“Don’t let go.”
Not just the title of a very good Weezer song, these are also the final words of Noah, the young lad who joined Rick’s group after breaking out of Grady Hospital in Atlanta; the same young lad who became an unwitting bargaining chip in a tense negotiation between Rick and Officer Dawn Lerner, directly leading to Lerner and Beth Greene’s deaths; and the same young lad who broke down and broke rank when returning to his home town and seeing his family torn apart, directly leading to Tyreese dying from a walker bite.
Throughout his short time on the show, the question persisted: Why Noah? Specifically, what does he bring to the table, and why does he get to survive when beloved characters die all around him, if not because of him? With the latest episode of The Walking Dead, called “Spend,” the answer to the first question remains murky, but the second part has a clear resolution: Noah doesn’t get to survive. He’s just another of the many inevitable bodies to drop in this horrible world — and drop in unfathomably nasty fashion, at that.
It’s a cruel end for Noah, who was just beginning to fit into Alexandria after expressing some initial doubts about his ability to gel with the members of this walled-in community. Early in the episode, he tells Reg Monroe, husband of leader Deanna and chief architect of the walls, that he wants to learn everything about maintaining and expanding Alexandria’s boundaries and buildings. Reg is pleased; he hands Noah a notebook and instructs him to write down everything he says, beginning with a simple line: “This is the beginning.”
The beginning of the end, certainly, as a few minutes later, Noah heads out on a supply run with Glenn, Tara, and Eugene, as well as Alexandria veterans Aiden (Reg and Deanna’s son) and Nicholas. Techno music blares throughout the van, mangled lyrics shouting, “You’re going to die.” The writing is on the wall, even if we don’t see it yet.
Next, disaster strikes, as usually happens whenever a largish quantity of characters enter a confined space on The Walking Dead. (See: The food coop from earlier in the season, and the Wal-Mart raid from the season three premiere. Guys, just stay away from dark and scary warehouses, okay? It never works out.) The TL;DR version is this: Aiden accidentally shoots the grenade dangling from a walker’s tactical vest, causing an explosion that knocks out Tara, draws the attention of other zombies, and results in Aiden himself becoming skewered on huge, jutting pieces of shrapnel.
What happens next is an alternate series of heroic and cowardly events: Aiden’s buddy Nicholas panics and leaves Aiden to die, forcing a powerless Glenn and Noah to abandon the man as well; before he dies, Aiden spills his guts to Glenn about having abandoned a friend of his some weeks ago, and then he proceeds to literally spill his guts as walkers tear him apart. Next, Eugene, the Samwell Tarly of The Walking Dead, overcomes his craven ways by throwing Tara over his shoulder and Terminator-ing his way out of the warehouse. Only Glenn, Noah, and Nicholas remain, setting the stage for one of the nastiest Walking Dead moments of them all.
The three men get trapped inside of a glass-door turnstile exit, Nicholas in one section, Glenn and Noah in another. Walkers are on them from outside of the building, as well as the inside. Eugene drives by with his van blasting the techno music, drawing the outside walkers away. But the inside walkers remain a problem. Glenn tries to keep Nicholas calm, attempting to smash through the glass window so they can all escape. But Nicholas, cowardly clown that he is, freaks out some more, and pushes the turnstile so he can escape, forcing Glenn and Noah’s end to open up to the walkers inside the building.
The writing is on the wall, even if we don’t see it yet.
Glenn, obviously and understandably shattered by what he just witnessed, manages to make it back to the van in time to stop Nicholas from killing Eugene and hijacking the vehicle. He, Eugene, and an unconscious Tara and Nicholas hit the road back to Alexandria with the supplies they need, but minus two valuable members of the community, one of them being Deanna and Reg Monroe’s eldest son, the other being someone who could’ve become a surrogate son to Reg. And Nicholas… well, he has some explaining to do.
Or is it Glenn who has explaining to do? At the start of the episode, Father Gabriel Stokes apparently suffers a crisis of conscience, ripping his bible apart after receiving a welcoming present from the religious members of his new community. By the end, we see Gabriel pay Deanna a visit, warning her not to trust Rick and his people.
“They don’t deserve paradise,” he says, after informing her that Rick’s group has done unforgivable things to survive in the world. Unknown to both Gabriel and Deanna, Maggie lurks in a nearby corner, overhearing everything. When Glenn returns to Alexandria without Aiden and with a cowardly, conniving Nicholas, who will Deanna believe? What will happen to Rick once Deanna processes everything? And what will happen to Gabriel once Maggie tells Rick of his betrayal?
For now, Rick has another fish to fry… a fish called Pete. Thanks to Carol, Rick learns that his neighbor Jessie and her son Sam are being physically abused by their drunken husband/father, and Carol sees only one way for Rick to resolve the situation: Pete needs to die. Not even a week here in civilization — in “paradise,” as Gabriel calls it — and we’re already resorting to old, savage measures. If only they were around to hear Noah’s final words: “Don’t let go.” Even then, the advice would probably fall on deaf ears. Even though he’s finally out of the wild, it’s going to take a whole lot more than three simple words to drive the wild out of Rick Grimes.