“We know what we’re doing. It’s why you wanted us here.” — Maggie Greene
Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was shaping up to be a sort of throwaway one. The series seems to have several of these each year. They’re episode that seem to just rehash past themes and ideas to help table set the season finale. Some of them have been good stand-alone ones while other have been some of the series’ low points. One couldn’t fault the writers to come up with another one. It’s become an almost ritual for the show to have low points in the series before peaking once again for the last two episodes of the season.
“Spend” wasn’t a throwaway episode and definitely not one of this season’s low points.
Let’s just start things by saying that tonight’s episode was directed by Jennifer Lynch (daughter of filmmaker David Lynch) and her fine touch with the darker aspects of show’s genre roots showed. It was definitely one of the darker episodes of the series to date. Right from the cold opening of the episode as we watch Father Gabriel having a moment of crisis as he steps into the chapel once again we get a feeling that this episode will not be happy one for everyone.
We get three particular storylines throughout the episode which at times made for some jarring scene changes. The main one focused on Glenn taking Tara, Eugene, Noah, Aiden and Nicholas on a supply run to help fix the ASZ’s (Alexandria Safe Zone) power grid of solar panels. One could be forgiven for thinking that the episode was going to be a ho-hum one as we get some major time with Eugene who wasn’t very happy being dragged along on this supply run outside of the ASZ’s walls. He admits more than once and of his own free will that he’s a coward through and through. Yet, by episode’s end we Eugene go through a harrowing crucible to find the courage that allowed him to survive this long. His own intellect and logic were major factors in him always picking the right group to stick with for the best chance of survival, but when he needed to finally step up and be more combat-inclined he passed with flying colors.
This was in contrast to what we’re starting to see with the Alexandrians as a whole. While not all cowardly, the people who have been living within the relatively safe confines of the ASZ’s walls have shown that they’re willing to abandon friends to the zombies if it meant saving their own life. We see this happen several times with tonight’s episode and in a couple of them we see the devastating result of the Alexandrians’ modus operandi.
This doesn’t sit well with Glenn who has grown from being the quiet, scout we met in the first season to a leader who still exhibits a sense of compassion in addition to the brutal, cold logic needed to survive in this zombie apocalypse. He sees the weak core underneath the smiling and civilized facade of the Alexandrians, but he also understand that in order for him, Maggie and the rest of his group to have a life beyond just mere day-to-day survival he needed to make sure that the ASZ and it’s people learned how to do things the right way.
Despite the violent altercation that he and Aiden (Deanna’s son) had just a couple episodes back, the two seem to be working towards a compromise in how things were to be done. But this being The Walking Dead, the prospect of Aiden learning from Glenn or any of the newcomers to the ASZ was cut short as his inexperience with the world outside of the ASZ’s walls led to his gruesome death (a situation brought on by Aiden’s own stupidity as he accidentally shot a grenade). A death that Glenn and Noah tried to prevent but just ran out of time.
The same thing happens just minutes later as we see Glenn, Noah and Nicholas (who left Aiden to die and as he admitted did to others as well in the past) finding themselves trapped in separate sections of a revolving door with zombies in the other side waiting for the inevitable. I’m one could see where this was heading with Nicholas abandoning the Glenn and Noah to save his own skin…again. Noah would end up drawing the short straw in tonight’s episode. A straw that saw him die even more horribly than Aiden and with Glenn just a few feet away witnessing the whole gory tableau.
We see, in a smaller scale, the same situation happen with Abraham as he joins the construction crew tasked with gathering the supplies to help strengthen and expand the walls of the ASZ. Once again it’s due to the inattention of the groups leader, Tobin, that the Alexandrian’s allow a sizable group of zombies to get close to them. It doesn’t help that Tobin himself ends up shooting the hydraulics on the lifter end of a bulldozer that dumps one of his own people in the middle of an encroaching group of zombies. He and the rest of the Alexandrians decide to haul ass and leave their friend behind, but not Abraham who rushes into the fire, so to speak, to try and make sure they don’t leave one behind.
Unlike Nicholas’ brand of cowardice, Tobin and the rest of the Alexandrians see Abraham’s courage and end up following suit. Tobin himself admits to Deanna and Reg Monroe that if it wasn’t for Abraham not doing things the Alexandrian Way (meaning run and hide when things get tough) then Francine (the one who fell off the dozer lifter) would have surely died. Abraham was the right person and leader to run the construction team and Tobin was man enough to admit to it.
