This week continued to explore the interesting notion that Rick, Daryl, Carol and the rest are too damaged by what they’ve been through in the post-zombie hellscape to ever assimilate into a “normal” society again; last week Carol graphically threatened a child who caught her stealing back some of the group’s firearms, and this week Rick seemed to be considering killing a dude so he could steal his wife even before the guy was suspected of being an abuser.
But is Alexandria a society this group would even want to really assimilate with? They are not exactly bursting at the seams with valor, as we see them leaving each other to the wolves (the wolves in this case being zombies) throughout this episode. “I’m not combat ready,” Eugene insisted; “I’m not even combat-inclined.” But when the chips were down Eugene showed a lot more nerve in helping to save Tara than Alexandria’s finest, as did Abraham and Glenn and Noah, who unfortunately suffered the bloody (very bloody) consequences of Nicholas' cowardice.
The New York Times' Jeremy Egner breaks down the show’s grisliest death of the season:
The first clue that Noah was done for should have been his opening scene, when he was talking to Reg the therapist-builder about his future. (There’s no future in “The Walking Dead”!) You’re in it for the long haul, aren’t you? Reg says. Write it all down. Well, I have some good news and some bad news … Noah wasn’t the most popular survivor, at least judging from some of our commenters – many marked him for death this season and didn’t seem particularly distraught about it, especially after he led Tyreese to his own end a few episodes back. But I liked him. His physical frailty offered an inherently moving counterpoint to the more “heroic” survivors, of course, but Tyler James Williams didn’t lean on the limp. He brought a nice sensitivity to the role and was often more relatable than his samurai sword- and assault rifle-wielding cohorts. Despite the misery of losing his family and others, Noah’s sense of hope seemed intact even before the writers amped it up for maximum effect in his talk with Reg. Which is probably why the show opted to tear him apart in such symbolically graphic fashion.Over at Entertainment Weekly, Kat Rosenfield heralds the episode’s return of Father Gabriel:
“You made a mistake letting in the others,” he tells Deanna. “Rick, his group, they’re not good people. They’ve done things, they’ve done unspeakable things.” Of course, Deanna knows this: “They survived,” she replies. “That’s what makes them assets.” But Gabriel isn’t swayed. He insists that Rick and his friends, the same people who saved Gabriel’s miserable life just a few short episodes ago, are dangerous and untrustworthy. “The day will come when they put their own lives before yours and everyone else’s,” he says. “And they will destroy everything you have here.” That’s quite the annunciation coming from Gabriel — who, as we all know, is no angel. But what is he playing at? Is this a strategic move against the group, because he fears they’ll reveal the truth about what happened to his previous flock? Is it pure old-fashioned lunacy, the byproduct of too much time spent alone with only God to talk to and the dead knocking at his door? Or does he truly know something about Rick Grimes’ killer nature, and where it’s likely to lead?Alan Sepinwall at HitFix thinks the show is suffering from trying to service too many characters:
On the whole, though, “Spend” felt uneven because it was trying to attend to a whole lot of characters and stories that had been underfed for a while. When Deanna wondered why crazy Father Gabriel hadn’t come to her sooner with his objections to Rick’s group, for instance, all I could think of was how little time Seth Gilliam has even been on-camera in these 2015 episodes. For this betrayal to be surprising, or even interesting, would first require him to have had at least one meaningful interaction with anyone in the group in recent memory, and he’s barely been an afterthought until tonight. Abraham struggling to let go of his demons in peace time — and finally finding himself again in the heat of combat — played better because the show hadn’t quite forgotten Michael Cudlitz exists, but even Eugene finding his reserves of courage to protect Tara suffered from how little he’s had to do or say since Abraham nearly beat him to death. Compare those people to, say, Carol, who has remained prominent throughout this season and had many opportunities to remind us of who she used to be, which made her realization that Pete is beating his wife (and possibly his son) all the more powerful. It’s a big cast to deal with, especially when there has to be room for at least one or two zombie set pieces per episode, but “Spend” was a reminder of which characters the show has always treated as important (Rick, Carol, Glenn) and which ones are brought to the forefront only when convenient.
The A.V. Club’s Zach Handlen sees a lot of potential in the developing Alexandria storyline:
Carol, though… she’s more pragmatic. And so is Rick. Which makes their conversation at the end of the episode about Jessie’s husband Pete so interesting; about how Pete has been beating his wife and maybe his son; and about how Carol knows that there’s really only one way to answer this question. As tense and awful as the stuff on the supply run was, for my money, the scenes at home were equally compelling. We’ve seen swarms of walkers before, and we’ve seen the damage they can do. What we haven’t seen is Rick trying to decide if he’s going to wait for what he wants—or if he’s just going to take it.And Variety’s Laura Prudom hopes this episode doesn’t squander the potential of the Alexandria storyline:
Following two of the most fascinating and well-constructed episodes in “The Walking Dead’s” run so far, “Spend” felt like a regression of sorts — both by returning to the overused well of killing a new and still underutilized character, and by spending much of the hour with part of our group trapped in an enclosed space full of zombies after some easily avoidable mishap, which seems to be the show’s preferred method of thinning the herd of regulars since it happens at least twice a season (it was the same setup for how Bob got bitten, lest we forget). “TWD” established a new paradigm with Alexandria by actually introducing a refuge full of all-too human survivors (some good, some bad, all flawed, but none with the same Machiavellian leanings as the Governor or the Termites), so I’m currently far more fascinated by the political maneuvering and thorny character dynamics between Rick’s gang and the Alexandrians than in spending extended periods waiting for one of our characters to get ripped to shreds by walkers. I don’t expect the show to abandon its schlocky roots altogether (the series is called “The Walking Dead,” after all), but since the overarching theme of the season post-Terminus seemed to be that humans are a far greater threat than the walkers, that’s the arc I want to delve into, which is why “Remember” and “Forget” felt far more narratively effective, building tension without needing to rely on jump-scares and gore to pack a punch.