The First Day of the Rest of Your Life: Review for The Walking Dead 716

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life:
Review for The Walking Dead 716
by R.C. Murphy

Hold your horses. I know you’re excited, but just so you know, there’s episode spoilers in this review.

I’ve been practicing that pep talk since the end credits ran and still don’t want to accept the message I, personally, saw in this finale. It’s just so . . . tiring. An age-old tale, one playing out in our current news feeds, if one cares to see the parallels.

But, really, do we need another story where gays, people of color, and women are the only reason white men survive their own bad decisions? Nah, dude. I was good with those stories a while ago. Let’s move on to a tale where everyone owns their bull, doesn’t hold petty grudges, and the fighting isn’t dependent on men’s egos.

I will admit, I was partially wrong about Dwight. Which is glorious because Negan came to the same conclusion I did—Rick had no plan and if someone were to spoon-feed him an easy out, he’d snatch it like a seagull in a tide pool at low tide. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Now, Dwight does look a smidge guilty throughout the invasion until bullets fly, then it’s survive or turn walker. Did he leave that wood figure with the message at the gate? I don’t know. He’s a smart enough guy to take one look at Rick’s desperation and understand that’s not the person to trust with your life. Too many others fail to understand this. The last few seasons have been awash in blood shed during Rick’s ill-considered schemes to get one step ahead of the bigger fish in the pond. He’s staying afloat in the apocalypse on a raft of souls. At least when Negan does it, he owns up to it.

In typical fashion, Rick escapes with apparently the most manageable injuries of those shot during the botched attack, seeing as he’s upright when Michonne and Rosita are left bed-ridden at the conclusion. That’s his big punishment after he dragged his people into an uneven deal with the Scavengers, harassed and mentally terrorized women and children to strip them of all their weapons—weapons which they cannot return now, if Rick ever intended to in the first place—sent numerous people to their graves because he just had to bait Negan into taking action, and left their homes vulnerable to constant attack when said baiting backfired. Rick pays for his ineptitude this season with a banged up hand, superficial scrapes and bruises, and what’s essentially a deep bullet graze to his side. Michonne pays for her loyalty to her lover with broken facial bones and who knows what else. Rosita pays for her part in the assassination plan by getting shot, but her wound is more severe and requires longer recovery time.

Then there’s Sasha, who, despite all her potential, is the latest sacrifice to Rick’s ego. The price for stepping out of line is becoming the catalyst for Alexandria to shoot itself in the foot. Not only does Sasha stoop to suicide-by-pill, but her death moment lasts a blink so that Rick’s war can begin in earnest. I can just see that plotting conversation now. “Well, how will they get a shot off if the Scavengers hold them at gunpoint?” “Zombie Sasha.” “What? I mean, there’s a bunch of things we could—” “Kill Sasha. Sonequa has a movie to film and that character is too complicated.” Note: Suicide is not noble. It is not the way to help your friends and loved ones get ahead, even if you feel like a burden. Sasha had so many other ways to get out of her position. Given outside influences, like the actor’s schedule, the writers opted to take a shortcut in Sasha’s story. No one should ever feel suicide is a viable shortcut option—from writers looking to punch up their work, to those like me who’ve lived with depression for years. There’s always another way. Trying to make Sasha’s suicide into a glorious take-one-for-the-team moment is appalling. Adding in bitter-sweet scenes with Abraham is just a cheap shot. I can’t be mad that they hauled Cudlitz back onto the small screen for some of the sweetest scenes he’s had on TWD. I just can’t. Those clips where Sasha remembers, or fantasizes, about Abraham were the only thing keeping my eyes on the screen. Their chemistry as a couple is so appealing. