‘The Walking Dead’ 5.16 Recap: “Everything Gets a Return”

After a season’s worth of ups and downs, good episodes and bad, ‘The Walking Dead’ wraps up its fifth season with a killer finale that this viewer thought was one of the series’ finest entries to date.

The 90-minute finale gets underway with the return of Morgan (Lennie James), who wakes up in a car after spending the night inside. He looks up and notices a rabbit’s foot hanging from the rear view mirror. He then heads outside and makes himself a cup of what looks to be hot chocolate (something powdered from a pack he adds boiling water to) for breakfast. The next thing he knows, a young man steps out of the woods pointing a gun at him. He has a “W” carved into his forehead. While keeping his firearm aimed at Morgan, the young man starts talking about how he and his group run into new people every couple of weeks, makes a few analogies to the history of wolf hunting (that’s a not-so-subtle hint for those watching at home), then implies that Morgan is not getting out alive. Another man attacks Morgan from behind, but Morgan takes action with a long pole or walking stick and knocks the two guys unconscious. He drags their bodies to the car he was sleeping in and shuts them inside. Before he leaves, he grabs the rabbit’s foot off the rear view mirror. This is just the opening scene, folks. The episode gets even better.

Rick wakes up in the room he’s been moved to after fighting with Pete (and threating people with his gun). Michonne is watching over him. Not long afterward, Carol, Glenn and Abe come to visit. They tell him that Deanna is going to hold a meeting with the community to determine Rick’s fate. Carol suggests that Rick should just tell them what they want to hear. He doesn’t seem interested in that.

Meanwhile, Maggie talks to Deanna and her husband Reg about how they shouldn’t send Rick away and how he’s good to have around for the safety of the community. Deanna appears doubtful. Back in Rick’s room, Carol gets a minute alone with him and hands him one of the remaining stolen guns.

Daryl and Aaron comb the countryside and follow a potential new recruit, a young guy walking around in a red poncho. They lose his trail, but come across a fenced-in food distribution warehouse with several tractor trailer trucks parked at the loading dock. They kill some roaming Walkers through the fence and go inside to grab what food they can. However, when they open the back of one of the trucks, they discover that it’s been booby-trapped. All of the trucks open at once and release dozens upon dozens of Walkers (all with “W”s carved in their heads). Daryl and Aaron are able to fight their way inside a parked car, but get trapped there with no obvious method of escape.

After telling Maggie that he loves her (always an ominous sign on this series), Glenn sees Nicholas climb over the community’s wall and follows him. After losing sight of him in the nearby woods, Nicholas appears out of nowhere and shoots Glenn in the shoulder. Not long afterward, Glenn gets the jump on Nicholas and seems to have the advantage for a second, but then a few Walkers show up and go after Glenn. Nicholas runs away, leaving Glenn to fight for his life.

Back at the food warehouse, Daryl decides that he’s going to exit the vehicle and provide a distraction for Aaron to get away. Aaron refuses and tells Daryl that if they’re going to go out, they’re going to fight together. Just as they’re ready to exit the car, Morgan shows up and starts taking out some of the Walkers. After the three men dispose of enough to get safely to the other side of the fence, Aaron offers Morgan a chance to join their community. Morgan declines, saying that he has somewhere else to go. He then shows them the map he’s been carrying, and Daryl sees Rick’s name written on it.

There are few characters in Rick’s group that I want to see get eaten by a Walker, but Father Gabriel has certainly put himself at the top of the list. Still feeling sorry for himself, the preacher heads outside the community walls unarmed and approaches a Walker while it’s dining on a dead body in the road. Apparently suicidal, Gabriel lets the Walker get close to him and offers himself up to it. However, he changes his mind at the last second. The Walker has a noose dangling from its neck. Gabriel pulls it until the Walker’s head comes off. He stabs the decapitated head and then kills what’s left of the victim in the road as well. When he returns to Alexandria, the guy guarding the door is stupid enough to leave the gate open and asks Gabriel to shut it for him. Naturally, Gabriel is so out of it that he leaves the gate partially open. Have I mentioned how much I hate this guy?

