The Walking Dead

A major power struggle is a-brewin' in Alexandria, and for once, it may be Rick and (some of) his people who are on the wrong side of the equation. This week's episode of "The Walking Dead," entitled "Spend," made it clear that the community was not without its flaws: Jessie is almost certainly being abused by her husband, Pete; Deanna's son, Aiden (the a-hole who nearly got his search party killed a couple weeks ago), and his pal, Nick, prove that they're every bit the jerks we thought they were by confessing that they abandoned four people to be eaten simply because they got spooked; construction foreman Tobin nearly lets one of his workers get devoured by an oncoming horde (before Abraham mercifully and badassedly steps in) simply because that's just protocol.

But for all Alexandria's faults, it seems that the settlement isn't exactly Woodbury or Terminus, either -- at least, it doesn't appear to be. Father Gabriel believes the place is paradise, but I wouldn't go that far just yet. As his conversation with Deanna at episode's end proves, there's still quite a bit we don't know about either side's motivations -- and Deanna doesn't look like the type to take a fledgling coup lying down. It's unclear how far she'll go to assert her power over Rick and the rest of his people, but I'm betting she's got a sharp set of claws waiting to break out from under her calm and cool facade.

Much like last week's installment, there were a lot of little character moments packed into this episode, the meaning of which I suspect will become clearer as we get closer to the season finale. While the main action revolved around the search party (made up of Eugene, Tara, Glenn, Noah, Nick, and Aiden) and their treacherous attempt to attain supplies to fix Alexandria's power grid, I think that the scenes that played out between Deanna and Gabriel and Carol and Rick and are what will power the plot moving forward.

Rick seems to have picked one of the worst love triangles in which to insert himself, since Pete appears to be both very dangerous and very perceptive of the constable's crush on his wife. His taunt that in the grand scheme of things, Jessie's ruined owl sculpture isn't that important, especially since Rick lost his wife, really rubbed me the wrong way -- a means for Pete to hint that he knows exactly why Rick was helping Jessie, doesn't care at all about his wife's silly hobbies, and thinks Rick's job (and Rick himself) is a joke. Score one in the passive-agressive war for the not-so-good doctor. (Speaking of Pete's medical background, he reminds Rick of the need for a checkup, and also inquires about when Rick will bring Carl and Judith for an appointment, too. Perhaps to measure their BMI and cross-reference it with Alexandria's copy of "Cannibal Cooking for Dummies"?)

Carol inserts herself into Rick's storyline through her connection to Sam, the little tyke (and Jessie and Pete's youngest son) who she blackmailed with cookies -- and the very real threat of abandonment/zombie devouring -- last week. Apparently learning nothing from Carol's pants-wettingly terrifying threats, Sam sneaks into Carol's house in search of the confections, and is caught red-handed. He tries to explain why he's there -- he wants cookies, he's bored because his power is out and he can't work on his owl statue with his mom -- and Carol just completely shuts him down in the most bitchy, awesome way possible. "None of these are my problems, Sam. I don't care. Get out." The kid can't take a hint and begs her to make more cookies. She's as sharp with him as possible, and still he won't leave, pestering her until she agrees to whip up another batch -- but he needs to steal some more chocolate (and get an extra bar for her to eat, too). "And if you get caught or say anything, you're not going to like what happens," she warns him, showing shades of her speech from last week.

Somehow, Sam doesn't see this as a sign that he should stop negotiating with the woman who wanted to toss him out as zombie food, and returns later with the promised candy bars. Carol continues to snap at and scold him (he's not leaving with more than half the cookies since he "barely did half of all the work," he tries to chat until she abruptly interrupts him, "Sam, we're not talking"), but eventually the kid engages her. He admits he ruined the owl statue, because he breaks stuff when he's sad, and asks Carol why she took the guns before asking if he could have one. "It's not for me," Sam says, and it clicks with Carol that maybe it's more than broken owls and a lack of power that have driven the child from his house.

After a futile attempt to speak to Jessie (Pete answers the door and shoos her away), Carol rushes to Rick's place to explain her discovery, and make a startling declaration: Rick is going to have to kill Pete. "I know how this is gonna go," she explains. "There's only one way it can go." But while Rick killing Shane back in season two made sense, since Shane was actively attempting to off the sheriff's deputy, Pete's demise may be a trickier pill for others to swallow.

