Spend Plot Summary:
The group starts to become more acclimated to Alexandria. Abraham (Michael Cuddlitz) begins work as a member of the construction crew, salvaging metal from an abandoned construction site. Noah (Tyler James Williams), Glen (Steve Yuen), Tara (Alanna Masterson), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Nicholas (Michael Trainer) and Aiden (Daniel Bonjour) go on a supply run in order to re-power the town’s grid. Meanwhile, Carol (Melissa McBride) is suspicious of something Sam has said.
Have you been bored by The Walking Dead this season? Are you tired of the constant reminder that The Group is riddled with PTSD, doesn’t trust strangers and is having a hard time acclimating to the supposed utopia of Alexandria?
Lucky for you, ‘Spend’ takes The Group outside the walls of Alexandria and back into the killing fields of the world. The episode is filled with completely shocking and completely necessary (for storytelling sake) bloodletting resulting in two of the most explicit and gruesome deaths in the series’ history. This explosion of violence and exploration beyond the walls not only breaks this mid-season’s monotony but adds a new level of narrative paranoia. Yes, we’ve hit the tipping point and the other shoe is about to drop.
One cannot talk about ‘Spend’ without first addressing the shocking death of Noah. We should’ve seen this one coming — Noah expresses the desire to become a permanent part of Alexandria, hoping to become an architect. His death is now imminent, I just didn’t expect it to be this imminent and in such an ungodly manner. Watching Noah get literally torn to shreds, walkers ripping his jaw off his face and bursting his eyeball, is just terrifying to watch. The moment’s horror is amplified by seeing Glen curling up in utter shock like a small, frightened child. Glen’s never lost anyone directly on his watch and to see Noah, (who despite his uncanny accuracy with a pistol and his courage, is still a kid) eviscerated in front of him, fells Glen (and us) dead in his tracks.
Kudos to the writing team and to Tyler James Williams for making Noah such an emotionally resonant character in such a short period of time. Noah appears in just 10 episodes and his death is more traumatic and harrowing than the death of characters like Shane, Bob or Dale who were around for much longer. Just look to social media to see the explosion of sorrow for Noah’s passing. For a character that didn’t have a lengthy run, he certainly meant something to a lot of people.
Equally as gruesome is the death of Aiden. Deanna’s son has his guts ripped out by walkers in an extended, nearly excessive scene of pure walker violence. The scene will render you ambivalent. Aiden sacrifices himself for the sake of Noah and Glenn, which is totally brave and selfless. However, can we forget he’s a complete moron and caused the explosion which lead to his own death? Or the fact he and Nicholas left their friends to die at the hands of walkers? So, are we okay with his death, like we were with Martin or Sgt. Lamson earlier this season? While Aiden really has no emotional impact on the series, his passing will most definitely play into the growing chasm of distrust between Deanna and The Group.
The Group may have lost Noah, but Eugene finally emerges as both a fighter and as a real human. Eugene has always provided comic relief with his Southern fried cowardice and robotic cadence. However it’s left him painted into a corner as a character. What more can you get from this character besides a look of panic and a weird one-liner. By forcing Eugene into the role of the hero, we’re able to see a different side of this weird but lovable character. He can still be funny and bumbling, but we now know he can be a man of action when needs be. His heroic ‘coming out’ is perfectly executed on all fronts as it truly seems like he’s taking the easy way out…until the camera cuts wide and we see he’s carrying Tara to safety.
While all this red-blooded action (including a great sequence with Abraham going all Hulk Smash on a herd of walkers) and further Alexandria intrigue (Carol discovering domestic violence in the neighborhood) are great, the scene that is a pure gut kick is Father Gabriel’s ‘confession.’ Seth Gilliam has little to do this half-season until this episode. His fiery, impassioned, near delusional and psychotic rant to Deanna about how the group is untrustworthy and evil is just devastating. (This is easily Seth Gilliam’s best work to date on the series.) What a dick! After The Group saves his life, not once but twice, and after he left his congregation to die, Gabriel turns heel on his saviors. He paints them to be the devil disguised as “angels of light.” They should’ve left this guy to die.
Yet, you have to wonder — is he that far off? Rick and Carol have already stated they’ll take the city if they don’t like the way things are run. Along with Daryl, they’re hiding guns outside of town “just in case” they need them. Didn’t Carol just tell Rick he needs to kill Jessie’s husband, who’s abusive towards Jessie and her son Sam? Isn’t Sasha way too trigger happy? Can we sit here and think that our heroes can easily turn into the people they hate? That they’re the ones who can’t be trusted?
It’s an interesting question to be posed, particularly this late in the game. Where will all this paranoia take the series? Will there be a revolution? A civil war? Will Rick and company be no better than the people of Woodbury or Terminus? Plus, one has to think that those people who carved the ‘W’ into so many of those walkers have to be rumbling through sometime soon. Will their arrival put all these questions on the back burner?
From top to bottom ‘Spend’ is one of the best, complete Walking Dead episodes in a while. There’s plenty of blood, guts and action, a welcome break into narrative monotony, interesting character development and a set-up for the season finale.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beauty daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom