There is so much to unpack in this episode. That’s true of most episodes of The Walking Dead, but this one is particularly coded meaning. However, “Spend” starts off with in a very straightforward way.
We see Father Gabriel in the town’s abandoned church looking at the bible. As he stands there, reading it with what we think is reverence, he begins to tear out the pages. First the pages come out one by one in jagged strips, but then he rips out a quarter of the book all at once.
This show touched on religion with Hershel, but we never got into the darkness and despair that pious people might feel during a time like this. Hershel had already recovered his faith by the time we met him. Seeing Father Gabriel struggle with his is something worth exploring.
Noah meets with Deanna’s husband, Reg, to discuss reinforcing the walls. It turns out, Noah’s into suburban planning. He’s not into government, but he wants to be a caretaker of this place. He sees the potential for safety in Alexandria, but he’s also realistic.
Noah: “I wanna make sure those walls stay up.”
Reg: “You think they could fall?”
With that line, we all know exactly where this episode is going to go.
The power grid is on the fritz, so Noah, Glenn, Eugene, Tara, Aiden and Nicholas go out for a run to find the supplies they need to fix it.
Eugene is terrified and resents that he’s outside of the walls. He still doesn’t realize that his brains make him indispensable to the group. He’s one of the few people in the town smart enough to know what they need to fix the power. He’s not as inadequate and irrelevant as he believes he is.
Per usual, there are zombies. This episode delivers a few jump and scare moments while our group searches an abandoned building. It’s par for the course, so you think it’s routine, but then something completely unexpected happens: One of the zombies is a soldier. Aiden waits until it gets close that he can take it down. He starts to fire just as Glenn realizes there walker is armed with grenades. They explode before anyone can seek cover.
Tara is severely injured and while the others go to rescue Aiden, who’s been impaled, Eugene vows to protect her. Despite his normal cowardice, I believe he will do anything to protect Tara. She’s the only one in the group that he believes values and respects him. Eugene would die to preserve that.
Back in Alexandria, Abraham is part of a construction team expanding the wall. They are soon attacked by zombies. Francine is accidentally shot down from her spot as the lookout. The Alexandrians want to leave her as fodder for the zombies, but Abe runs to her rescue. Leaving people behind is unthinkable to our group, even if it’s someone they barely know.
He takes the lead in fighting the zombies with his bare hands while the rest of the them fall back and fire rounds at the walkers.
Later, the crew’s foreman, Tobin, tells Deanna that he wants to step down and that Abe take his place. Renovating the wall is dangerous and Abe has the courage and leadership skills to handle it.
I should note that Maggie is at Deanna’s side during this meeting and all others in this episode. She’s already serving as the leader’s trusted advisor.
Outside of the town, Nicholas wants to leave Aiden behind, which is logical. When someone is impaled, you aren’t supposed to remove the object unless you can treat the wound immediately. They might cause more damage in the process. Even if the removal is clean, it is more than likely he will bleed out.
Just like Abraham, Glenn and Noah refuse to leave. Despite their best efforts, they are unable to get him free and Aiden insists that they leave him. He sacrifices himself so that the rest of them can escape.
Aiden’s death is graphic. The camera doesn’t pan away. We get a clear shot of the zombies eating him alive.
Aiden is not the only sacrifice of this run.
Nicholas can only think about running, which is very different from thinking about survival. He puts himself directly in harm’s way. In an attempt to rescue him, Glenn, Noah and Nicholas get stuck in a revolving door surrounded by zombies. Eugene pulls up in the van blaring loud music to distract the walkers.
Nicholas refuses to wait for Glenn to break the door’s glass. He pushes the door open and runs, exposing Glenn and Noah to the zombies.
Noah does not make it.
What we see is more brutal than anything I believe we’ve ever seen on this show. We don’t simply see the zombies eat Noah, we see them rip him apart. We watch as they tear his jaw away from his head.
We don’t see this for the gore factor. We see it so that we understand Glenn’s horror, as he falls to the ground helplessly watching his friend be eaten alive. We need to feel what he feels.
We need this reminder, so that we understand the choices that some of our characters are about to make.
When Glenn finally gets to safety, he doesn’t kill Nicholas. He punches him a few times, but then puts him in the fan and drives back to the town.
In Alexandria, Jessie’s husband Pete drunkenly show’s up at Rick’s house offering him a beer. It’s an awkward scene that is clearly meant to be a veiled “stay away from my wife” warning. Instead, all it tells Rick is that Pete is weak and in no way a rival for Jessie’s affection.
Sam, Jessie’s son, ends up at Carol’s house looking for cookies. She tells him that if he wants the cookies that he has to steal a chocolate bar from Olivia. Carol is turning this sweet boy into a little hoodlum. When he returns with the chocolate, Carol tries to maintain her gruff exterior. She tells him she’s never making these for him again and that she does not want to talk while they bake. He pushes her to talk anyway and her maternal instinct comes out whether she likes it or not.
Both Carol and Sam can read each other. He may have been scared the night of the party, but he’s quickly realized that she’s not a villain. She’s a warrior and warrior is what he needs.
He asks her if he can have one of her guns. He says it’s not for him, but refuses to say who it’s for. Carol, a former battered wife, immediately understands.
Pete is a dead man.
Later, Carol tells Rick about Peter beating Jessie and Sam.
“I know how this is gonna go with Pete, there’s only one way it can go. You’re gonna have to kill him.”
This is why we needed those graphic scenes. We know that the people of Alexandria are runners. They run from any type of trouble. Alexandria is the kind of town that would consider an abusive husband a “family problem.”
Our survivors are not runners. They’ll stare death in the face, perhaps to the detriment of their own psyche. But that is what makes them protectors. That is what makes them warriors. That is what will cause them to stand up for Jessie, when the rest of the town will not.
Meanwhile, Father Gabriel goes to Deanna to tell her that the devil is in Alexandria.
“I’m afraid that false light is here, inside these walls.”
He says that she made a mistake letting in the others. He tells her that Rick’s group is not good. He doesn’t know is that Maggie is listening from the stairwell. She looks betrayed and sad.
Deanna responds with,
“To make it out there as long as they did, they must have done things. They survived.”
Gabriel continues to tell her that they are dangerous and that they will destroy the town.
He is clearly having a breakdown. His eyes are wild and his voice is desperate. He needs someone to blame for all of this death. He blamed God in the opening of the episode. He tried to throw away his faith by tearing out the pages of the Bible. Blaming that savior didn’t help. His mind’s next move is to blame the saviors who rescued him from the solitude of his church.
I don’t know how much Deanna believes him. Right now, I don’t think she believes him at all, but if Rick and Carol decide to kill Pete on their own, the walls of Alexandria will cave in.
The Alexandrians are willing to ignore and run from pain. Our group isn’t. That’s what this episode comes down to. Our survivors are willing to do anything to protect the members of their community. They will risk their own lives to rescue one individual and they will kill to keep one member safe, even if it will cave in the metaphorical walls.
Does this make them brave or dangerous? Perhaps it makes them both. But it’s an easy slip from hero to villain. It looks like Rick and Carol are already sliding. Will Glenn come back equally as scarred?
What do you think and hope will happen? Will our group tear down the walls of Alexandria or will they strengthen them?
(Remember to keep comic book spoilers out of the comments.)