That's certainly the kind of abhorrent behavior that Gabriel was alluding to in his conversation with Deanna, in which he implores Alexandria's leader to come to her senses and realize that Rick and co. are pure evil -- and they can't be trusted for any reason. Sure, Rick and Carol are up to some subterfuge, but how would Gabriel know that? He's proven himself to be unstable in the past (shutting out his parishioners; rushing off without notice and straight into a pack of zombies), so viewers know that his judgment is suspect. But Deanna doesn't. Will the onetime congresswoman be swayed by the opinions of a man of the cloth? I have to assume so.

Deanna's mounting distrust of Rick's group will surely only be heightened when she discovers that her son has died while off on a run with several members of the constable's gang. And fellow jerkface Nick, whose foolish actions caused Noah to be eaten right in front of a horrified Glenn, and who also tried to hijack the van and abandon Glenn and Eugene, will no doubt continue his crazed cowardice and insist that he did nothing wrong, and that it was the others who were at fault for Aiden's death. (Which could have been prevented, by the way, if Aiden had just listened to Glenn and STOPPED SHOOTING THE ZOMBIE WEARING ARMOR. How thick can you get? Between that and his eagerness to string up walkers that had done him wrong, I say a hearty good riddance to that guy.)

The ramifications of all these events are set to come to a head in a major way, and I'm both terrified and excited. This season is going to end with some serious bloodshed -- but at least it won't be boring.

Other thoughts:

- Poor, poor Noah. He lives long enough to make it back to his home, then sees it completely destroyed and loses a close friend in Tyreese; he finally grows a backbone, some shooting skills, and some hope for the future, and is promptly thrown under the bus (and into a horde of flesh-tearing zombies) by a near-stranger. I'd say his death will have a deep impact on the rest of the group, but who am I kidding? Both Beth and Ty bit the dust and barely anyone cared after a week. Noah, the newest member of the group, will probably get a nice burial plot out back and completely forgotten within the first five minutes of next week's episode. (If that.)

- Speaking of Noah's demise, how about the gall of Nick, huh? I'm still furious that Glenn and Eugene let him live. It seems that they're taking him back to settle things with Rick and Deanna at Alexandria. But there's no way Deanna will agree that they should kill him, right? And what if Tara dies? That was Aiden's fault, but I'm betting that the others place the blame for that on Nick's shoulders, too, since his equally-terrible friend isn't alive anymore to take the fall.

- While Tara's life is indeed hanging in the balance, I must admit that really don't care whether she lives or dies. Try as the writers might, I just cannot invest myself in her storyline. (Naturally, this means that she will outlive everyone else on the show.)

- Abraham feels confined (and showing signs of PTSD?) in Alexandria, until he acts a hero and saves poor Francine from certain death at the hands of a group of zombies encroaching on a construction site from which the community is salvaging scrap metal. Tobin asks his men to fall back as Francine tumbles, meekly explaining that they just can't handle the horde; Abe, never meeting a challenge (or a pansy) for which he wasn't a match, starts swinging at the oncoming walkers with an axe, taking them down by hand, one by one. He impresses the crew and promptly takes over the site, instructing everyone to get back to work. Tobin eventually caves, and later goes to Deanna to resign his post, telling her that Abe should be the man in charge.

- Of course, this troubles Deanna, who confides in Maggie (who's sitting in on these meetings, for some reason) that she's worried about how it will look to the rest of the Alexandrians that yet another member of Rick's crew has been assigned to a position of power, despite their newness to the community. "It's becoming a pattern," Deanna muses. "We know what we're doing," Maggie insists. " ... You wanted a future. You need us for that."

- That was before Gabriel busted in with his warnings about Rick's group representing Satan in disguise, though. Deanna may be wary of the preacher's crazed rantings, but the knowing look she shared with Reg after assigning Abraham Tobin's post spoke volumes about her skepticism. It's been stoked in a major way, and now Father Stokes is making things worse. "The day will come when they'll put their own lives before yours, and everyone else's. And they will destroy everything you have here," he warns her. "I have a lot to think about," Deanna replies. The game is on.

Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC