For three weeks now, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop in regard to Alexandria, wondering if the proverbial footwear will wear the face of a distrustful sheriff’s deputy protecting his family at any cost, a rebellious hillbilly refusing to integrate, or a monosyllabic teenage girl sneaking out every day to report to her real tribe. As “Spend” reveals, Carl identified the real threat as soon as he got to the premises: the Alexandrians’ own pampered weakness. Never before on The Walking Dead have we been exposed to such selfish, ineffective nincompoops!
Take, for example, the construction crew to which Abraham is assigned, the way the workers scamper about like decapitated turkeys at the first sign of trouble. One of them even shoots the lookout crane, presumably expecting the ghouls on The Walking Dead to sprout wings or grow six feet during the battle. To their credit, though, Mr Ford’s spontaneous takeover goes smoothly, as the Alexandrians recognise a super-hero when they see one, and the foreman even begs Deanna for an official transfer of leadership. Unfortunately, the mayor’s hesitation in “Spend” reveals her own weakness, as she shows more concern for Alexandria’s pride than its safety.
The woman is a consummate politician, after all, which puts my favourite Korean delivery boy on The Walking Dead in a precarious position, now that her son has sent out his submission for the Darwin Awards. In fairness, I hadn’t noticed the grenades either, but how did Aiden not piece together that the same helmet preventing him from shooting the SWAT zombie in the noggin would also protect him from its bites? At any rate, Deanna will have to decide who to trust between Nicholas and Glenn, and, if “Spend” serves as any indication, things don’t bode well for our heroes.
Of course, the real victim here is Noah, the only character with enough foresight to seek out useful knowledge like how to build and maintain a giant wall crucial to everyone’s survival. Special effects supervisor Greg Nicotero really ups the gore factor for his tragic demise, reminding us of the inherent cruelty of The Walking Dead. As if to pour salt on the wound, “Spend” then filters the entire gruesome sequence through Glenn’s caring eyes. I actually shouted at my television set, waking up my girlfriend who must have wondered who the hell Nicholas is and why he’s a son of a bitch.
Compare the Alexandrian runner (see what I did there?) with Eugene, who views himself as the weakest member of Rick’s group, yet still risks his life for his fellow tribesmen. His sudden burst of courage in “Spend” stems, of course, from his attachment to Tara and her strangely empowering scoldings. In turn, her patience and compassion draw from Glenn’s own support when she felt like the slow kid in the class. This goes to show that strength in The Walking Dead isn’t a matter of survival of the fittest but of culture.
As such, we find ourselves with an unavoidable conflict on The Walking Dead: Rick’s culture of strength and support versus Alexandria’s culture of pride and cowardice. I find it fitting that Gabriel would fight so hard in “Spend” to ensure that he and he alone is accepted in the latter “paradise”, throwing all of his former protectors to the wolves, even the baby and the teenage boy who repeatedly saved his life. Given Carol’s extreme suggestion in regard to domestic abuse (in fairness, this would push all the wrong buttons in her), I can’t imagine what Maggie has in store for the so-called man of God. Once again, though, Deanna reveals her own weakness by failing to ask the most obvious questions:
- What exactly does Gabriel want her to do at this juncture?
- Why didn’t he mention any of this during his initial interview?
- If Rick and the gang are so beneath him, why did he spend so much time with them?
- Why did they let him live?
- Isn’t “putting their own lives before yours and everyone else’s” precisely what the padre is doing now?
I don’t bring up these inquiries as nagging plot holes on The Walking Dead but as evidence of Deanna’s limited judgment as tribe leader. How can our heroes trust a woman so blinded by pride, and how much should they invest, or “Spend”, on a community that panics at the first sign of trouble, overlooks baffling incompetence because of parental lineage, leaves its own behind, and prioritises politics over safety? Alexandria may be a place worth saving, but, like that aforementioned other shoe, its culture is about to hit the ground something fierce.
Death toll so far: thirty-one. I’m going to miss Tyler James Williams.