The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 14
Written by Matthew Negrete
Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on AMC
The great Metal Owl caper this week is not worthy of all the discussion it has received. But that said, “Spend” does put the side characters to use with immense effectiveness, with one story leading to a horrible death. Meanwhile, Rick is devising ways to get past a perfect stranger to the stranger’s gorgeous wife by investigating a metal owl.
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More and more, Alexandria is bursting at the seams, as the writers of “The Walking Dead” begin exploring its dark legacy. Alexandria has something to hide, and it’s the fact that its walls were built around cowardice. “Spend” invests a lot of its themes on the instance of cowardice, and how choosing it as a lifestyle invariably takes a toll on people and those around them.
Much of what happens with Glenn and co., as well as Abraham, makes for some of the best material, while Rick and Carol’s work feels like filler. The episode spends forty five minutes on a frigging owl, just to get around to the fact that Jessie and her son are the victims of domestic abuse. The work with Abraham, however, is straight out of the comic books, and once again Michael Cudlitz handles it like a damn pro. He’s wonderful as Abraham, and gives the character the heavy military devotion that makes him more hero than drone.
He’s relegated to building walls for Alexandria, and isn’t too happy about it, but finds a purpose when he learns that—surprise surprise!—the group building the walls knows diddly squat about handling walkers. This is where we meet Francine, another major supporting player from the comic books, and it’s a thrill seeing Abraham kick some butt while dominating the people around him in a display of solid leadership. The mace kills are the best.
It’s a wonder that Alexandria has survived so long on a power grid, but when that goes out, they send a group along to check it out. The mission is a disaster from the word go, and it’s never clear who is to blame for it. It’s possible Tara may have caused it by being stupid enough to shoot a zombie with body shots that only knock it down, inevitably blowing the group up.
Glenn’s mission to fix the power grid provides some of the tensest moments on the show, and it’s a very well directed series of disasters that is decided thanks to its individual members’ cowardly acts of self preservation. In particular, there are Deanna’s sons, both of whom have had something happen in the past with Alexandria, and who are willing to stick true to their code that they leave their own behind.
If the revolving door of death wasn’t enough, watching poor Noah disintegrate before our very eyes in a hail of walker teeth and nails is a bonafide gut punch that’s really upsetting. Noah was a great character finding his footing in the group, and it really sucks to see him go so tragically, not just by fighting for his life, but begging for Glenn not to let him go before being dragged in to a cluster of walkers.The make up effects for both deaths are remarkable throwbacks to Day of the Dead, with the eye popping and face tearing really bringing back memories of Romero’s masterpiece. Nicotero is usually at the top of his game every episode, but this time around, there seems to be a celebration of traditional effects that isn’t seen often; watching Noah’s face torn to shreds by rotten claws feels like something out of a Fulci film. It’s a punch in the throat in a season filled with punches, and characters that had so much more to offer. As with most performances this episode, Yeun and Williams’ delivery of Noah’s death is both gut wrenching and incredibly disturbing; it would’ve been nice if the audience got to see more of Noah, but The Walking Dead giveth and the The Walking Dead taketh away.
The weak point, as mentioned in the prior paragraphs, is the owl investigation, which leads to roads the viewers are keenly aware of before anyone opens their mouths. The question is, how is Carol going to handle such a situation, given her history with Ed? No matter what happens, there doesn’t seem to be a tidy method of handling the problem, since Alexandria’s laws seem rigid and by the numbers at the moment.
The finale, where Deanna notes that the group is taking over, followed by Gabriel’s insistence that they’re not good people, really seems like pieces are being set up for a major war between Rick’s group and Deanna’s town. No way is Rick going to allow any of them to be exiled any time soon.