Now that Rick and the group have been welcomed into the extremely sturdy walls of Alexandria, audiences might have thought that the characters had found some measure of safety. Last night's episode of The Walking Dead wanted to disavow viewers of that silly notion. Brutally.
At first, "Spend" appears to be a low-stakes, almost slice-of-Alexandrian-life episode, as the group gets settled into their new jobs. Daryl heads out on his new motorcycle, Maggie trails Deanna as she leads the city from her living room, Abraham goes with the construction crew to get some more metal sheeting for future wall expansion, and Rick gets his first "case" — trying to figure out who broke the owl statue in Jessie's garage.
But the biggest arc of the episode goes to Glenn, Tara, Noah and Eugene, who head out with Aidan the Douchebag (Deanna's son, remember) and his Douchey Friend Nicholas to find some thingamajigs to help the ailing power grid; Eugene is forced to go, against his will, in order to identity the correct thingamajigs. Given how Aidan and Nicholas almost managed to get people killed when merely prepping to go on their supply run last week, I suspected that things would not go well. I did not, however, suspect that while in the thingamajig warehouse, Aidan would shoot a zombified soldier in his grenade, setting it off, and giving Tara a grievous head wound while impaling Aidan on several steel rebars.
To say things go to hell would be a bit of an understatement. The group holes up in an office room to assess the situation: Tara is basically pouring blood out of her skull, and needs to be brought to the medkit in the van asap; and despite Nicholas' assurances that Aidan is dead, they soon realize the Douchebag is still alive in a warehouse that is rapidly filling with zombies. While Nicholas is completely content to abandon his douchey pal, Glenn forces him to run back into the warehouse to try to free Aidan, while Noah provides cover. Unfortunately, it turns out that Nicholas is a much bigger douchebag than Aidan, and after a bit of mild pulling runs away, leaving Glenn to fend for himself. Glenn still tries to free dumb, impaled Aidan, but Noah has to pull him away just before the zombies swarm them. And then it's Douchebag for Dinner!
It's been a long time since The Walking Dead showed us someone being ripped apart and eaten all while living; it seems like the last several deaths by zombie have been mere bites, which is of course enough to kill people after a bit of time. Aidan is not so lucky. His torso is shredded and gnawed on, and he stays alive through most of it. It's awesomely awful, and a nice reminder that even if you "fight the dead, fear the living," you should still totally fear the dead, too.
But it's not the only reminder. As Glen and Noah chase Nicholas the Bigger Douchebag out of the warehouse, they all manage to get trapped in a revolving door, surrounded by zombies on both sides. I have to say I had no idea how they could get out of this situation alive, and I love when The Walking Dead manages to pull that off. The answer is that Eugene, who has helpfully reminded people that he's a big coward earlier in the episode, conquers his cowardice in order to carry Tara back to the van to help her, then drives by the door to blare some music to lead off the zombies on at least one side .
This is better, but of course the minute one side gets to exit, the other is exposed to a bunch of zombies. Glenn's solution is to try to break the glass, but he only succeeds in pushing the door a bit to NtBD's terror. In fact, Nicholas panics so much he just pushes his way out, Glenn and Noah be damned — especially Noah, who is pulled out by the zombies. Glenn manages to move the door back, but then he has the perfect view of Noah also getting eaten alive, and his face literally ripped open at the cheek in what I'm 100% confident is The Walking Dead's most gory scene ever. By a considerable margin.
NtDB runs to the van, pulls him out, and tries to abandon everybody, but Glenn catches up with him knocks him cold with a punch. Eugene keeps a gun trained on him for the entirety of their (extremely uncomfortable) ride back.
Meanwhile, at the construction site, a somewhat similar mishap occurs. While Abraham and the others are getting sheet metal, a herd of zombies attacks, and a woman named Francine is knocked off her perch into their midst. The foreman is instantly ready to abandon her, but Abraham runs to her, picks her up, puts her in a construction vehicle and lets her cover him while he just starts chopping dead heads with an axe (smiling all the while, but Abraham really, really loves killing zombies). When the attack is over, Abe just takes charge of the entire operation. To the foreman's credit, he immediately goes back and tells Deanna what happened… and that Abraham should be foreman instead of him. Deanna accepts, although she seems to be a bit wary at putting so many of Rick's people into positions of authority so quickly.
