In this week's The Walking Dead, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) lives everyone's dreams by sitting on his butt, playing video games and eating microwave popcorn. OK, it's not ideal since his marathon gaming session is interrupted by an all-hands meeting in which a doctor is thrown into a furnace, but all things considered, things could be going worse for Eugene.
I'm not here to discuss Eugene's situation directly, but I am here to discuss Eugene's choice in video games and what it can mean for his future. Because it's time to over-examine one detail from the episode and hop aboard the crazy train. Put on your tinfoil hat, and let's take a look!
What we should really look at here is the choice of game that Eugene plays. Eugene is playing Yar's Revenge on the Atari 2600, a game that I happened to spend quite a bit of time in my youth because I am old as dirt. Yar's Revenge was released in 1982, and it involves a block of about 16 pixels that's supposed to be a robot fly or something zipping around a black rectangle with a vertical stripe of static (which is a "safe zone") in the middle and a bad guy shaped like two low-res pieces of pizza on the far right of the screen.
The bad guy — named Qotile — was behind a barrier that your bug could shoot at or nibble on, and Qotile would frequently turn into that ninja star from Krull and try and kill your bug. As the bug, nibbling on the barrier would power up a missile that would fire at Qotile, and your job was to time it right and send the missile into Qotile, destroying him. That's it, that's the whole game. You would do this for 20 hours and then wonder what became of your life.
But is there more importance to Yar's Revenge in The Walking Dead than just being the skill that impressed Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) wives? If I can help it, yes.
One question we all had at the end of the episode was whether or not Eugene had actually turned and gone to Negan's side after telling Dwight (Austin Amelio) that he was Negan, the old motto of the Saviors and a general indication that someone has lost a sense of self but is absolutely loyal to their despotic leader. Obviously, Eugene isn't one of Negan's men despite the fridge full of fresh veggies, but let's look at it from the Yar's Revenge angle because this is the internet and we always overanalyze things.
The Walking Dead could have picked any video game for Eugene to play, but it chose a game that most of its audience wouldn't even recognize. They could have used Asteroids or Pitfall or Missile Command or Combat or that stupid basketball game that was two sticks throwing a square around. Instead, they picked one of the first games to feature a slightly more complex level of strategy to play, and I think it mirrors Eugene's gameplan to deal with Negan.
Yar's Revenge is tedious, but it's also about slow progress. Obviously in this comparison, Qotile is Negan and the robo-fly is Eugene. Just as the fly slowly takes apart Qotile's barrier, so too will Eugene chip away at Negan's "defenses" until it's the perfect time to strike. The static safe zone is comparable to Eugene's personal skill set — he's practically untouchable now that Negan flame-broiled his other doctor, leaving Eugene as his number-one egghead. Plus, Eugene can make bullets and had a great idea to pour molten metal over the Sanctuary's guard walkers to keep them from falling apart and keep them in place.
Eugene isn't dumb, as we know. And one thing that's helped him survive the apocalypse for this long is his recognition of his limitations. He knows he's not like Daryl (Norman Reedus), so he can't just run away. He doesn't have Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) toughness, so he can't fight. He has to rely on his noggin, which means playing a long game of chipping away, gaining Negan's trust, and then striking when it's right. Much like what the gameplay of Yar's Revenge boils down to.
Yeah, I'm probably going too far with this, but there has to be a reason The Walking Dead specifically chose Yar's Revenge, and I'm guessing it's because Eugene is set to get his own revenge — on behalf of his buddy Abraham — pretty soon.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC.