UK VOD TV review: The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 16 (Conquer)
Neil Brazier | On 31, Mar 2015
At the end of The Walking Dead’s fifth season, the series shows no signs of fatigue having signed off with another excellent final episode. Repeatedly breaking viewership records, the world continues to want to feast on the show as much as walkers do brains. Admittedly, Season 5 has seen some of the show’s weaker episodes, but Conquer brings back the intensity of those opening instalments and leaves us with just enough fear to see out the summer.
The final episode focuses on four of the more prolific survivors coming to terms with Alexandria, all the while teasing their potential death. The demise of some of the series’ bigger names is something we have come to expect from a season finale and none come bigger than Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus). This alone is enough to instil a nervous excitement that only builds, as each character is put into unthinkable situations where certain death seems the only escape.
Conquer allows few moments in which to breathe, each survivor’s story layered on top of the other, finding tension even in a casserole dish. Some may find the resolutions of said stories a little disappointing – last episode’s expectations may have set the bar too high – with fortuitous circumstances presenting themselves at perfect timings, and the aftermath of some incidents left to our imagination, but each is satisfying in its own way.
Every episode is going to contain moments that pull you out of the zone and question what just happened. The real trick is putting you back there and Conquer does that splendidly. Blending brilliant writing with excellent visuals, when each character speaks, it means something: Carol’s words are as dangerous as the knife she holds at Pete’s throat; Daryl’s confession combines tugging at your heartstrings with wanting to slap him for being so damn stubborn; and for the second episode running, Rick gives us a trademark rally while drenched in blood. Character development has often been the demise of episodes past, throwing off the pacing and calming the anxiety; here, it binds the episode together, pulling you closer and closer to the edge of your seat – the opening exchange with Morgan (Lennie James) setting the precedent.
The effects remain strong, with a lot of walkers in the episode getting the close-up treatment thanks to Daryl springing an elaborate trap in one of the episode’s greatest scenes. The make-up team need to be given credit for bringing to life the undead; although their screen time is short-lived, their fearsome appearance is what adds to the immersive nature of the programme. The visuals steal the show by treating us to four potential candidates for Zombie Kill of the Week, each one deserving of the accolade and challenging the last to be the most memorable.
“These people are children and children like stories,” Carol tells the group, but she also speaks to the audience. There is no big pay-off, as viewers may have expected; instead, the “W” is teased further (they may be smarter than we’ve been led to believe). With the first trailer for the companion series, Fear The Walking Dead, also launching this week, the undead universe is expanding to meet the demands of its audience. We are all hungry for more brains; despite airing five seasons over five years, there are no signs of The Walking Dead slowing. We are all infected.
The Walking Dead: Season 5 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Gene Page / AMC