Television

Published on March 16th, 2015 | by Bean

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The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 14 “Spend” – Review

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WARNING! There may be SPOILERS ahead as we review The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 14…

Leading up to season close can be a tricky proposition in the world of The Walking Dead; it necessarily requires a ramping of tension, which the group’s arrival at Alexandria has begun to facilitate, but that’s an everyday state of being for this show. How you then turn the screw in the episodes preceding it can make or break the success of the finale’s impact. At this stage, on Episode 14 of 16, it’s safe to say the safe haven they were hoping for is beyond anybody’s reach, even those behind walls with beneficent leaders at the helm. As we watch the house of cards start to tumble, it seems the carnage we opened Season 5 with is going to be bookended, and possibly upstaged, by the coming finale.

“Spend” delivers a lot of conflict and two more significant character deaths. Season 5 has so far lost Bob, Beth, Tyreese and now Noah (wait, 75% of those characters are black, wtf?!). I’d made mention before that the unifying characteristic of the first three was their gentle nature, a trait which Noah shared. However, as if to disprove this point, Noah spent the better part of the episode being very handy with a gun and generally making himself bloody useful. So it doesn’t matter in the end? It’s who you surround yourself with that determines your rate of survival.

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The concept of cowardice runs deep in the mythos of The Walking Dead, and it rears its ugly head repeatedly in “Spend”. Eugene is the first to voice his reservations about being sent into the combat zone, having defined himself by his gutlessness earlier in the season. Tara calls him on this cop-out in no uncertain terms, and it’s a point well made; whatever your preferred skill-set, it’s no longer acceptable to depend on others to protect you endlessly, particularly since it takes no account of the times when they may need you to defend them. And not with your ability to write code. It’s a mark of the show’s determination for more rich character arcs that Eugene does progress beyond his own self-imposed limitations, and steps up to save Tara when it counts.
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The people of Alexandria, relatively untested and inexperienced as they are, continue to fail one another; first Aidan’s less-than-loyal pal Nicholas is fully prepared to leave him impaled nearby some ravenous walkers, but more of him later. Elsewhere, there is a distinctly everyone-for-themselves flavour behaviour on the building site where Abraham is lugging corrugated iron. This scene plays out in an interesting way; moments before the obligatory walker-attack, Abraham appears to be pre-cognisant of the impending doom. What I initially read as some sort of ‘can’t take all this normal’ PTSD-style panic attack, in retrospect reads more like a man psyching himself up to go over the top. Abraham has made no bones of loving a good undead-hack-and-slash; there is bloodlust, sure, but it’s more that he thrives on the simplicity of his strength as a warrior. He can depend on it when nothing else makes sense, and more importantly, it means others can in turn depend on him.

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More complicated scenarios arise back in the Safe-Zone, as Rick, Jessie and Pete play out the next stage of their awkward triangle with the latest big case on the mean streets of Alexandria; who broke Sam’s owl statue. Yep, it was Sam, taking out his frustrations from a newly revealed dysfunctional home-life, aaaand now Carol’s involved. Oh jeez. The juxtaposition of the horrors of domestic abuse and several really gruesome deaths is a difficult balance for “Spend” to strike; one is unnaturally quiet, repressed and strangely suburban and the other a noisy, explosive mess of guts. Carol’s judge-jury-but-not-executioner take on the situation is not unexpected, but perhaps lacks the clarity of perspective; the lines drawn in the new world are in danger of disappearing altogether. Also, as worrying as the likely domestic abuse is Doctor Pete’s reminder to “bring the kids in for their check-ups”… There is no way this will resolve well.

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As the outside mission goes to hell, more revelations come to light; the cowardice in Alexandria is endemic. Nicholas reminds Aidan, as the latter squirms in agony impaled on the metal shard, that “You left them. We both did. That’s who we are.” It becomes apparent that he’s referring to the four losses they spoke about on their previous unsuccessful test-run. Aidan expands to Glen, in a death-spike confession, “It was us. The others, before. They didn’t panic. We did, it was us.” Figures. Karma’s a bitch though, and he meets a distinctly classic-Romero evisceration that the camera lovingly lingers over. What follows would be daft if it weren’t so damn tragic; a zombie pile-up inside revolving doors. It sounds neat on paper, but looks ludicrous, and leaves poor old Noah pinned to the glass, with Glen unable to help but forced to witness his monstrous end.

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Maggie overhears the final betrayal, in itself an act of cowardice, as Father Gabriel dobs the group in to Deanna for “doing unspeakable things”. It is clear the clergyman is failing in the battle for his own soul, and his bible-ripping cold open is the bookend to this scene. The laying of blame cannot absolve his own sins, of which he makes no mention, and he omits entirely the groups unwavering bravery and resilience in his diatribe. Thankfully he seems to become less and less credible to Deanna as he repeats himself and spouts Corinthians like it’s evidence. How Maggie deals with the ‘politic’ role she has been assigned could make or break the situation.

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Next week’s penultimate episode has “kick off” written all over it, and it will determine the future of our group in Alexandria. Noah made the ‘blunder’ of planning for that future, in an early scene with Deanna’s architect husband; a future more interested in stability and living like humans than guns, survival and animal instincts. Seems a brutal price to pay for that lesson, but that’s our wheelhouse. The note Reg makes in his book, “This is the beginning”, left space for Noah to contribute beneath, a space now left empty since his untimely demise. Is this a harbinger of the retribution awaiting Glen and co’s upon their arrival back at Alexandria or an irony waiting to happen?

Review by Nina Clark

Appealing this week; Michael Cudlitz chews the scenery and squidgy zombie heads with a makeshift MACE! Yes Abraham.

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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
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