Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 11: Hostiles And Calamities

After a couple of weeks of actual progress, this week's The Walking Dead takes a few steps back and gives us a flashback episode. Gotta pad out the season somehow!

Actually this episode may not be at pointless as it first appears. It lays some much-needed insight into both Eugene and Dwight's situations, and lays the groundwork for their upcoming story arcs. If the show plans on following the comic the way I think it will, the events in this episode will end up paying off big time in the season finale.

That said, neither Eugene or Dwight's stories were interesting enough to warrant an entire episode devoted just to them. Their plotlines could have easily been woven into an episode that cut back to Rick and the Gang now and then.

The big question this week is whether Eugene's actually drinking the Negan brand Kool-Aid, or if his enthusiastic assimilation is an elaborate long con on his part? 

I seriously doubt the producers would actually turn Eugene to the dark side. I don't want to get too spoilery, but having him do so would radically deviate from the comic, and they've been following it pretty closely lately. Plus if he willingly turned his back on Alexandria and pledged allegiance to the monster who brutally murdered Abraham and Glenn, Eugene would become the most despicable character on TV. And all for a few creature comforts!

I'm betting it's all part of an act. Eugne's just biding his time, looking for a way to strike at the Saviors from within and save his friends. Remember, he doesn't know Rick's trying to recruit an army against Negan, as he was taken from Alexandria before that happened.

Actually I think it would be more interesting if he really DID decide to join Negan wholeheartedly. We've never seen one of our heroes turn to the dark side before, so I think it would make for good TV. 
I doubt that'll happen though, as the series will no doubt going the less interesting "mole" route. Although I guess there would be a certain irony in the least competent character on the show somehow taking down Negan's Sanctuary.

This episode also featured quite a few references and callbacks to past seasons, which sent me scrambling for the search button to look them up. What? You think I keep every little detail about this show in my head?

SPOILERS!


The Plot:
We flash back a few days to Dwight and several other Saviors discovering the body of Fat Joey, who Daryl killed while escaping back in the mid-season finale. Dwight sees a motorcycle's missing, puts two and two together and races to Daryl's cell. Sure enough, Daryl's gone. Dwight checks his room and finds Daryl's filthy jumpsuit as well as the "Go now" note lying on the floor. He puts it in his pocket. As he desperately tries to figure out what to do, several Saviors appear and savagely beat Dwight, as Negan looks on approvingly.

A terrified Eugene is brought to the Sanctuary by truck. He's presented to Negan, who welcomes him and assigns Laura, one of the Saviors, to escort him to his new digs. Laura takes Eugene to the small apartment Daryl never got to use. Eugene's amazed to see books on a shelf, and Laura tells him there are plenty morevin the library. She leaves to get him some food. Eugene checks out the refrigerator, and finds it's fully stocked with food, something that was sorely missing in Alexandria.

Meanwhile, Dwight is locked in Daryl's former cell. Negan says his "wife" Sherry (who was Dwight's woman at one time) is missing, and asks if he knows anything about it. Dwight says Sherry's the one who freed Daryl. Negan isn't convinced, and asks if Dwight's "changed his stripes." He asks "Who are you?" to which Dwight replies, "I'm Negan!"

Satisfied, Negan opens the cell door. Dwight says he knows where Sherry's gone, and for some reason Negan tells him to go out alone, find her and bring her back. Before Dwight leaves, Dr. Carson fixes him up. Carson wonders if Sherry is actually the one who freed Daryl. Dwight ignores him and heads out in search of Sherry.

Laura gives Eugene a tour of the Sanctuary, which the audience has already seen at least twice now. She explains how the local economy works, and signs out a huge jar of pickles for him. Laura then takes Eugene outside to Negan. He demonstrates the Saviors' allegiance to him, by asking who they are. Of course they all reply, "I'm Negan!" He holds up Lucille and points out the hole in her, which was caused by the bullet Eugene forged. He asks Eugene if he "knows things." Eugene assures him that he does, but Negan doesn't believe it. The terrified Eugene then launches into a lengthy explanation of his knowledge and credentials, even dredging up his old lie that he worked on the Human Genome Project.

