Well that was..intense.
After a few relatively calm episodes of slow bubbling tension and co-existence it’s beginning to look like Rick’s group and those inept, naive fools of Alexandria are speeding towards a collision, fueled by shockingly horrific deaths on both sides and a really frustrating betrayal from cowardly Father Gabriel.
As I wrote in my a previous episode write-up, The Walking Dead has never been too good at sharing development between a large group, and that still holds here, just not as strongly. The writers did quite well juggling between a trio of stories in “Spend”, filling at least two of these arcs with more action and leaving one – Rick, Carol, and cookie-obsessed Sam – full of some really effective table setting.
The result of Rick and Carol’s storyline wasn’t too surprising, especially since we have seen something darker coming from Jessie’s husband Pete brewing in a few small scenes. Carol’s scene with Sam was both hilarious and interesting, subtly taking away the comedic value of having Carol so blunt with a child and revealing that there was actually a meaningful purpose to Sam’s pestering.
Abraham’s two small moments of inner-angst were a bit vague here and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on with him, ever since he arrived in Alexandria his character has just been some laid-back beer drinker. Here he showed his shade of compassion and heroism, saving an Alexandrian that was doomed by the carelessness of another and leading to some really awesome walker kill. It was also nice to see the clumsy Alexandrian actually give up his position and suggest to town leader Deanna that Abraham be placed in a position of power.
A nice layer was added to Deanna’s character as well. Ever since Rick’s group arrived in Alexandria, Deanna has appeared to be too trusting, and that’s a bit unbelievable for someone who has survived for so long and kept Alexandria under control. Hearing her doubt the logic in putting too many of Rick’s group into authoritative positions was necessary to make her a more credible character.
The final arc of the three was the most harrowing, placing Glenn, Noah, Tara, and Eugene with obnoxious and arrogant Alexandrians Aiden and Nicholas to find parts for a power grid. Aiden had already drew the distaste of viewers last week when he got into a small fight with Glenn, so going into this situation already felt like at least one of either Aiden or Nicholas was done for. What actually happened was a bit more unexpected, and had a really great dramatic element to it.
Aden, being the incompetent and stubborn fool he is, completely ruined what could have been a quick and clean supply run, carelessly shooting up an armed walker without noticing that he was shooting at a grenade. The resulting explosion changed the dark and ominous setting into something even more terrifying and unpredictable, a mini war zone full of injuries on both sides.
Aiden was impaled on two protruding objects and Tara was seriously injured. Tensions skyrocketed up in a way that they haven’t since the first episode of this season and quite suddenly we were given one of the most refreshing – albeit depressing – sequences The Walking Dead has had to date, fraught with moral complexity.
After seeing that Aiden was still alive, and that his friend Nicholas was willing to abandon him, Glenn and Noah hatched a small rescue plan. These two come across as the most genuine characters on The Walking Dead, still holding on to their humanity despite much of what the group has gone through. It was nice to see them attempt to save Aiden, even though there was that residual fan bloodlust because Deanna’s son was such a loud-mouthed wanker.
Eugene had a story within this, working up the courage to get a (dead or alive) Tara to the van, killing walkers along the way, and eventually saving Glenn (and Nicholas’ life). For someone who has been even quieter than Rosita lately, his character picked up dramatically, reminding us of how brilliant The Walking Dead can be when they decide to develop a character with what little time they can squeeze in.
This brilliance is again shown in how like-able Noah has become. Again, he seems like a really genuine character and the way Tyler James Williams has approached his portrayal has taken Noah from being a nuisance kid who indirectly caused two big, heartbreaking deaths, to a kid who we want to see as part of Rick’s ‘family’.
After Aiden has a small redemption by admitting to Glenn that he and Nicholas were the ones who caused their other friends to die, before telling Glenn to leave him, we are treated to a really gross disembowelment and one of the goriest things The Walking Dead has ever done. We thought it’d stop there, but then Nicholas, Glenn, and Noah get into a really cleverly shot situation whereby they are stuck on two sides of one revolving door – Nicholas on one side; Glenn and Noah on the other.
After Nicholas shoots straight to top of everyone’s ‘most hated character in the show’ list by selfishly saving himself and messing up Glenn’s perfectly reasonable plan (which probably would have worked), poor Noah is left exposed as the revolving door opens up an opportunity for the horde of walkers to snatch him and drag him to his demise.
You can tell that the writers wanted this death to have a particular effect on Glenn, hamming up their friendship during the small pockets of time they had in the episode, and then having Noah ripped apart – in a REALLY disgusting way – right in front of Glenn, who was on the other side of the glass. The look of sheer horror on Glenn’s face really adds to the pent up anger we feel towards Nicholas as viewers, and the heartache of watching Noah go so early – especially when he just shared a really nice scene with Deanna’s husband, with him looking brightly towards the future and wanting to help turn Alexandria into an actual safe zone.
Nicholas trying to car jack Eugene only added to the fan-rage, and watching Glenn knock Nicholas out for it was at least somewhat cathartic; but if they writers really want to appease the fans they will let Nicholas die in the most agonising way possible, because even though watching a character you actually like being degraded with such excessive violence is really distressing, it’s effective. Watching a character you hate share an even worse fate would be a ray of sunshine to balance against Noah’s dark and depressing death.
Father Gabriel seeking out Deanna to tell her that Rick’s group is nothing but trouble was cowardly, but from his perspective it’s easy to see why he thinks that way. Still, making him a hated character all of a sudden is no big loss since Father Gabriel was neither entertaining to watch nor at all sympathetic – rather dull and hypocritical actually. With Maggie overhearing his spiel to Deanna, things are working towards two very big episodes to close out this season.
“Spend” did incredibly well to raise the stakes and build towards the finale, mixing gore, drama, and action in the right amounts to give one of the strongest episodes Season 5 has had so far.
Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
– The entire supply run storyline; especially the revolving door situation.
– Eugene standing up to Nicholas
– Carol and Sam
– Maggie overhearing Father Gabriel
– Abraham saves the day
– Deanna not completely naive
– Nicholas’ punchable face
Episode MVP: Eugene
Walker Kill of the Week: Abraham x 10
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