There’s a bit of an ease back on the gas pedal for this week’s The Walking Dead, as “Hostiles and Calamities” is all about showing us a different perspective surrounding Negan and the Sanctuary. Those enjoying the move forward with Rick and his 2017 recruitment rounds were forced to deal with a week of Eugene, Dwight and Negan, which had its own sense of momentum. This was a slower episode of the show, but also one that painted the situation with the Saviors in a different light. We may have already known about how this group operates, but there’s now a clearer understanding of what it means to truly be on easy street.
Eugene is indeed on easy street. Following a tension filled introduction picking up around the same time Negan discovers Fat Joey is dead and Daryl has escaped, Eugene is introduced to his new home. Despite misdirect by Bear McCreary’s intense score, it is actually made clear that Negan has plans for Eugene that will benefit him. Rather than isolating Eugene in a room and feeding him dogfood, there is a cozy bed, a stocked refrigerator and even an Atari set up for the towering coward.
Given how clear I’ve been about the use of Negan, here’s an episode that once again plays well with how to use him. Rather than seeing nothing but bloated bluster, the show is informing us of how cunning Negan can be. With this approach, it makes it clear that Negan knows Eugene is not the sort of wild dog that needs to be tamed like Daryl. He knows Eugene can be broken with a mild level of prodding. There’s certainly a level of aggravation the audience will no doubt have in seeing this character treated so well, but you have to wonder how this will all pay off.
I say that because I am legitimately curious is Eugene is really switching over to #TeamNegan or if he’s going for the long con. Credit can actually go to the show’s inability to do a great job with characterization, because this could really go either way. Perhaps I’m reaching and Eugene (who we know can act cowardly) really has turned over. At the same time, we’ve seen this man try to prove himself. Putting him and Dwight (who also has a twisted sense of goodness still in him) together may be leading us in a different direction favoring insurrection.
Building up to the moment where Eugene claims to be nothing but Negan though, there are a good number of scenes that continue to highlight the nerdiness that is this cowardly, mullet-headed man. It allows for some humor, such as a night with some of Negan’s wives that revolves around playing Atari and blowing up latex gloves filled with hydrogen. There’s also the basic understanding that Negan has of this man’s technical know-how. Even if it means Eugene sets himself up for being taken down by bringing up his Human Genome Project lie again, there is a usefulness that Negan sees in this man. One can only wonder how Negan plans to use Eugene’s technical prowess to his advantage.
As all this is happening, there is also the story with Dwight. We learn that Sherry was responsible for Daryl’s escape and Dwight goes after her. It leads to a number of scenes that work okay thanks to the imagery, but left me wanting when it came to the words being said. Part of this is how little care I have for these characters. The show has attempted to flesh them out, so it is not as if this material has come out of nowhere, but I still feel like this should matter to me more than it does. Really, the only thing this storyline helps with is the potential for a future where Dwight presumably steps away from the dark side.
This will be a tough journey though, as one of Dwight’s deeds this week involved setting up the good doctor to take a big fall. It’s another scenario that also properly uses Negan. This is the sort of portrayal that worked best in the comics. It’s separate from Rick and entirely about how a man asserts his power in this place. Rather than make wild threats and swear a bunch, Negan takes action against someone he wants to believe has wronged him. He goes through with a horrible act of violence, rather than just speak of what he could do. It’s a dreadful moment with real consequences.
So now Negan has a tech nerd in his army. Rick is still out building his own army. This season will eventually have these two coming at each other with all they’ve got, but this journey has its fair share of intrigue. Just how effective will these two forces be at fighting each other? We don’t know as of yet, but this time spent with Eugene made for some effective storytelling. It helps “Hostiles and Calamities” was told as a clear story, with focus. Rather than be caught up with too many different elements, we stuck with Eugene and Dwight. Given the rather poetic final image of these two standing together, that’s enough to suggest this episode was no calamity at all.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Only one this week and that was a rotting corpse that fell apart.
- That “Easy Street” song made a return and took on new meaning. Well played.
- Eugene doesn’t like homemade potato chips? C’mon dude!
- Dr. Smartypants, Haircut – Eugene was getting all the good nicknames this week.
- “I’m gonna light this candle” – Eugene knows how to have fun and also be specific.
- The whole fake suicide pill concept with the fake wives is a good one and also speaks to my thoughts on Eugene maybe going for a long con plan against Negan. But we’ll see…
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what myself and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on the The Walking Dead TV Podcast.