The Walking Dead 5.14 “Spend” (written by Matt Negrate) ramped up the action in Alexandria this week, and – big surprise – killed off some more characters, driving home the point that humans’ cowardly choices can be just as deadly as the zombies that inhabit the landscape.
The episode opens with Reg and Noah having an early meeting in the morning sunlight. Noah wants Reg to show him how to build and reinforce structures, so someone else can carry on Reg’s important work. Noah is in this for the long haul, and after receiving a journal from Reg, Noah begins to document his life in Alexandria, with a small first entry (which we later find out said “This is only the beginning”). Within these first few minutes, the writing was clearly on the wall for Noah – for two reasons: First, the character got his own scene. We all know what happened when Bob started getting scenes of his own. Second, Noah was shown to have aspirations, and he was making plans for the future. Taken together, those two factors sealed his fate as a dead man.
The community’s power grid is acting up, so a plan is made for Glenn, Noah, Tara, Eugene, Nicholas, and Aiden to make a supply run to get the needed parts to restore it. Eugene doesn’t want to go, but he’s assured all will be ok (which means it definitely won’t). When everyone piles into the van and the engine is started, Knife Party’s “Internet Friends” (of all songs) fills the air. Everybody has a laugh, but this little detail will come into play later in the episode.
Meanwhile, Rick and Jessie share a quiet moment together, just long enough to make googly eyes at each other and for Jessie to alert Rick that someone trashed the tin owl project she’s been working on with her kids. This little detail will also come into play later in the episode, and I like when the show ties together seemingly insignificant points that mean something more within the episode’s storyline.
When the small group arrives at the warehouse, Glenn suggests they look for all the entrances and exits in case things go bad. While on their perimeter check, Eugene complains about being on the run in the first place, but Tara tells him he needs to start pulling his weight. Eugene counters that he did his share by getting the group close to D.C. Tara, however, sees it the other way around. The one point the two can agree on, though, is that Eugene is a coward.
The group enters the warehouse, staying together and keeping their eyes peeled for signs of trouble. Glenn hears something and surmises there are walkers stuck behind something. That turns out to be true, and Aiden is impressed, complimenting Glenn on his awareness of the situation. Now, it’s not too hard to figure out that suddenly Aiden is being portrayed as a more reasonable dude. Since the change is very sudden, it seems the show needs us to sympathize with him in a hurry. So suffice to say, it also became clear that Aiden was not making it out of this episode either.
When an armor-wearing walker shambles over to Aiden, Glenn yells to him to let it come closer, but Aiden, already acting impulsively, starts repeatedly shooting at the thing. He ends up hitting a grenade attached to the walker’s belt, causing an explosion that impales Aiden onto some spikes and injures Tara.
Things escalate quickly, and these scenes really were infused with tension. This show does action well, (despite resorting to racking up character fatalities way too often, which I’ll touch on later in this review). When some walkers attack Eugene, knocking him to the ground, I thought he might be a goner too, but Glenn rescues him, and after Nicholas declares Aiden dead, the others move Tara inside an office.
Meanwhile, back at the safe zone, Carol hears noises under her stairs, and finds Sam in a closet. He wants cookies – which would seem kind of ridiculous considering his last encounter with Carol – but in reality, he actually needs something else from her. She is nasty to him right away, telling him he if he wants cookies he’ll have to steal the chocolate, and threatening him once again should he say something to somebody if he gets caught. It was understandable that Carol would feel the need to threaten Sam about the guns, but about stealing a little chocolate for cookie making? It was unnecessary and made Carol seem harsh, but she did let him come back to the house, and Carol’s time spent with children has always ended in heartbreak, so I guess I see her reticence.
Later in the episode, and interspersed between the warehouse action, Carol does soften when Sam tells her he breaks things when he’s sad (tying in the destroyed tin owl from earlier in the episode). When he asks for a gun to protect someone, and then runs out of the house, Carol has to go investigate. When she gets to Jessie’s and Pete answers the door, refusing to let her see Jessie or Sam, Carol quickly figures out – from experience – what’s going on behind those closed doors.
Also in the middle of the warehouse action, we get Abraham at the old mall construction site working with a crew to expand the wall. Interestingly, once he’s off by himself, he has a bit of a panic attack. This is something we’ve never seen from Abraham before. He’s quickly startled out of it, though, by the sound of gunfire as walkers infest the work site. One of the shots Tobin fires causes the bulldozer bucket to come down, dumping Francine (and it’s funny all these non- characters get names quickly when it’s needed for the plot.) onto the ground. Scared by the walkers, Tobin wants the rest of the group to fall back, but Abraham won’t leave a man – or woman – behind, and rushes off to save Francine.
And it’s here, when he’s back in familiar combat conditions, that the old Abraham shows up, with his “Mother Dick” and his skull cracking of walkers – single file only, please. Later, Abraham chews Tobin out for his cowardice, which brings up a point: These Alexandrians are mostly portrayed as spineless imbeciles. But according to the show, they did build a wall around a neighborhood, expanded said wall, cleared a road that leads to the community, and recruited more people to ensure their survival for the last two years. Maybe I’m being too easy on them, but it seems like they got a lot done. Somewhere along the line, somebody had to have had vision and courage.
Later, Tobin goes to Deanna’s house and resigns, saying Abraham is a much better leader. Again, they had already expanded the wall once with Tobin in charge – but I won’t say any more about all that now. Afterwards, Deanna worries out loud to Maggie that she has now put more of Rick’s group in charge, but Maggie assures her that her group is an asset to the community.
Rick needs some more to do in this episode, and we need more reasons to hate Pete, so we get a scene where Pete shows up drunk at Rick’s house, mentioning Rick’s dead wife and generally acting like an ass. Then Pete has the nerve to tell Rick his group needs to remember the Alexandrians lost things too. Before he leaves, the two have a stare down.
Back at the warehouse, Tara has head trauma and is losing blood fast, but just as they go to get her in the van, they hear Aiden scream for help and realize he’s alive. Eugene tells the others to go get Aiden, since he will protect Tara. Um, What? Ok. Since they don’t have time to be incredulous, they take Eugene at his word and go.
Eugene finally does get to play the hero, and with Tara slung on his back, blows away a few walkers to get her to the safety of the van. It was a good writing choice to keep the heroics modest, because it would be totally unbelievable for Eugene to do something huge, like take on an entire herd by himself.
Meanwhile, when Glenn, Nicholas, and Noah reach Aiden, they try and free him, but the walkers are closing in on them. As the panic grows in Nicholas, he leans toward Aiden and whispers “You left them, we both did. That’s who we are,” and then takes off. Glenn doesn’t want to give up, but Aiden confirms what Nicholas said, that the Alexandrians who got killed (the ones Aiden strung up the walker for) died because Aiden and Nicholas panicked. Glenn and Noah narrowly escape, just as the walkers surround Aiden and gruesomely tear him apart.
Glenn, Nicholas, and Noah make their way to the front of the building, where they get trapped by hordes of walkers, their only refuge a revolving door. Just when they’re out of options, they hear Eugene drawing most of the walkers away with his van and loud music (tying in the earlier scene). Glenn makes a plan to break the glass and fight off the rest of the walkers with the rifle. Nicholas, however, is all panicky again (we get it, this guy is terrible in a crisis), and squeezes himself through to the outside, exposing Glenn and Noah to the remaining walkers, dooming them.
Then Noah – just like Aiden before him – gets ripped to shreds as Glenn watches. This scene was more than gratuitous, but I suspect the writers know it takes more to get viewers emotional about a character death these days, seeing as we have watched so many of them, especially this season. And though I’m sure the writers would say this death was necessary to move the story forward (just like Tyreese’s demise was supposed to – but didn’t), it was pretty pointless. Steven Yeun was excellent, though, portraying Glenn’s horror and heartbreak at having to sit and watch his friend get torn apart.
Once to the safety of the van, Nicholas orders Eugene to leave, but Eugene won’t budge until he knows what happened to his friends. I love how Eugene goes right for his gun, even though he’s clumsy and ends up getting knocked down. It showed he was trying to have Glenn and Noah’s backs. But just then Glenn comes charging out – and I gather the walkers just ignored him as he skulked by while they ate Noah (once the writers kill someone off they often leave it to the audience’s imagination to determine how surviving group members extricate themselves from a perilous situation). He punches Nicholas unconscious, but Glenn being who he is, still hauls Nicholas in the van to take home.
At the end of the episode, Gabriel goes over to Deanna’s and begins to rant about Satan in their midst. He tells Deanna that Rick and his group are bad people, and they don’t deserve paradise. Hypocritical much, Gabriel? It seems that you, who hid like a coward in your locked church while your congregation got wiped out by walkers, and now presume to pronounce people as worthy or unworthy of sanctuary is more like The Devil. Well, since Maggie was on the stairs listening, Rick and the others will know about Gabriel’s betrayal soon enough.
Meanwhile, Carol tells Rick that Pete is abusing Jessie and possibly Sam. As soon as she knocked on Rick’s door, I was yelling – out loud – that Rick was going to have to kill Pete. And sure enough, Carol spoke those words verbatim. Carol doesn’t mess around. And lately, neither does Rick. The look on his face clearly conveyed his intentions regarding Pete.
Seeing our group in Alexandria’s safe zone was an interesting departure from the usual “out in the woods and in constant peril” circumstances. But it seems the tide is turning, and the last two episodes will focus on a war, with Rick and his people possibly taking Alexandria. I’m sure something exciting is in store, but the writer’s go-to plotline of killing off a group member and showing how terrible humans are has gotten very old.
It’s just that I’ve grown weary of the constant and never-ending portrayal of Rick’s group as good and capable, with all other humans on the planet being inferior. I get that people are the enemy and all, but is the show really telling me there’s nobody left who is good and resourceful except our main survivors? I thought Alexandria was a perfect opportunity to show others surviving and thriving, and to show Rick’s people as the possible threat, but still trying to hold onto their humanity. However, with this week’s portrayal of Nicholas, Aiden, Tobin and Pete, the show has reduced the plot, once again, to Rick and company good – everyone else bad.
Still, the introduction of the Safe Zone has provided an interesting change of pace, and it has more potential, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. One thing’s for sure: Rick and his group are about to be very dangerous to the Alexandrians – and Gabriel is screwed.