorry for what I said last night. I'm sorry for not saying it sooner. You're not ready, but you have to be. Luck runs out."
Even though Rick's speech echoed his group members' previous sentiments — "People like us need people like him," Carol said, to which Michonne added, "Who he is who you're gonna be... if you're lucky" — Deanna was still unswayed until Pete showed up screaming about Rick not being "one of us." When Pete tried to go after with Rick with Michonne's katana, however, he actually sliced Deanna's husband's throat. In her anger and sadness, she perhaps finally saw the value in Rick's worldview. "Rick, do it," Deanna says, giving Rick permission to shoot and kill Pete right on the spot.
But just after Rick's perceived moment of triumph, he looks up to see Morgan, who has just arrived with Daryl and Aaron. The last time these two men met, Morgan was a crazy mess of a man, but now the roles have been reversed. Now, it's Rick who has been out in this world too long and who is willing to kill at the drop of a hat. "All life is precious now," Morgan told Daryl earlier in the episode. So how does he feel about watching his old friend brutally taking another human's life in front of him?
That question will have to be answered next season, in which, as the post-credits sequence suggested, the Wolves will be Alexandria's major threat. But with Rick now seemingly in charge — and Michonne refusing to put her sword back on the wall — Alexandria seems better equipped to head into that fight.
What did you think of the finale?