And that's before Father Gabriel stops by Deanna's house to tell her, in his sweatiest, incredibly crazy-sounding manner that Rick and the others are actually bad people who have done terrible things and will put themselves ahead of the other Alexandrians and will also destroy everything. Seriously, Gabriel sounds crazy as he says it (and also Maggie secretly overhears, so that's going to be trouble) so I'm not sure how much, if at all, Deanna believes him — and she's wise enough to know that any group that survived outside for so long had to do some bad things. But combined with her discomfort at promoting Rick and Michonne and Daryl and Abraham, there may be trouble in paradise.
Except there's already trouble in paradise, because it turns out Jessie's husband Pete is abusive, as we all already knew just by the shitty way he said hello to Rick two episodes ago. This is kind of annoying, because it completely lets Rick off the hook for kissing another man's wife last episode, and because it's lazy writing to justify Rick's macking on Jessie in general because now he gets to save her from her Evil Husband. But at least it gives us the buddy comedy of the year in Carol and Sam. Sam, the kid who was shockingly nonplussed at Carol's threat of murder last episode, breaks into Carol's house to ask for cookies. Carol, not needing to play Midwestern Housewife in front of this kid who saw her steal guns, is hilariously brusque to him. Then, when he won't shut up about the cookies, tells him to go steal her some chocolate. He does, and Carol resentfully makes him cookies while he starts asking if he can have a gun and admits he broke his owl statue because he was angry and eventually Carol puts the pieces together. I think we can probably guess that the abused Sam is going to heal Carol much like many a tiny tot has melted the heart of stern authority figures throughout time. I wouldn't mind Carol regaining some of her humanity, although watching her pretend to be Mom of the Year is hilarious.
But here's my problem with "Spend": I really like how The Walking Dead has been using Alexandria to posit Rick and crew as the bad guys for a change, although I've also been assuming that they all would regain bits of their humanity as they spent more time in Alexandria and began to care about their new neighbors. But by making the Alexandrians cowards and wifebeaters — people who actively endanger themselves and our main characters — the story changes from a fascinating look at the malleable nature of good and evil and more about "Holy crap, they need to take over Alexandria before these idiots kill them."
Now Rick and the others would be somewhat justified in taking charge, because they are so much better at… well, pretty much everything. As for the Alexandrians, Rick said they must be incredibly stupid or lucky, but it's obvious now that they've been both, and that the luck is clearly running out. Watching Rick and the group hang on the precipice of becoming the villains they've been fighting all this time is fascinating; watching Rick and the group save a bunch of idiots from themselves is much, much less so.
Anyways, Carol tells Rick about Pete being evil, and nonchalantly reminds him the only solution is to kill him. Now that they're in Alexandria, that's not true, even if Carol doesn't realize it. It'll be interesting to see what Rick does, if his "outside the walls" justice can be tempered by the small beacon of civilization of Alexandria, even if he does want Jessie for himself. It could be a make or break moment for Rick, and one that should be very interesting to see him make.
Although I just realized that the episode title of the finale — in just two weeks! — is "Conquer." So maybe we already know what decision Rick is going to make.
• I'm not sure how I feel about Father Gabriel's little breakdown, but the episode's open, with Gabriel slowly ripping pages out of a Bible and clearly cracking was great. Some seriously fine acting from Seth Gilliam.
• Line of the night, by Abraham: "Mother dick." No context necessary.
• Noah's notebook would have been fine if it had anything written in it other than "This is the beginning." A genuinely useful note, a doodle, even a grocery list — the fact that it was the first line on the first page was more than obvious enough, TWD.
• Oh, I forgot to mention that right before he dies, Aidan confesses to Glenn that the reason those three people in his raiding party died isn't because they panicked, its because Aidan and Nicholas panicked. NO FUCKING DUH, BRO.
• Anyone got any idea why this episode was titled "Spend"?