Editor’s note: this review of AMC’s The Walking Dead will contain some spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but they’re be there nonetheless. You’ve been warned.
While not a lot really happen in this weeks The Walking Dead, it did focus on two characters I find extremely interesting: Dwight and Eugene. It also gave us a bit more insight into what the society of the Saviors is like. I’m calling that a big win.
We’ll start with Eugene, since his story was a little more static than Dwight’s. You may recall that poor Eugene was kidnapped back before the mid-season break, right after the failed assassination attempt on Negan. I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but this was actually a pretty clever move on the writers’ part. It gives us another look at the Saviors, but this time with a much less confident and capable person than Daryl.
Let me get this out of the way: I like Eugene. I think he’s a great character. I love his ridiculous haircut, and his cargo shorts, and the cadence of his speech. He’s one of the more interesting and fully formed people on the show. A big part of that is the fact that he isn’t capable of protecting himself, and has to keep himself safe in other ways, generally by aligning himself with one of the stronger characters. He’s also got some secrets, particular in just what his education and job history was before the zombie apocalypse. He talks a big game, but it’s obvious that he’s lying. Despite that, he is quite knowledgeable, so there’s at least some truth in his story. He’s an intriguing character.
Because of all this, Eugene isn’t out of his element for too long in the Saviors’ camp. Sure, he’s scared out of his mind, but the rapidity at which he becomes comfortable is absolutely hilarious. One second he’s cowering and crying, the next he’s putting in an order for food and rejecting the potato chips because they’re kettle style.
The big thrust of the episode is how Eugene connects with Negan’s wives, who attempt to manipulate him into making poison for them. They claim that it’s for one of them to take her own life, but Eugene quickly sees through that to suss out that they’re secretly trying to murder Negan. I loved seeing how they’re efforts at first seemed to work on him, but quickly lost effectiveness as Eugene became more comfortable with his surroundings. By the end of the episode he had cast them off, and immediately declared that he was Negan.
Dwight’s story, on the other hand, was much darker. When the episode started, I assumed that we’d be getting two different timelines, one more or less in the present focused on Eugene, and one set slightly in the past focusing on Dwight, ending with his death. I’m glad to say that I was completely wrong about this.
Of course, things don’t work out great for Dwight. Negan isn’t happy about Daryl escaping, so he has Dwight beaten and thrown into the solitary cell for a bit. Dwight’s ex-wife is also missing, and Negan quickly connects the dots. He gives Dwight the chance to make things right, though, sending him off to track down the missing woman.
Dwight immediately head’s to their old house, where he finds a note from his ex-wife apologizing for turning him into the man his is now. It also makes several references to memory issues that Dwight apparently suffers from, which was interesting, but didn’t play out in any meaningful way. We’ll see if it comes up again later on.
Dwight uses this time to take a measure of himself, and completely break from his old life. He smokes his last cigarette, stained with lipstick, presumably from his ex. He leaves the beer and pretzels her note suggested he would forget, and he let’s her go.
Not only does he let her go, he sets up the Savior’s doctor to take the fall by leaving a scrap of her note in his office for Negan to find, and concocting a story of how she confessed that the doctor helped her escape before she was killed by zombies.
Negan uses this for another gruesome public execution, but it seems like he doesn’t actually believe Dwight’s story. He simply accepts it as a means of turning the man into a loyal soldier.
Dwight and Eugene are both changes by the episode’s end, but in different ways. The pacing of The Walking Dead can be frustratingly slow at times, but episodes like this make it worthwhile.
I’m curious as to how much Eugene has “become Negan,” whether it’s a survival ploy or an earnest change of loyalty. I would’ve expected the survival ploy more from Daryl, especially since Negan liked him, making it seem like he wanted a new lieutenant to replace Dwight, but he never buckled and managed to escape otherwise.
