Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Hostiles and Calamities”:

This is now the third episode of Season 7 spent introducing an Alexandrian to the inner-workings of the Saviors, placing “Hostiles and Calamities” at something of a disadvantage, even if Eugene experiences their hospitality very differently from Daryl or Carl. It’s also the first time we’ve seen Negan all year, and while I can’t say as I missed Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s cartoonish posturing, I understand that watching Rick try and/or fail to rally various communities week after week would eventually have to give way to perspective from the other side.

“Hostiles and Calamities” accomplishes that by dividing time between Eugene’s acclimation to the Savior life, and what would appear to be Dwight’s growing disillusion* with it; the final shot of the two together seeming to suggest they’ll eventually meet somewhere in the middle. I’m of two minds with Eugene’s apparent enjoyment of his privileged status, given that Josh McDermitt’s flat affect portrayal of the character makes it exceptionally difficult to read any of the nuance behind Eugene’s actions. Pure cowardice is one thing – we’ve certainly seen Gabriel overcoming that – but the impulse is to believe Eugene must have a longer game in mind beyond pure survival, one that wouldn’t seem like such an obvious affront to Abraham’s memory.

*The hour played with time a bit, as Dwight’s perspective seemed to crosscut events narration against what we were seeing onscreen, but the timing seems off. Was not Dwight hearing Negan’s return as he discovered Daryl’s escape? How then, was the escape common knowledge in the minutes it took for Laura to escort Eugene to his quarters, after which Dwight has seemingly already been in the hole for some time?

Admittedly, the chemistry between these two may have necessitated a few days to themselves.

On the other hand, some of the cruelty on display and appreciation for the spoils his position affords offer genuinely interesting character beats, if indeed we’re meant to believe Eugene has truly aligned himself with the Saviors. I’m not certain if The Walking Dead ever effectively communicated that Eugene perhaps felt overlooked or undervalued in Alexandria (again, the stunted affect makes it difficult to foster emotional investment), but he clearly relishes the opportunity to flaunt certain authority. Surely if he wanted, Eugene could easily collaborate with Frankie and Tanya on a foolproof assassination on Negan – perhaps ending conflicts altogether – and there’s a nuance of character beyond cowardice that The Walking Dead doesn’t often have a chance to spotlight.

Oddly enough, The Walking Dead does tend to stumble in more direct approaches to melodrama like Dwight realizing Sherry has officially broken their cycle of compromise and regret by fleeing, as neither character has been given much emotionality or development beyond their relationship to Negan. What “Hostiles and Calamities” really needed was some sort of emotional hook; whether Dwight discovering for certain that Sherry perished in her attempt to start anew, or even Eugene handing over his killer cold medicine, and discovering Frankie and Tanya intended those doses for themselves, not Amber. The hour’s lone casualty (discounting Fat Joey, the body of whom appeared to shed much more than the mortal coil) didn’t carry near of the same emotional weight, as the burning of Dr. Carson felt like a minor riff on the ironing scenes we witnessed last year.

We’ve five episodes left in Season 7; ample time for various types of stories among the different communities, given the Savior war is likely to spill over into Season 8. I don’t know if “Hostiles and Calamities” has any more to say about Dwight or the Saviors than we’ve already heard, but Eugene’s apparent defection could provide an interesting wrinkle, so long as The Walking Dead takes time to flesh out why he’d turn against Alexandria, or perhaps how Abraham’s ghost lingers over that decision.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • I presume Eugene’s defection is the “betrayal” Lennie James teased to NME recently.
  • Nice button on the point, that Eugene would choose to play “Easy Street” on the stereo, and even enjoy it.
  • I almost respect that the Sanctuary endeavored to create some sort of economy, even if I don’t fully understand it.
  • Was there a point to Eugene observing the teenager shoplifting, that they forgot to circle back to?
  • So far as I know, the AMC version has never been established as a high school chemistry teacher (as in the comics), though his presentation to the wives seemed very much reminiscent of one.
  • Watching Eugene stand in line, it occurs to me that Walking Dead costumers could really stand to vary their clothing stores beyond the same drab shades for everyone, walkers included.
  • The first onscreen iron burning was noticeably devoid of gore, just as Dr. Carson’s death in the furnace seemed not even to attempt such a gruesome effect.
  • Prettttty sure Negan’s jacket would be melting that close to the fire, while we’re at it.
  • Aww, Eugene gets an “Evil!” coat to accentuate the point. Complete with stuffed grembly … whatever.

The Walking Dead Season 7 will return Sunday, March 5 with “Say Yes,” airing at 9:00 P.M. on AMC.

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