The Walking Dead: 514 “Spend” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Previously on The Walking Dead: after arriving at the Alexandria Safe Zone, Rick and co soon discovered that while their new home was a fairly nice place, the inhabitants were desperately unprepared for what lies outside the walls. With a slightly creepy doctor named Pete appearing on the scene and walkers with the letter W carved into their heads showing up, it seemed as if Alexandria wasn’t going to be the utopia it initially seemed to be…
This week’s episode, Spend, dialled up the action and gore to a horrifying degree while nudging forward conflicts to get ready for the season’s final two hours. The spine of the episode centred on a routine supply run for a solar power part – that soon went very wrong indeed. The early scenes set inside a dark and grimy warehouse marked a convincing return to the more horror-centric side of The Walking Dead. Dark warehouses are nothing new for television, but Spend managed to deliver some nicely tense scenes that effectively built up a sense of uneasiness early on – helped partially by the fact that the run’s crew, save Glenn, was made up entirely of fairly ancillary characters. Anyone could have perished, and perish they did.
Death number one was Aidan, Deanna’s son and professional douchebag. Aidan was a fairly contemptible, cowardly and selfish character when we first saw him two weeks ago – but to the show’s credit, his death was an effective one (even if it was entirely his fault), as he found himself skewered after unwisely shooting a grenade on a walker, and he even finally admitted his cowardice in a moment that went a little way towards redeeming him. The walker action that followed as the crew fought to escape was also nicely intense – if the show had somewhat (if understandably) been lacking in the action stakes lately, then these scenes were a welcome relief. We’ve seen an awful lot of the group struggling to adapt to a domestic setting lately, so to see the group brutally fight to survive was a welcome change of pace from the (admittedly very interesting) Alexandria shenanigans.
This eventually led to a sticky situation as Glenn, Noah and Nicholas (or Coward Number Two) found themselves trapped in a revolving door and surrounded by walkers. However, despite Eugene (in a nice moment that marked a satisfying evolution for the character from coward to reluctant hero) distracting some of the walkers in a van, Coward Number Two’s choice to make a run for it lead to Noah becoming walker food.
Noah was essentially a plot device to facilitate Beth’s death and nudge the group towards Virginia – but it was hard not to feel a twinge of sadness as he met his maker. His death may have been unsubtly telegraphed with a clunky ‘in it for the long haul’ conversation at the start of the episode, but Noah’s death was an effectively brutal gut-punch, serving as a reminder that the horrors that the group faced outside the walls are still ever-present. It’s also worth mentioning the sheer horror of the death – seeing Noah’s face slowly ripped to shreds by the walker horde was a fairly (and I use ‘fairly’ as euphemistically as possible) disgusting moment of gore, which only added to the tragedy of this surprisingly affecting and surprisingly vomit-inducing death.
Aside from all the face-shredding fun, there was plenty to chew on (tasteless pun not intended) closer to Alexandria. After a couple of quiet episodes for the character, Abraham stepped into the spotlight again as he muscled his way to the leadership position of the Alexandria construction crew without breaking a sweat. The scenes didn’t quite have the immediate ‘wham’ impact of the run or Carol’s discoveries, but Abraham’s display of heroics was still very enjoyable to watch. Outside from all the brooding about Eugene, Abraham is at his heart a very fun character, so seeing Abraham cracking jokes (even coining the interesting phrase ‘mother dick’) and easily taking a leadership position after a day’s work was a nice breath of air from the heavier events going on elsewhere, as well as linking in to the mounting tensions inside Alexandria’s walls.
Deanna, Alexandria’s leader, seemed to be fairly pleased with Rick’s group when they arrived – but Spend saw doubts begin to creep in. Her point about Rick’s group taking up leadership positions is an intriguing one – it is noticeable how Rick and co have waltzed into important positions in Alexandria rapidly, so to have this factor into the ongoing tensions in Alexandria was a satisfying way to cover some recent storyline contrivances. And then of course, there was Gabriel – the priest is undoubtedly a very confused man at the moment (displayed by his ripping out Bible pages), but his ‘confession’ to Deanna was a very unexpected twist for the character.
It marks Gabriel out as an utter coward (considering what we’ve seen of Nicholas and Aidan, he’s in good company), shifting the guilt of his past sins onto Rick’s crew instead of facing up to them – but it doesn’t feel out of character for someone who has witnessed plenty of nasty acts committed by Rick’s group (remember the Hunters?). Will Gabriel’s big confession make an impact? It’s completely unclear at this point, but it was a genuinely shocking and intriguing swerve that could potentially cause the rising tensions inside Alexandria to reach boiling point very soon. Even if Deanna doesn’t think much of Gabriel’s confession, there’s the small issue of Maggie, who heard the whole thing…
And speaking of conflicts inside Alexandria, Carol and Rick made some intriguing discoveries about resident surgeon Pete. Carol’s spiky rapport with Sam (the kid who, despite the utterly terrifying threat made to him last week, still seems to like Carol) remained enjoyable to watch – and yielded the shocking almost-revelation that Pete abuses his wife, Jessie (there’s still time for a twist, but it certainly seems that way). With a potential outside threat still lurking off-stage, the decision to double down and have conflicts and villains emerge inside Alexandria itself is a smart one that lends Spend a sense of propulsive momentum appropriate to an episode close to the finale, despite the lack of advancement on the aforementioned outside threat.
It certainly seems that the Pete storyline is coming to a head soon, as Carol meets with Rick and orders him to kill Pete. It’s a moment that feels immediately exciting – The Walking Dead has dawdled around with conflicts for episodes on end in the past, so to have a plotline as fast-paced as Pete’s is unexpected – but it’s perhaps the only moment of the episode that doesn’t quite work. Fast paced storylines are great, but we as viewers hardly know Pete at this point. The investment required isn’t quite there and the tensions between Rick and Pete barely have time to simmer, so the cliffhanger moment, while admittedly exciting, feels frustratingly rushed, and doesn’t quite land with the impact intended.
There’s just two episodes to go until the season finale, and with Rick and Carol on the warpath, Deanna beginning to doubt Rick’s group, and the mysterious ‘W’ group lurking in the shadows, things are beginning to seriously heat up…
Spend is The Walking Dead firing on all cylinders – expertly mixing intense action with simmering tensions with barely a fumbled moment, the show’s momentum is high going into next week’s penultimate episode.
Scene of the Episode: Face/Off – Noah, after barely half a season, meets his end. His utterly brutal, extremely graphic end.