It’s a situation that both Deanna and Reg don’t seem to like hearing. Rick and his people have just recently arrived and already seem to be putting themselves in leadership roles. Rick was one Deanna understood with his law enforcement background, but the fact that both Abraham and Glenn seem to exhibit similar leadership qualities that her own people seem to lack could be the sign that the ASZ might just get a change in how things are run and who runs them.
The third storyline continues the adventures of Rick and Carol as they try to navigate, in their own fashion, this fake Eden they’ve found themselves in. Carol finds herself being followed by Jessie’s youngest son Sam. It didn’t matter that Carol herself threatened Sam with kidnapping and death by zombies, he still kept her secret and only tagging along to have more of the cookies Carol made for him. We find, and Carol, find out in no uncertain way from Sam that his dad might very well be an abusive husband and father. This doesn’t sit well with Carol who has some first-hand experience with a family abuser. It doesn’t take much for her to figure this out. Carol doesn’t hesitate in making sure Rick finds out and her recommendation to Rick on how to deal with Pete shouldn’t surprise people who’ve seen Carol’s growth from battered housewife to all-around badass.
The whole Alexandria Safe Zone arc has been met with some trepidation by fans and critics. It’s another static location like Hershel’s farm and the Prison that led to some very wheel-spinning storytelling. It’s a reaction that’s understandable. Having a regular setting and not keeping the group on the move sometimes led to plotlines that stagnated. When on the move the stories being told in the show seem to have a sense of forward momentum. Even some of the weaker on-the-road stories felt like it had a quicker pace to them. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Alexandria.
The group hasn’t been wasting their time to spend wallowing in the existential problems brought about by the zombie apocalypse. They’ve actually done in their own individual way something to find out more about the ASZ and those who run and been kept safe behind it’s walls. Tonight we find out more of what makes the Alexandrians tick and it’s not a pretty sight. Gabriel might be trying to poison Deanna’s mind when it comes to Rick and the others. He wasn’t wrong when he said that Rick and his people were not good people. They have done some unspeakable things to survive. Yet, Maggie also understands some of Deanna’s own agenda for allowing Rick and his people to join the Alexandrians.
Rick, Glenn, Carol, Abraham, Daryl and others know what they’re doing. They’ve survived out in the wild for almost two years now and even after some devastating losses they still manage to persevere. Sure the group seem to be suffering through a collective form of PTSD, but they still know what it takes to survive and they seem able to do so without having to always fall back on their basest nature to do it.
Will this mean that Rick still doesn’t seem to covet his neighbor’s wife (Rick definitely channeling his inner Shane in the Alexandria story-arc)? Will Sasha ever leave her lookout tower ever and not go on a killing spree? Will Carol hold back from doing what’s necessary when it comes to the Alexandrians (meaning will she kill them all to save the others)?
These were questions that weren’t answered in tonight’s episode, but at least we’ve now been given some reasons why it wouldn’t be so bad if Rick and his people just took over the ASZ and ran things their way. There would certainly be less people dying for stupid reasons and everyone wouldn’t have just predetermined jobs the way Deanna likes things done, but all chipping in to protect with everything they’ve got including their own lives.
There’s a war brewing in the future and whether it’s between the Alexandrians and Rick’s people still needs to be determined. The Wolves are still out there and Noah knew it and wanted to make sure the walls never falls the way his own community walls fell while he was away. It’s a shame and a currency spent that he would never get to see his promise come true.
- Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Spend”, was directed by Jennifer Lynch and written by series veteran Matthew Negrete.
- Jennifer Lynch’s work as director with tonight’s episode was excellent and here’s to hoping she returns for future episodes for seasons to come.
- Even in the zombie apocalypse there is still dubstep.
- Carol seems to have gained herself a lost puppy in Jessie’s youngest son Sam.
- When did Abraham suddenly become the catchphrase guy. He already gave birth to the catchphrases “dolphin smooth” and “Who’s DEANNA?!”. Tonight we get the best yet when he finds himself surrounded by zombies and all he can do is smile and utter “mother dick”.
- The death scenes for both Aiden Monroe and Noah were reminiscent of a couple deaths in the end of Day of the Dead: Capt. Rhodes and Pvt. Torrez.
- Some great work by Greg Nicotero (whose bday was tonight) and his KNB EFX make-up crew with the deaths of Aiden and Noah.
- Talking Dead guests tonight are Josh McDermitt, Tyler James Williams and Steven Yeun (Eugene, Noah and Glenn of The Walking Dead)