We’re one episode away from The Walking Dead mid-season finale and things aren’t looking good for the allies. The Scavengers have locked Rick in a shipping container. The Hilltop is full of prisoners. King Ezekiel is a broken man. And some of Rick’s closest friends no longer believe in his plan. At least the Sanctuary is still surrounded by walkers. At least for now.
Eugene is in quite a pickle. Negan is the strong leader and protector he’s spent his whole life searching for. And Eugene desperately wants to be the man Negan thinks he is. So it would make total sense to tell Negan that Dwight is the mole. Yet he hesitates. As a man who can think his way out of any situation, his indecision frustrates him. He tells Dwight he’ll keep his secret, as long as the mischief ends. Dwight sits him down and imparts some heavy wisdom: the Saviors are finished, Negan is finished. Eugene’s best move is to let the Sanctuary fall. Backing Negan takes a heavy toll on one’s soul. Eugene still has a chance to make it out unscathed.
Eugene finds himself alone with Father Gabriel. As Gabriel writhes in his hospital bed, he asks Eugene to use his conscience and do the right thing. Unfortunately, the right thing for Eugene is doing whatever it takes to keep himself alive and not a bit more.
Negan meets with Eugene to find a solution to their walker crisis. Negan isn’t worried about himself. He’s too good at this game to ever lose. But he doesn’t want to watch others die, especially someone as brilliant as Eugene. First he threatens, then he compliments. Straight out of the abuser’s handbook. When he offers Eugene his hand, Eugene stoops to kiss it like he’s the Pope. And just like that, all doubt is gone. Eugene is Negan. He scurries away to save the Sanctuary and win Daddy’s admiration. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement he needs. His neurons fire up and a plan starts to formulate.
On the roof, He prepares to launch a homemade music drone to pull the walkers away from the Sanctuary. When Dwight pulls a gun, it puts a crimp in Eugene’s plan. But not for long. Realizing Negan would hurt him worse than Dwight ever could, he launches his distraction machine. Dwight aims but hesitates. This inability to destroy is a two-way street. Instead, he shoots the machine. Eugene watches all of his hopes and fears plummet with the drone.
The dissenters (Daryl, Tara, Michonne and Rosita) meet with Morgan outside the Sanctuary. They’re not satisfied with the pace of Rick’s plan. They want to end things now. They decide to drive their dumptruck into the Sanctuary, creating an entry for the walker horde. Surprisingly, Rosita is the only voice of reason. The woman who tried to shoot Negan last season has matured. She trusts Rick and refuses to take part. Michonne thought she needed to be boots on the ground but she wonders if the risk they’re taking is worth it. She bails, leaving Daryl, Tara and Morgan to their folly. While Tara and Morgan provide cover, Daryl drives the dump truck through a horde of Walkers and into the Sanctuary. The noise pulls their attention. The smell of human victims carries them inside.
It’s pandemonium inside the Sanctuary. Walkers devour Saviors. Gunfire rings out. Eugene watches in abject terror. His worst nightmare is losing safety. He storms into Father Gabriel’s room. Eugene takes his fear, turns it into anger and slams it right in the good father’s face. He screams that he refuses to end up like Sasha. It’s his biological imperative to stay alive and he’ll do anything it takes, including following Negan.
Riding his wave of anger, Eugene brings Negan a new plan. This one uses bullets and is sure to work. Just as he’s about to rat out Dwight, all of the consiglieri storm in. With Dwight in the room, he’s unable to follow through. He may be Negan but there’s still some hope for him.
Any chance he gets, Rick pushes his campaign to win the Scavengers away from Negan. But Jadis is only interested in documenting his near-naked captivity. He’s pulled out to entertain the trash people. As he kneels on the ground, Scavengers bring a new helmet-clad zombie, this time on a stick. Rick knocks out his captor and takes possession of the weaponized walker. After taking out all of her guards, he grabs Jadis and puts her face to face with the walker. As she writhes in fear, mere inches from death, Rick gives the Scavengers one more chance to switch sides before he kills them all. When he frees Jadis, she asks what happens if they join. Rick offers her freedom and a fourth of the Savior’s possessions. She tries to negotiate but he’s done with her games. He’s not even willing to pose naked for her art. Seeing how serious he is, Jadis finally accepts.
Rick and the Scavengers arrive at the outskirts of the Sanctuary. One of Rick’s snipers is walker food and no one is responding to his appeals on the walkie. He climbs up a perch and scopes out the situation. The Sanctuary is walker-free and abandoned. Something has gone very, very wrong.
Next week: It’s the 90 minute mid-season finale! All of the different stories come together in Alexandria.