Eugene is a broken man. With his loyalty and decisions a major focus of “Time for After”, the penultimate episode before the Mid-Season Finale, we get to explore this character in a much more meaningful way than before. There’s some real depth here as he visibly struggles against his own conscious and deals with the decision he has made to stay loyal to Negan; it’s a surprise something like this didn’t come sooner – it certainly would have made more sense to – but Josh McDermitt sold it all incredibly well, portraying a man who is clearly trying his damn hardest to convince himself that he is Negan despite appeals by a feverish Father Gabriel and memories of his friends “travelling companions”.
This is the second time The Walking Dead has given us a strong entry (with the rest of the episodes so far falling closer to average), and it’s no surprise that most of it took place within the walls of The Sanctuary. Despite the very odd absence of Simon and Gavin, it was a joy watching cabin fever penetrate The Saviours’ lair while the walkers Rick and his crew let loose surrounded the entrance. This brought an effective tone of old school horror that has been absent from the show for quite some time, using walkers as these kind of walls slowly closing in while Eugene desperately tries to find a solution and save everyone.
Eugene’s loyalties also accentuated Dwight’s betrayal, reiterating that the former Negan loyalist is one hundred percent on team Rick with his money on Alexandria as The Saviours begin to crumble. As if that wasn’t clear enough, he shoots down Eugene’s big plan which was to use Sasha’s old iPod attached to a kite (and speakers) with the hopes of the music drawing walkers away. Eugene still covers for Dwight though, and I’m going to assume it’s because he doesn’t want to see what Negan will do to him if he finds out that he was the rat – something that will also reiterate to Eugene that Negan isn’t someone worth being loyal to. It makes sense for Eugene to want to live in this fantasy world where The Saviours are the good guys and that he is Negan’s invaluable right-hand who solves all the problems and saves all the people. After all, our introduction to Eugene hinged on him claiming to know how to save humanity.
Eugene’s sort of wannabe hero complex is mirrored on the other side The Sanctuary walls as Daryl decides to go rogue and end this war without waiting for Rick’s plan to fully form. The most interesting part in all of this is the unexplored contrast between Rosita and Daryl. Rosita has learned patience and trust following Sasha’s death, as she says when she backs out of the plan and goes back to Alexandria. That doubt also rubs off on Michonne who backs out, leaving Daryl with Tara and an out-of-nowhere Morgan to exact this rogue plan and flood The Sanctuary with walkers. It succeeds and is all very clean, leading to absolute chaos inside those walls and a bewildered Rick towards the end of the episode.
But the interesting part – and this may be an oversight for the writers – is that Daryl has not learned from Glenn’s death. It was Daryl’s impatience and loose-cannon attitude that led to Glenn being brutally murdered and the only saving grace for that decision seemed to be that it would give Daryl a bit more depth moving forward. It certainly seemed like Daryl was left reeling after he got Glenn killed, blaming himself and weeping over the polaroid while Negan’s captive. But now that’s all disappeared, and Daryl has gone back to being an enraged bad boy who hasn’t grown at all and will likely get more people killed.
Then you have Rick. His time spent trying to get the scavengers back on his side was weird enough but a quick fight with another “Winslow” (the helmeted walker) seemed like very a pointless detour to keep him occupied while Daryl had his time to shine. Rick ends up owning all and convincing these trash folk to come and join him because The Sanctuary is surrounded by walkers and there’s no winning for them. Of course, Rick is shocked when he sees that all the walkers are gone, which could either mean that they all managed to flood the building and eat every Saviour in sight, or Eugene has found a way to clear the walkers from the courtyard and save The Saviours. I’m going with the latter.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- Eugene slowly breaking
- Dwight making his stance clear
- Rosita growing in response to Sasha’s death
- Rick vs Winslow (as short as it was)
- Daryl not growing in response to Glenn’s death
- Notable absence of Simon and Gavin
The Walking Dead Season 8 screens in Australia on FX/Foxtel every Monday at 1:30pm and again at 7:30pm.
Image: Gene Page/AMC.