Negan nicknames Eugene "Mr. Smarty Pants" and gives him a chance to prove himself. He shows Eugene the chained walkers that protect the Sanctuary's perimeter, complaining that they decompose too quickly, and asks how to keep them fresh. Eugene suggests coating the walkers with molten metal (?) to preserve and protect them. Negan thinks this is the coolest idea ever, and as a reward, sends three of his wives to Eugene's room that night. Not for sex though! Just for companionship.

That night Eugene plays Yar's Revenge (!) on an Atari 2600. True to his word, Negan sends three of his wives— Amber, Frankie and Tanya— to watch. Amber, who's not into the whole "sister wives" thing, drinks heavily the whole evening. Eugene tells them he realizes they're not three of their own volition, but Frankie and Tanya seem genuinely interested in what he has to say. He then takes them outside and shows them how to make small hydrogen bombs and expanding foam out of ordinary household chemicals. Frankie and Tanya are suitably impressed.

Meanwhile, Dwight drives to what was presumably his old house. It's deserted of course, but inside he finds a recent note from Sherry. In the note she confesses to freeing Daryl, saying she did it to save him. She says she wasn't sure whether he'd run off with her again or drag her back to the Sanctuary, so she's gone off on her own. Dwight collapses on the floor, crying.

Back at the Sanctuary, Frankie and Tanya tell Eugene they need his help. Amber can't handle her life as a wife of Negan any longer, and wants to kill herself. They want him to make some sort of pill that'll kill her painlessly. He refuses of course, but they eventually talk him into it. Eugene waits in a line for medical supplies. Suddenly he elbows his way to the front, and the clerk tells him to get to the back of the line. He states his new credentials and tells her he reports directly to Negan. She apologizes and he takes a box of cold medicine and several other items. He then carefully prepares two deadly pills.

Dwight returns and goes to Dr. Carson's office. Carson asks if he located Sherry. Dwight lies and says he found her, but she ran away from him into a horde of walkers and was torn apart. He then secretly slips Sherry's note in Dr. Carson's desk drawer.

Later Laura escorts Eugene to the main hall of the Sanctuary. Everyone's gathered to watch another public punishment. Negan has Dr. Carson brought forward, and says a note from Sherry was found in his drawer. He accuses Carson of having an affair with Sherry, and freeing Daryl to impress her or something. It all sounds pretty sketchy. Carson denies it all of course, claiming Dwight's the one lying. Negan doesn't buy it, as Dwight knows he already has one strike against him, and one more would mean his death.

Negan takes the red hot iron from Dwight and holds it next to Carson's face. Negan says if Carson confesses, he'll relent. Of course Carson admits to freeing Daryl. Negan smiles, puts down the iron, and then hurls Carson into the forge, noting it's a good thing he has a spare doctor (?).

Later Eugene is playing video games as Frankie and Tanya enter. They ask if he made the pills for them. He admits he did, but changed his mind and isn't going to hand them out, accusing them of wanting the pills to try and assassinate Negan. They threaten to spill the beans to Negan. He says they won't, because he's irreplaceable, and Negan will believe him over them. They realize he's right and slink away.

Negan then pays Eugene another unnerving visit. He says his wives had nothing but good things to say about him, and tells him he doesn't need to be scared of him anymore He asks Eugene, "Who are you?" Eugene enthusiastically replies "I'm Negan."

The next day Eugene watches as several Saviors try pouring molten metal over the perimeter walkers. Dwight comes up and stands beside him. Eugene apologizes for biting his dick last season and says, "We're Negan."

Thoughts:

• The Saviors bring Eugene to the Sanctuary in the back of a cargo truck. When they raise the door on the back, we see Eugene's tied up inside, with a hood over his head.