I was shocked by the doc’s punishment, but I guess he hadn’t been a die-hard Negan fan, and Negan was looking for a way to get rid of him, and also set an example for not being loyal enough. It probaby didn’t hurt his decision that he has a spare doctor in Eugene, tho now he’ll need to prove himself as a capable medic.
I noticed that Eugene made up the poison capsules, then changed his mind about giving them the Negan’s wives, seeing thru their plot, but he still has them, ready for someone else, if he deems their death necessary.
I’m curious why you’d expect it more from Daryl. I know he’s a survivor, but he seems more of a rugged independent, versus Eugene who is very, very dependent on others for his safety.
I would’ve expected Daryl to snatch it up, as a part of his plan to escape, getting into a better position to jump when opportunity presented itself, insteam of being stubborn and staying in his cell.
Interesting how we view that aspect of the character so differently. I can definitely see your perspective, but it doesn’t quite fit my mental image of Daryl.
Certainly after last week’s episode, Daryl cemented his character as a dyed-in-the-wool D&D ranger, with neutral good alignment. He seemed unsure about Richard’s plan to start a battle with the Saviors, especially when it involved setting up “some old woman living by herself,” but when he found out it was Carol, he about came unglued, ready to protect her.
Awesome episode… Moving the lines while developing characters… Brilliant!
I just love the way how Negan sees value in Eugene when Rick and Cie only saw a dead weight to carry because that’s what good guys do.
This way the show focus on how smart Negan is while you suddenly find yourself thinking, my goodness, Rick and his people didn’t care much for this guy after all… Anyway you wanna root for Eugene LOL.
I’m glad they took time to give Dwight more depth, I was still asking myself what was his potential.
Well it seems that this episode really shaked the power ranking! Eugene and Dwight both climbing the ladder of the most interesting characters…. Beware Carol, Michone, Carl… You won’t see them ( and I’ll throw in Gabriel in the mix too) coming!
“I just love the way how Negan sees value in Eugene when Rick and Cie only saw a dead weight to carry because that’s what good guys do.”
This is a really, really interesting point. I wonder how much of that speaks to the Rick and Neagan’s intent. Rick is primarily focused on scavenging and survival; he largely ignored Eugene’s talk about argiculture (I can’t recall the specifics, sorghum perhaps?). Negan, on the other hand, seems to be thinking of conquest and growth.
Another point to consider is that Negan didn’t have the same experience with Eugene conning him for months with lies about a cure.
It’s like a baseball deal…
Eugene changing team, all the fans are happy he is leaving town, because you know he wasn’t producing, wasting salary flexibility and taking a roster spot…
All a sudden in his new team he looks like a fearsome hitter, new coach excited to have him because he sees his potential…
But it’s only Spring Training… What will happen during the season?
Holy crap that’s a great analogy.
As a Mariners fan I can tell you I know a lot about spring training hopes LOL
Absolutely love the direction the show is going now.
I am really surprised at how Negan is behaving around Eugene.
I am equally surprised at how Eugene played off trying to be a doc. It’s an unneeded ploy considering he had the room and safety before he used that lie. One would think his ammunition ability alone would have saved him which it seemingly had. I don’t see what exactly he lie bought him. There is no gain. Zero. This is confounded by the fact that he’ll be exposed in a short time.
This show can be infuriating but it certainly never ceases to dissapoint over time.
“I don’t see what exactly he lie bought him. There is no gain. Zero. This is confounded by the fact that he’ll be exposed in a short time. ”
You know I didn’t really notice that until you brought it up, and it’s an excellent point (although didn’t he say he had a PhD instead of an MD?). I read it as one of Eugene’s base character flaws. He gets rolling on a lie or a brag (or some combination thereof) and can’t stop himself. I imagine his story to Abraham had similar beginnings.
That’s a good point about the character flaw. Just a compulsive liar.
As for the PhD…I could have sworn that he said something like “that basically makes me a Doctor”. I need to rewatch it. I’m very curious and I now think this episode is pivotal.
Hrmm, that does sound familiar.