Eugene is in a real pickle on the latest The Walking Dead

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Feb 27, 2017

Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from The Walking Dead Season 7 episode "Hostiles and Calamities."

Overview: The timeline reverts back to when Eugene was taken by Negan from Alexandria. We see at the Saviors compound, there are repercussions for Dwight in the aftermath of Daryl's escape. And we get to see how Eugene settles into his new reality as Negan's resident smarty-pants.

Highlights

While I'm not a fan of this episode overall, it quickly reminded me of the stellar work that Josh McDermitt does with Eugene. The mullet-headed goofball works because McDermitt somehow imbues a relatable soul into the guy. He's funny and lightens the tension as almost none of the other characters do in the huge ensemble, and that's an important function in a show like this.

As for the character's arc, for the last few seasons we've watched Eugene evolve from a lying weirdo to a lovable coward with very odd social quirks. Instead of just embracing his role as a sniveling coward, Eugene has come into his own by digging deep from time to time to access his inner bravery when needed. He's certainly no Rick or even a Tara when it comes to stepping up, but he's helped in a lot of pinches and protects his own.

Except we now have to question whether that's all in the past now that he's gone full "Negan" along with the rest of the Saviors he's living among. Is it a survival technique to remain alive under the mercurial thumb of Negan's rule, or is embracing his inner coward and liar again finally going to pay off in this kind of society? It's an interesting question to ask about the character based on who we think he is now having lived around heroes like Abraham, Rick and Glenn who all pushed him to be a better man. As Maya Angelou infamously said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time," and in the case of Eugene, we're left to ponder if we can truly trust him ever again. At the very least, the situation sets up an interesting dilemma as a war brews that will most certainly force him to pick sides with his old family or the new crew that thinks he's smart and valuable.

As an aside, Eugene requesting lobster for dinner and settling on pickles was some perfect comedy. Also watching him explain the finer points of the old Atari 2600 game Yars' Revenge to a very disinterested Frankie and Tanya was comedy gold, too.

Lowlights

I'm not that interested in the life and times of Dwight. Didn't we already know that he lost his wife Sherry to Negan's gaggle of wives and sat in solitary many a time before he was broken into being Negan's lap dog? If so, what did it serve to get more details about that process in this episode? His journey back to his old home only provided the context that his wife feels like she forced him to become the man he is now when she volunteered to become a Negan wife to save him from death, or having to kill others. Turns out her plan didn't work in the Saviors world, so she's bolted for life in the wilderness and left him even more alone. We get to see him take his rage out on the smug doctor who tried to lecture him on the benefits of not having a heart by framing the guy for Daryl's escape.

What does that get anyone? Well, it shows that Negan can be duped by Dwight, which I'm sure will be important down the line, but otherwise? Not much. It felt like a whole lot of talking and reflecting this week for little return since I'm not that interested in Dwight as a character that I think the writers want me rooting for his possible redemption.

"Oh S--t!" Moment

Was there one? Okay, I guess it was Negan throwing the doctor into the furnace, but I, for one, saw that coming.

Maybe Eugene refusing to hand over the cyanide pills to Frankie and Tanya was a close second, since he's usually not an aware reader of social manipulation. It was a little chilling when they accused him of being a coward and he replied coldly, "That is a correct assessment." Couple that with him easily declaring himself "Negan" to Negan, with the additional clarification of "I was Negan before I met you, I just needed to meet you properly." All of that is definitely something to give us all pause.

Overall

I'm going to be really surprised if fans express a lot of love for "Hostiles and Calamities," considering not a lot of note happens in this hour. Dwight and Eugene are supporting players and function well in that capacity. Putting the weight of an entire episode on their shoulders and not having them do anything that really counters who we know them to be proves they are best utilized as narrative support. No knock on the fine acting of McDermitt and Amello, but this felt like an episode without much vitality.

What did you think of “Hostiles and Calamities"? Was it an appreciated spotlight on under-served characters, or wheel-spinning?