What's the point of the hood if he's already inside an enclosed truck? They must want to be extra sure he doesn't know where the Sanctuary's located.

I supposed it's possible the hood was for psychological effect. To scare him (as if he wasn't terrified enough already) and make him easier to control.

• Negan appoints Laura as Eugene's handler. She tells him "Welcome home, Haircut!" and takes him to his apartment. 

Coincidentally, over on Legends Of Tomorrow, anti-hero Heat Wave consistently calls Atom by the nickname "Haircut." The difference is that Atom's hair is always nicely styled, while Eugene has a mullet.

• Why is it that every time someone new arrives at the Sanctuary, they— and the audience as well— get yet another tour of the place? We've seen how it works at least three times now, guys! Apparently that Sanctuary set ain't cheap, and the producers want to make sure they get their money's worth out of it!

• Eugene furnished little apartment contains a stereo system. When he turns it on, it plays Easy Street! Amazingly, Eugene actually seems to like it, as he nods his head to the extremely annoying, yet admittedly catchy song.

We first heard Easy Street earlier in the season in The Cell. There Dwight used as psychological torture, playing it on a continuous loop to try and break Daryl.

• Dwight's still wearing Daryl's angel wing vest, giving further proof to my theory that he wants to be him.

• Negan asks if Eugene is he's a "smarty pants." Eugene replies that he is indeed a smarty pants, and resurrects his lie about being a molecular biologist. He says, "I have PhDs in biochemistry, as well as immunology and microbiology, and I've completed my doctorate, which makes me a doctor. Prior to the Collapse, I was part of a ten person team at the Human Genome Project, working under Dr. T. Brooks Ellis to weaponize diseases to fight weaponized diseases."

Note that this is practically word-for-word the same story he told Sasha wayyyy back at the beginning of Season 5 in No Sanctuary. Some time before joining the series, Eugene told this story to Abraham, in order to trick him into becoming his protector and escorting him to Washington D.C.

• Negan complains that his perimeter walkers decompose too quickly in the hot Virginia climate, and asks Eugene if he has any ideas to preserve them. 

Eugene comes up with a doozy of a suggestion, saying, "Step one, melt down scrap metal. Step two, pour it over the compromised walker as they are in contact with the chain link. The liquid metal will harden, both maintaining bodily integrity for the walker as well as affixing them to the fence. Bonus points for covering their head and protecting them from head trauma from hostiles and calamities (we have a title!)." Negan thinks it's a brilliant idea.

Ehhhhh... I don't see any way this could work.Tin has one of the lowest melting points for a metal at 400ยบ F. That's still hot enough to burn through a walker's skull or cook its brain into mush, rendering it useless.

Plus it seems like it would be hard for a walker to even lift its limbs if they were coated with heavy metal. And the sun beating down on all that metal is gonna turn the armor into an oven, effectively cooking the walker inside.

Am I expecting too much realism here? Possibly. But if a show's going to ask me to accept the existence of zombies, then it needs to be correspondingly realistic in other areas. And coating zombies in metal to "preserve" them is just plain dumb.

• Speaking of the Virginia climate why does it always seem to be summer on The Walking Dead? We occasionally hear the characters talk about winter (I remember Michonne saying she nursed Andrea back to health during a hard winter back in Season 3, I think), but we never actually see it. Virginia has some pretty harsh winters, so why don't we ever see them? Why, it's almost like the series was filmed in Georgia or something.

 When Laura first shows Eugene around the Sanctuary, she explains the local economy to him, saying they use a point system. She says, "Write what you took or what they did (?), how much it was worth, sign your name." As she says this, Eugene sees a teen shoplift stealthily steal an item and walk away.

Was there a point to that shoplifting scene? Was it meant to go somewhere, and the writers forgot to circle back to it?

