It’s a bit of a slow burn to start, but as you’ll find out in this week’s The Walking Dead review, once things get going they really get going. The series has clearly learned from past mistakes when it comes to letting things linger too long in one safe location, and it has wasted no time getting the city of Alexandria from safe haven to near-total destruction. A story of backstabbing and intrigue take center stage as we near the end of The Walking Dead Season 5.
Full spoilers for “Spend” below
The first half of “Spend” feels like something that would have been a full episode or two in years past. There’s a lot of one-on-one talking that serve as half-assed character development that ultimately doesn’t lead anywhere, and a lot of lingering moments that feel more drawn out than they should. I’m definitely glad it was only half the episode this time around, but it doesn’t make it any less boring to sit through.
Essentially, the first 20 minutes or so are spent going through each character that has been a background prop since the main group reached Alexandria. Noah, Gabriel, Abraham, and Eugene all get their moments to shine but we don’t really learn anything new about their standing in the town of Alexandria or as a character in general. Eugene is a cowardly dweeb, Noah can shoot accurately, and Abraham takes charge – nothing that really needs to be re-established. It’s the same type of “character development” that plagued so much of the show’s earlier seasons all tightly packed into the beginning half of one episode. All of this serves a purpose to get the action-packed second half, so in all it almost feels worth it.
The scouting group consisting of Glenn, Noah, Tara, Aiden, and Nicholas all head out to a warehouse to find batteries of some sort for Alexandria’s power grid. Despite his pleading, Eugene is also tasked to come along to help track down the part they need. At first, exploring around the warehouse, and even the brief zombie encounters that ensue, are typical The Walking Dead fare. Walkers come out of nowhere, conveniently don’t bite characters when they are in perfect range, and so on. In particular, when Aiden shoots the grenade-toting walker that explodes and gets pinned to a wall, no walkers seem to notice or care that fresh meat is just waiting to be grubbed on. It has been established before that they will go for whatever is closer, and they can sense when something is alive versus when it’s dead. So why they all skipped over Aiden to follow the main group is still a mystery, but they also gave up on the humans altogether when a flare was shot so who knows. The attention span of a walker seems to be predicated completely on whatever is more convenient for the situation.
Once we get past that and an escape is order, things get interesting. It’s been a long while since The Walking Dead felt like it was testing just how far it can push the gore in its television format, but this episode certainly does. It features not one, but two victims being ripped apart piece by piece (albeit by walkers with insane tensile strength, but that’s another conversation entirely). This isn’t a situation where a walker rubs up against an actor and thin red paint is sprayed everywhere, the makeup effects are pretty great even upon close examination, and each death is just brutal. Even the way Aiden’s death is shot is brilliant because it keeps everything close and confusing so even as a viewer you don’t really know just how close the walkers are until Noah swoops in at the last second to pull Glenn away before the Aiden-kebab is devoured by a group of hungry walkers.
On the same note of gruesome deaths, I don’t know how the show is going to top Glenn watching Noah get his face torn apart feet away from him. The whole situation with the three of them in a revolving door, while kind of dumb how they ended up trapped there in the first place, plays out nicely. It’s also nice to see Eugene become at least a little useful when he comes around in the van music blaring, even if he has no desire to be.
The reincorporation of Noah’s newly-gifted notebook with a simple phrase scrawled in it is nice, if corny. If you look past a bit of cheese on the writer’s part, it serves as the final stab in your heart if you aren’t already just a little broken up about Noah’s misfortune.
Oddly enough, the events at the warehouse are not even the most troublesome for the group or intense moments of “Spend” by any stretch. While only featured for a brief time in the latter half of the episode, the goings on back at Alexandria are setting up for the infighting that is almost certainly going to happen before the finale in two weeks. As Deanna mentions, she has put several of Rick’s group in prominent positions. Even those who she doesn’t appoint, such as Glenn, take control of their situations all on their own. It’s clear that Deanna was not quite ready for just how prepared the main group truly is and they are beginning to outpace to level of control that she has over Alexandria. It’s a delicate balance between control and safety that she’s maintained thanks to the big ‘ole softy citizens of Alexandria, but the tipping point is approaching quickly.
All of this is set to be exaggerated thanks to Benedict Gabriel selling out Rick’s group by crawling to Deanna saying that they are dangerous and shouldn’t be trusted. Sure, Rick did this when the group first arrived, but the fact that a third party is coming in and saying it – and one who has generally been quiet – could sway Alexandria’s leader more than anything. Couple that with the fact that Glenn is going to return sans-Aiden and with a Nicholas that got knocked unconscious and she is may begin regretting her decisions.
The most interesting conflict brewing, at least for me, is Carol and Rick centering in on Pete and his abuse of his wife and Sam. It’s never been outright said until this point, but heavily hinted and pretty darn apparent for anyone paying attention, that Pete isn’t a nice dude. The dynamic between Carol and Sam following their little cookie threat last week compared to her almost feeling sympathetic for him is nicely done. Despite the fact that the audience probably knows Sam’s secret, the way everything clicks with Carol as she pieces it together is great and manages to feel completely natural as if we’re discovering it along with her.
At the tail end of “Spend” we hear Glenn return and yell for help, so the penultimate episode of the season next week is set to be a good one a lot of new dynamics bound to be explored. A lot of threads were created in rapid succession this week, but it manages to be balanced well, and I can’t wait to see how they all tie up in the coming weeks. Please just let Sam get one more cookie before he dies, it’s all I ask.
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