Warning: Spoiler Alert!
Turn back now if you haven’t seen this week’s episode.
Eugene’s Wild Ride
This week was the third deep dive of the season into the Savior’s home base, Sanctuary. The first Daryl’s captivity, the second Carl’s tour, and now “Dr.” Eugene’s welcome into the upper-echelons of Savior society. It was fun seeing Eugene brought in hooded as if for his execution only to arrive at a clean room with plenty of amenities and asked what he wanted to eat. Choices, beautiful choices! It was also appropriate that he turned the stereo on and it immediately began playing “Easy Street,” the song that played Groundhogs Day style in Daryl’s episode. Except maybe happy days really were here for Eugene; the irony of Daryl listening to it from his cell floor was gone. Instead, Eugene got a fully-stocked fridge, books, and a huge jar of pickles.
Negan’s brutality was never far from the surface, however, no matter how many unlabeled beers were thrown his peoples’ way. The juxtaposition of Eugene pushing the lock mechanism on his door with Dwight’s own door being kicked in and him being beaten was excellent. The Saviors represent the illusion of security. Push that little lock all you want, but Negan’s wrath could come for you at any time.
Speaking of Negan’s wrath, Dwight was on the receiving end for allowing Daryl to escape on his watch. This is the second Dwight-centric episode of the season, and again Austin Amelio did a fantastic job portraying a man caught hopelessly in the middle. We had to watch as he took the initial blame and punishment for the escape, then got put on assignment to track down and re-capture their escaped wife Sherry while solving the mystery of who set Daryl free.
More layers were added as we saw Dwight track Sherry down to their pre-zombie apocalypse home. There we saw an iconic Walking Dead visual: the photograph from before everything went to hell. This was the picture on Volume 1 of the comics: Days Gone Bye. A bittersweet reflection of a happier time.
At his home, Dwight confirms Sherry was the one who had released Daryl. He also discovers a lengthy letter to him expressing Sherry’s regret for pushing him into becoming “Negan.” She had made a bargain with the devil and couldn’t live with the consequences. She seemed sure she would die in the wild, but death was better than life under Negan (a similar theme in the other wife sub-plot with the request for assisted suicide).
Dwight bringing beer and pretzels with him to his old home seemed to confirm that he had no intention of bringing his wife back. He always had a rebellious streak, including his initial escape attempt when he first met Daryl. Which brings us to another point: Why has Negan continued to rely on Dwight as one of his most trusted lieutenants? Is it terrible managerial skills or is he just a petty despot who gets a thrill out of bringing rebellious men to their knees (see, e.g. Rick). My bet is on the latter. Negan seems to love humiliating those who oppose him. But will this hubris lead to his downfall? Dwight seems completely uncommitted to the cause now, especially with his wife no longer in danger at Negan’s side.
Dwight’s betrayal of the doctor was pointed. What does he have to gain by lying, Negan asked the doctor. Weakening you, Negan, was the correct answer. Now the Saviors will have to rely on “Dr.” Eugene to keep them healthy. Speaking of which…
“Dr. Eugene” in the Same Sense as “Dr. Phil”
Eugene was backed into a corner by Negan, who had made some pretty big assumptions about Eugene’s skill set based on his ability to craft a single bullet. When surrounded, we know Eugene has a history of fabricating an epic back story to elevate his importance and make himself indispensable. Just ask Abraham’s caved-in skull.
So Eugene came up with a badass plan to keep the defensive walkers around by smelting them to the chain-link fence. Negan loved the theatrics and originality, and so he bought into “Dr. Eugene’s” story about working on the Human Genome Project. Uh huh.
So far it seems to be working. Eugene got an evening (or two) with some of Negan’s wives. He got to play video games, eat popcorn, and chat with lovely ladies. Easy street indeed! Of course, we all know the hollow shell beneath Eugene’s surface. He has some metal-crafting and chemistry skill, but no medical qualifications that we know about. This wouldn’t have been so bad if Dwight didn’t immediately get the only other actual doctor executed as another act of rebellion. Hope no one comes in with a broken bone or bullet wound, Dr. Eugene. Those lollipops are only going to go so far.
We Are Negan
There were several great moments in this week’s episode. Negan coming to Eugene and making his big ask. Eugene didn’t even need to hear the question before he blurted out that he is Negan, has always been Negan, and was just waiting for Negan to show him. In some ways, putting on this mask is where Eugene is most comfortable. It gives him a layer of aloof intellectual cover to hide from his terrible soundings. Supervising workers smelting zombies to a fence while eating a pickle and having a toy stick out of his pocket. This is the senseless lunacy where Eugene has found himself.
Dwight, however, seems less sure of his role. Standing together outside in the final shot of the episode (the first time the two have been on-screen together), Eugene turns to him. “We are Negan,” he says. Dwight gives him a slightly horrified look. “Yeah,” he answers weakly. Cut to black. It was an effective way to draw the distinction and outline the conflict these two men face in the organization and with Negan.
“Hostiles and Calamities” was another excellent Walking Dead episode that focused on a few key characters in a key locale. We learned more about Eugene, Dwight, and the near-feudalistic system which Negan rules over. Nothing felt extraneous or unimportant (with the slight exception of the wifely aborted assassination plot [a test to measure Eugene’s loyalty or actual Negacide attempt?]). It was an episode that demanded you watch from start to finish.
Photos by Gene Page/AMC