 Somehow Negan's people got ahold of a working Atari 2600. Eugene spends a good amount of the episode playing Yar's Revenge, considered by some to be the best 2600 game of all time.

Oddly enough though, Eugene's playing it on a widescreen TV, even though the 2600 was set up for old school 1.33:1 screens. Hmm... I guess maybe Eugene is one of "those people" who stretch the picture to fit their screen, meaning I now hate him and think he should be imprisoned.


• Back in Sing Me A Song, someone slipped a note with a key attached to it underneath the door of Daryl's cell, to help him escape. I said the note-slipper was either Dwight, who'd decided he'd had enough of Negan and the Sanctuary, or Sherry, who'd decided she'd had enough of Negan and the Sanctuary.

Well, now we know it was definitely Sherry, who decided she'd had enough of Negan and the Sanctuary. And we also now know why she took such a sudden and dangerous shine to Daryl and risked her life to help him— because he reminded her of the way Dwight used to be. 

This may also explain why Dwight seems so fascinated with Daryl as well.

• Morley cigarettes pop up again in The Walking Dead universe, as Dwight smokes one while searching for Sherry.

I think Morley's first popped up back in the Season 5 episode Consumed. They're a fake brand of cigarettes (that appear to be patterned after the Marlboro brand) that are used in many movies and TV shows, including The X-Files.

• Why the hell does Dwight return to the Sanctuary? Why not just hop back on his bike, ride as far away from Negan as possible and start a new life somewhere else? What's in the Sanctuary for him? What can he possibly get out of his humiliating and emasculating relationship with Negan?

• Eugene is an idiot. Frankie and Tanya ask him to make poison pills for Amber, and despite the fact that he's known them for all of two or three days, he agrees. How the hell did he know the pill story wasn't a test to see if he was "Negan" or not?

• After a couple of days Eugene starts throwing his weight around, and cuts to the front of a supply line to get some cold pills. He tells the clerk he's also taking a bed pan (?), a flyswatter and a handmade stuffed toy, which he calls a "gremblygunk."

This brings up an interesting question: Are there kids in the Sanctuary? If so, we've yet to see any. You'd think there'd have to be at least one or two running around somewhere. Does Negan not like kids, and so outlawed them in his little kingdom? 

If for some reason there really aren't any kids inside the Sanctuary, then why the hell is someone making stuffed animals?

• Negan gathers the Saviors and forces them to watch as he kills Dr. Carson, who was (falsely) accused of freeing Daryl. This seems like a really bad idea on Negan's part, no matter what Carson was thought to have done. Someone with medical knowledge would be a priceless commodity in the Zombie Apocalypse!

• After Negan kills the Doctor, he says, "A good thing we got a spare Dr Carson!"

Just who's he talking about here? Is he talking about Eugene here? Earlier in the episode, Eugene did say, "I have PhDs in biochemistry, as well as immunology and microbiology, and I've completed my doctorate, which makes me a doctor."

First of all, despite what Eugene says, I'm pretty sure this is all part of his elaborate lie, and he's doesn't have PhDs in anything. Secondly, even if it's true, Negan realizes that a doctor of science isn't the same thing as a doctor of medicine, right?

• At the end of the episode, Dwight and Eugene have a reunion of sorts, as both men seemingly realize they're never leaving the Sanctuary.

Eugene: Regarding me clamping down "
Dwight: "You on board?:
Eugene: "I am. Just like you. Don't know if you recall my handle"
Dwight: "I don't."
Eugene: "Eugene. You're Dwight. We are Negan."
Dwight: "Yeah."

By the way, Eugene's "clamped down" line refers to the Season 6 episode Twice As Far, in which he violently bit Dwight in the crotch to escape from him and a group of Saviors.

The final image of Eugene and Dwight makes for an interesting visual, as both men tentatively form a possible friendship after doing horrible things in order to survive. If things go the way I think they will, they're both about to do more.

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