The Walking Dead 514: ‘Spend’ redeemed Eugene

Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC /

Episode 514 of The Walking Dead: Eugene’s newfound courage

After a few calmer episodes of The Walking Dead, episode 514 explodes with action (in some scenes, somewhat literally). “Spend” introduces the idea that Pete is likely abusing Alexandra Breckenridge’s character, Jessie, and her son, Sam. Although Pete presents a “nice guy” image to Rick, it’s apparent that Pete has become an alcoholic to cope with the loss, or that he struggles with it regardless of the walker plague.

If that’s not enough, Noah ultimately dies in a harrowing scene, while out traveling with Glenn, Tara, Aiden, Nicholas, and Eugene. While that’s interesting enough, Eugene ends up supplying some of this episode’s most interesting moments. Normally, Eugene is nothing but an educated manchild with no survival skills and the personality of a coward. However, when faced with genuine peril, he finally breaks from that pattern and actually does his part.

The Walking Dead: Eugene and Other Themes

We’ll get to Eugene a bit more later, but let’s look at themes that tie into his newfound courage. As stated, this episode also deals with Peter potentially being confronted as an abuser. Just as Rick is poised to rediscover normalcy as a cop for Alexandria, he has a brand new conflict to test his resolve. The Walking Dead has consistently questioned what it means to be a father, to lose one’s faith, and to ruin one’s life with alcohol. Then there’s the other great issue of seeing how far one will go to defend one’s self or a group.

As Father Gabriel seemingly loses his faith in God and Rock’s group, it’s almost like Eugene finds his faith in himself. Before this episode, Eugene seemed mostly emotionally distant and merely accepted that he was devoid of courage and survival skill. When he had others (especially Abraham) to protect him, it didn’t really matter what others thought of him. However, once the walkers are potentially hurting or killing Tara in the warehouse, he finally finds the courage to do what is necessary and right for the group, rather than just for himself.

Nicholas symbolizing the old Eugene?

This episode doesn’t have a more obvious villain like The Governor or Negan. Nor does it center so much around an obvious hero like Rick or Daryl (though Glenn gets a few times to shine. Instead, Eugene pretty much has to face his own cowardice, which is represented by Nicholas. Just as people risked their lives over Eugene’s selfishness and dishonesty, Nicholas was willing to sacrifice Noah (and that’s ultimately what happened).

It’s not that Nicholas is particularly villainous, but he might as well be. In fact, whatever special usefulness he had before gets forfeited when he’s willing to sacrifice others (recall also that Shane rather needlessly sacrificed Otis in season 2, though he wouldn’t regard it is cowardice).

In addition to Eugene demonstrating some courage, he seems to find a purpose for his presence in Alexandria. Sure, he’s not particularly skilled at or interested in fighting, and he might never match the qualities of Rick, but his reasoning abilities and his skills at manipulating people do have some survival potential, obviously..

How “Spend” fits into the big picture

Though this episode has some action and even a major death, it’s not like it focuses on everybody. For example, there is practically no time allotted to Michonne. Still, this is all part of that great, overarching theme of characters caught up in trouble. Whether being stalked by a paranoid former coworker in the woods (Rick and Shane) or offing walkers, the zombie apocalypse isn’t making life easy on our survivors.

Still, Alexandria is not null and void. Life is not on hiatus there, and it does not seem to be operated by a cruel dictator. In fact, the place seems full of people you’d invite to Christmas dinner. Still, this episode suggests that, if people don’t have problems, they’ll eventually make some up on their own. For example, Rick will have to decide if he’s going to be nicer to Jessie’s husband, or will he listen to Carol’s cold advice and ultimately kill him? Either way, the walls are falling once more.

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