Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead, "Hostiles and Calamaties," was about two men who are unwittingly mirror images of each other. Or are they?
It's still too early to tell if Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has truly been seduced into becoming Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and joining the Saviors, but it's certain that Dwight (Austin Amelio) is looking for a way out. But both of them are grappling with where their loyalty lies and how much Negan they're willing to tolerate in exchange for safety and comfort.
Eugene may have finally found a place where he's respected. He was a nobody before the apocalypse, and he lied about being a Human Genome Project scientist to convince Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) to protect him as they journeyed to Washington D.C. When his lie was revealed after they'd joined up with Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) group, they kept him around because he was smart and knew how to do a lot of useful things, but they still never fully trusted or respected him. Even after he demonstrated his increasing bravery by doing things like saving Abraham by biting Dwight's penis (they're going to have to talk about that) and not giving in to despair after his friend's death, Rosita still told him she thought he was worthless -- though she may have been playing a mind game to get him to make her a bullet, which is what got him in this mess in the first place.
She may have shaken his confidence more than we realized. By the time he got to the Sanctuary, Eugene considered himself a survivor, having finally changed and adapted to meet his surroundings. But he quickly regressed once given comfort and respect from the boss, telling Tanya (Chloe Aktas) she's correct when she calls him a coward. Eugene may have broken bad. If he cuts off his mullet, we'll know for sure he's gone full Walter White. And all for a jar of pickles.
When he got to the Sanctuary, he was scared. But then Laura (Lindsley Register) showed him around and made him feel as welcome as one can feel in an authoritarian terrordome like the Sanctuary. She explained the points system, which a Savior of his rank doesn't have to participate in, and he can take what he wants. She foreshadowed a haircut in Eugene's future. She showed him to his room, which has books (there are more in the library), fresh produce in the fridge and a stereo that plays "Easy Street" (oh, how meaning can flip!). "Haircut" is home.
He was then taken to meet Negan, and the man who bashed his buddy's brain to bits wanted to know if Eugene is a "smarty pants." Eugene started to tell him the truth about he's just a guy who knows stuff, but when Negan wasn't impressed, he got indignant and said he worked for the Human Genome Project. Resurrecting that lie is one of the clearest indicators that Eugene is regressing back to cowardice. Negan asked him about how to keep the dead he has impaled on the fence from rotting, and Eugene said to cover them in liquid metal, drawing on his own experience with an armored walker. Negan thought that idea was really cool.
"Does Rick have you doing this kind of valuable stuff for him?" he asked.
As a reward, Negan let Eugene spend some time with his wives Tanya, Frankie (Elyse Nicole DuFour) and Amber (Autumn Dial). He impressed Tanya and Frankie by doing a high school science project, but Amber just drank herself into stupor. Later, Tanya and Frankie came back to his room and asked him to make suicide pills for Amber, which was very unethical for him to agree to as a fake doctor. Helping a depressed but otherwise healthy person commit suicide is a clear violation of the Hippocratic oath he didn't take. It's funny how they're like "if you're a good guy, you'll kill this poor sad girl!" The world has changed, y'all.
When Eugene gathered the supplies for the pills, he got a little drunk on power, flexing on the lady in the pantry and taking her gremblygunk (whatever that is). He made the pills, but when Frankie and Tanya came to get them, he wouldn't give them to them, deducing that they're not for Amber, but for Negan. Eugene got burned the last time he made a thing to help a woman try to kill Negan, and he's not making that mistake again. This whole subplot didn't really add up -- why did he even bother to make the pills? Hopefully there's a satisfying payoff down the line, now that Eugene and the wives have blackmail material on each other.
Then Negan and Lucille came to his room. "You don't need to be scared," Negan told him. "You just need to answer me one question. Who are--"
"I'm Negan. Utterly, completely, stone-cold Negan," Eugene interrupted. He might mean it, or he might just be saying it to live comfortably and close by until he can slip Negan the poison himself. Is Eugene really willing to forget that this man killed his friend and protector just because he gave him a video game console? Is he really that spineless?
You know who hasn't forgotten what Negan did to him? Dwighty Boy.
Dwight started this episode by finding the body of Fat Joey and realizing that Daryl escaped with his ex-wife Sherry's (Christine Evangelista) help. When Negan found out, he sent goons to beat him up and put him in solitary confinement. Negan then came to talk to Dwight, and told him that a few hours after Daryl escaped Sherry went missing. Negan suspects that Dwight helped Daryl and Sherry escape -- "After all, you've got some pretty legitimate grievances" -- but Dwight convinces him he didn't. So Negan sent him to find Sherry and bring her back.
First, though, he paid a visit to bad Dr. Emmett Carson (Tim Parati), brother of good Dr. Harlan Carson (R. Keith Harris) of Hilltop, who told him that he thinks Sherry let Daryl out, because she has a kind heart.
Dwight then went to where he knew Sherry would be -- their old house, where they agreed to meet if they ever got separated. She's gone, but she left a very info-rich note. She blames herself for what Dwight's become, since he wouldn't have become the heartless killer he is now if she hadn't convinced them to go back to the Saviors after they fled the first time and left him to marry Negan to keep Negan from killing him. She admitted to letting Daryl out, because Daryl reminded Dwight of who he used to be -- that is, a person who cared about stuff -- and she wanted to let him forget.
"Being there isn't better than being dead. It's worse," she wrote. "I hope you realize that and I hope you get away." And then the reveal -- he brought the pretzels and beer they agreed to bring when they met back up at their house. He still loved her, and he would have defected with her. So now he's going to have to do it alone.
When he got back to the Sanctuary, he told everyone he killed Sherry. "We don't get to have big hearts," Dr. Carson says. "Remember that." He remembered very well, by pinning Sherry and Daryl's escape on the bad doctor. Negan was about to burn Dr. Carson with the infamous iron when the doctor confessed, and in response Negan threw him headfirst into the furnace. Fortunately, there's another Dr. Carson at Hilltop, which is where Daryl is heading, so maybe next week will be a Hilltop episode. Dwight sentenced an innocent man to death, but maybe this last heartless act will put him on the path toward getting his heart back.
The last scene of the episode finally brought its two subjects together. Eugene was overseeing some Saviors armoring some walkers, cremblygunk in his pocket, when Dwight approached. They reminded each other of their names and did not mention the fact that the last time they saw each other they got extremely intimate. Dwight was about to ask Eugene about Alexandria, presumably, when Eugene said "we are Negan." Dwight, taken aback, said "yeah."
The end of the episode left us viewers with a tangle of knowns and unknowns: we know Dwight wants to defect. We know no one else knows that. We don't know if Eugene is sincere in his allegiance to Negan. We don't if Eugene's allegiance is sincere. We don't know if we're even supposed to know if Eugene's allegiance is sincere. We don't know if Dwight and Eugene will team up for a common goal or secretly work against each other or secretly work toward the same goal without knowing it. And we definitely don't know what a gremblygunk is.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.