After a string of decent-to-good episodes, The Walking Dead is back to its nasty old habits of zeroing in on a single minor character in a situation we don't care much about. This time it's Eugene, the latest captive of Negan and the Saviors.
Unlike previous Savior-visitors Daryl and Carl, Eugene thrives under Negan. He's given a nice room and a fridge stocked with fresh veggies. He's allowed to walk around, and immediately impresses Negan by channeling his Super Science Talk — the same talk that convinced Sgt. Abraham Ford to take him to Washington several seasons ago.
Negan is delighted to have correctly sized up Eugene as not only a “Dr. Smartypants,” but also someone cowardly enough to play ball with his autocratic regime. Eugene is soon given a reward of hanging out with Negan's wives (“no sex,” Negan warns). Eugene's awkward-teen persona is equal parts grating and lovable, and he does get some legitimately funny one-liners that will put him firmly in this week's Winners column.
One of the wives, Amber, isn't happy. We had a bit of foreshadowing when Carl visited earlier this season, and Amber is at the point now where she'd rather take her own life than spend any more time in her predicament. To Eugene's credit he does ask about any mental health services first before reluctantly agreeing to assist her suicide and make some pills.
But later he figures out the women also want the pills to kill Negan. Eugene scoffs at this. He's a coward, sure, but he has a good thing here. He can boss people around. He can play Atari. He has a giant jar of pickles to snack on. It's paradise. When Negan knocks on his door for the ritualistic “Who are you?” question, Eugene doesn't even hesitate. He's Negan. “Stone-cold Negan.”
What does this mean for Eugene? That he's officially a Savior? That we can comfortably forget about him? Do we even care anymore?
This episode also brought us part two of the Dwight and Sherry Saga, which also feels completely ancillary to the main plot. Comic readers know that Dwight has a bigger role to play, but the show is taking its sweet time building his character arc.
The dangling plot thread at Savior HQ is that Daryl escaped and someone from the inside helped him. A pretty big clue erupts when they realize that Sherry – Dwight's ex-wife who married Negan to save them, vanished soon after. Negan has Dwight beaten and thrown in a cell for good measure. Then he tasks him with finding Sherry and bringing her back.
Dwight returns to their old home where he finds a heartfelt note written by Sherry. She's saddened by who he's become. She admits in the letter to freeing Daryl, because Daryl reminded Dwight of who he used to be.
Their drama is frankly confusing. She says that being there at Savior HQ is worse than death, but doesn't want Dwight to remember who he used to be. Yet wouldn't that help remind Dwight of the good times that Sherry speaks of in the note? In the end Dwight did bring beer and chips to the house, just as they promised if they ever got separated. But he never finds her, and returns to Negan empty-handed.
To avoid any suspicion by Negan, Dwight tells them that he was forced to kill her when she ran into some walkers. He plants the end of her note in the doctor's office. The poor doctor, who has adopted a rather nihilistic stance on life, is dragged to the middle of the factory to be burned. Eugene and the rest are forced to watch, while Dwight wordlessly readies the iron in the forge. The doc confesses to a crime he didn't commit to avoid the branding. Then Negan throws him into the fire. Dwight looks emotionless as always, and we're nowhere closer to him making a move.
At this point we've learned pretty much all we can from the Saviors. Having yet another episode focusing solely on their drama is pointless. We know Negan has several wives, and some of them aren't happy. We know Dwight has some serious drama, and we know Negan likes to burn people in the factory smelter as punishment. The Walking Dead is determined to drag its zombie-feet throughout this season, and it's killing all sense of pacing for their main plot.
Eugene: Eugene has been an easy character to dislike, and he really doesn't make his case any better by saluting Negan. But he has some fun lines in this episode: “I am indeed a smartypants.” “I was gifted these pickles.” “Serious as Sepsis.” And, my personal favorite, while playing video games: “You can call next but it might be awhile.”
Sherry: I don't think enough attention was made that Sherry successful escaped from Savior HQ and has yet to be found. If the Saviors find her, it's curtains for Dwight. But if our survivors find her, she could prove invaluable.
Dwight: Dwight remains eternally frustrating. He's a whipped dog who nonetheless returns to his master, never biting his hand. Now that Sherry's gone, is there really any reason he should stick around?
The Walking Dead: I love you Walking Dead but you really need to cut it out with these bullshit episodes that focus solely on one minor character. We didn't learn much more about Negan and the saviors, and certainly didn't need an entire episode devoted to them yet again.