I know I’ve been a little absent in The Walking Dead comment section lately. Life got hectic. Not in the “zombies want to eat you” kind of way but busy nonetheless. I get the whole do your job, put food on your table dynamic but dang! It’s not fun. I want to talk about how The Walking Dead universe is turning into a replica of feudal Europe. I want to fantasize about Carole’s epic vengeance once she learns what Negan did to her friends. I want to make a case for the weird Scavenger tribe and their Mad Max leanings. So tonight I’m gifting myself time to enjoy the newest TWD episode. Hopefully it will give us a lot to talk about over the coming week.
We begin by going backwards. We’ve seen Negan take Eugene. We’ve seen Daryl escape. Now we get to see the impact of these events on the Saviors. Fat Joey is dead and a bike is missing. Dwight understands the ramifications of these facts but he races to Daryl’s empty cell to see for himself. This happened on his watch and he’s going to pay dearly for it. In his ransacked room, Dwight finds Daryl’s stained sweatsuit and the note that told him to escape. He’s studying the note when there’s a knock on his door. We all know it’s Negan. He stands in the doorway and watches a group of Saviors beat Dwight. At least Lucille is resting comfortably on his shoulder. For now.
Dwight’s stoic fear is juxtaposed against Eugene’s outright terror at arriving at the Sanctuary with a hood over his head. Eugene watched Negan bludgeon his friends to death so he can only imagine what he’ll do to the man that made a bullet used in an assassination attempt on his life. Eugene is escorted to a cell, blubbering the whole way. But torture’s not in the cards. Negan plans to break him with a well-appointed room, a comfortable life. The Saviors are wooing him. All of this could be yours… Left alone, Eugene turns on his stereo. He finds himself bopping along to “Easy Street.” The song is almost more sinister in this context.
Dwight has replaced Daryl in the jail cell. Negan informs him that Daryl isn’t the only recent escapee. Sherry, Dwight’s ex-wife who married Negan to save his life, has also disappeared. This causes quite a conundrum for Negan. Did Sherry free Daryl? Did Dwight do it? Were they working together? Is there anyone Negan can trust anymore? Dwight pledges his allegiance to Negan so Negan lets him go. It almost feels like Negan’s pride about his control over Dwight might be his achilles heel. The doctor patches Dwight up, running his mouth about how he’s sure Sherry helped Daryl escape. Then Dwight heads out to find her. You know, for Negan.
Laura, the aggressive Savior who flirted with Spencer shortly before his death, shows Eugene around the Sanctuary. They meet Negan at the walker pit and Eugene is terrified. Negan wants to know what he’s really capable of. Is he a smarty pants? Eugene explains how he made the bullet but Negan isn’t impressed. That doesn’t work for Eugene so he slips back into the “scientist” con he ran on Abraham. Oh, he’s a smarty pants alright. Negan tests him. How can he keep his walker horde from disintegrating? Eugene suggests coating them in smelted metal, creating a suit of armor that will hold them together and protect them from enemies. Negan is ecstatic. It’s practical and bad ass! That’s the kind of combination Negan can get behind. To thank him, Negan offers to send over a few of his wives for the evening. Not for sex, just for company. Don’t forget Eugene, everything’s a test. Everything,
Eugene plays video games while Negan’s wives watch. Except blondie. She’s determined to get drunk in a corner. In his own awkward way, he tries to show them a good time. He fails, but sometimes it’s the thought that counts. The ladies goad him into doing science parlor tricks. He makes elephant toothpaste and small explosions. They love it. Score one for the nerd.
Dwight ends up back at his pre-apocalypse marital home. He and Sherry made a plan that if they were separated, she should go there and Dwight would follow with beer and pretzels. All he finds is an old photograph and a note from Sherry. She apologizes for turning Dwight into the man he is today. She did it to save his life but ended up ruining him. She let Daryl go because he reminded Dwight of who he used to be. Since Negan won’t allow Dwight to be that man, she didn’t want him tortured by the comparison any longer. She knows she probably won’t survive but she doesn’t care. Being dead is better than being a Savior. Dwight adds her wedding ring to his other valuables: his ring and one of her old cigarette butts. He leaves the pretzels and beer on the table. Their story is over.
Negan’s wives visit Eugene again. Blondie wants to die and they need his help. Couldn’t he just make a couple little suicide pills? No! Everything is a test, Eugene. Everything. Eugene is too scared. They cajole. They flatter. He capitulates. The next day Eugene pushes his way to the front of the medicine line. He’s a Savior now. He gets to take whatever he wants. He gets the materials he needs, plus a bedpan and a stuffed animal, just for kicks. Eugene gets brave, and cocky, when he plays a role.
Laura brings Eugene to the boiler room. Negan has assembled an audience. Who is getting the iron today? Surprisingly, it’s the doctor. Part of Sherry’s note, where she said, “goodbye honey,” was found in the doctor’s desk. Negan doesn’t care that the doctor denies knowing anything about it. Dwight told him that the doctor freed Daryl to please Sherry. She told him all about it, right before he killed her. The doctor calls Dwight a liar. Negan is confident that Dwight would never lie to him. Negan owns him. Like I said, achilles heel. Negan promises the doctor he won’t get the iron if he admits what he did. And like most confessions extracted under threat of torture, the doctor lies. He takes full responsibility for helping Daryl escape. Negan drops the iron. He got everything that he wanted. Well, almost everything. He grabs the doctor and heaves him into the furnace. Eugene is horrified but Dwight is nonplussed. He is a man with a plan. We just don’t know what it is yet.
Negan’s wives stop by Eugene’s room to get the suicide pills. He refuses to pass them over. He knows the ladies are going to use them to poison Negan and he won’t play along. They remind him that Negan killed his friends. He’s not moved. When they threaten to tell Negan the whole thing was his idea, he’s not scared. Just like in the case of the doctor vs Dwight, they are replaceable. Eugene isn’t. They call him a coward and run crying from the room. Eugene is comfortable with their assessment of his character. Not long after, there’s a pounding on his door. Now he gets to see if he read Negan correctly. Negan wears a poker face and it’s terrifying. After some posturing, Negan promises Eugene he doesn’t need to be scared anymore as long as he answers one question. Before he can get the full sentence out, Eugene blurts out, “I’m Negan!” Eugene claims he was Negan before he even met him, he just didn’t realize it. He’s the most Neganest Negan in Neganville.
Next week: Rick and Michonne scavenge for guns. They flirt. They fight walkers. They end up at an abandoned carnival and sing, “You’re The One That I Want.” Rosita is on her own journey. She. Just. Can’t. Wait.