The others all gather outside at night (who thought this was a good idea?) for Deanna’s meeting. Rick is on his way there when he notices that the gate has been left open. He closes it, but sees a bloody piece of a Walker stuck in part of the metal, indicating that at least one has gotten inside. Well, it turns out to be more than one. Rick has to fight for his life against several Walkers, all while the people at the meeting discuss whether he should stay or go.

While this is happening, Glenn is still outside the walls. He somehow managed to take care of the Walkers that attacked him and has once again tracked Nicholas down. Glenn jumps him, forces him to the ground, and presses a gun to his head. Glenn can’t go through with it, though.

Meanwhile, Father Gabriel returns to his makeshift church to find Sasha there waiting for him. She’s come for help, but Gabriel verbally attacks her and blames her for Bob’s death. Sasha pulls her rifle on Gabriel, but Maggie arrives and takes the gun away from her.

Rick finally arrives at Deanna’s meeting with one of the dead Walkers slumped over his shoulder. He tosses it on the ground, telling the others that the gate was left open. He then gives everyone a speech about how those outside – both Walker and human alike – will always try to get inside the community walls. He can show the Alexandrians how to survive, but they need change, and do it immediately.

At this point, Pete shows up with Michonne’s sword and goes after Rick in a fit of rage. Reg tries to stop him and gets his throat slashed by Pete. Rick restrains Pete and Deanna holds her dying husband in her arms. Sobbing, she tells Rick to “Do it!” Rick fires a bullet into Pete’s head. At this point, our former sheriff looks up to see that Daryl and Aaron have returned, and they’ve brought Morgan with them.

The episode wraps up with a short coda that finds Michonne going to put her katana back up on the wall, but changing her mind and strapping it onto her back instead. There’s then a brief moment back at the food warehouse where the guy in the red poncho (who’s been killed by the two men Morgan shut up in the car and has turned into a Walker) roams around the warehouse grounds. He passes the car Daryl and Aaron were trapped in. The vehicle now has “WOLVES NOT FAR” spray-painted on its side.

I loved, loved, loved this episode, Even at 90 minutes, it doesn’t seem padded and feels very cinematic in tone. It seems like almost every season of ‘The Walking Dead’ ends with Rick giving some sort of big speech, and the one here is really great for his character. I like the fact that he’s decided to make the others in the community like his group rather that wondering how many of them he might have to kill or exile for the protection of everybody else. It’s a real noble step for his character, and those who thought (like myself) that this season would end with Rick becoming a bad guy or doing something that destroyed the happy life at the community were wrong. Rick has now become Alexandria’s leader and protector, and it’s going to be fun to see where that leads in Season 6, when – no doubt – the wolves will be at the door.


  1. I thought this was a very good finale overall. However, the part where the idiot guard leaves the gate open and asks Gabriel to close it behind him was a ridiculously contrived excuse to let Walkers get into Alexandria. I don’t care how naive these people are, nobody living in the apocalypse could possibly be that stupid and lazy. That was just bad writing.

    The “Red Riding Hood gets eaten by the Big Bad Wolves” symbolism was a little heavy-handed as well.

    On the other hand, I really like the set-up for the upcoming conflict between Morgan, who now believes that all life is sacred and deserves to be saved, and Rick, who very much doesn’t. The fact that Morgan let those two Wolf guys live is obviously going to bite the whole group in the ass.

  2. Aside from the two mid-season come back episodes, I thought this season was pretty awesome. Can’t wait to see what will become of Alexandria and the Wolves. I’d like to see what kind of epiphany Morgan had that has given him this new found respect for life. Lennie James hinted that we might get to see that on The Talking Dead and I hope they follow through. What the hell is up with father Gabriel? Is he just not meant to function in this world? I know people hate him, but I’m inclined to feel sorry for him, he such a sad sac. If there’s one guy I’d like to see get it more than anyone, it would have to be that slippery little weasel Nicholas. I hope they eat him feet first! We’re only seven months away from season six and the L.A. spin off show to hold us over even sooner than that. I’m cautiously excited to see what a change of scenery will do for the zombie apocalypse.

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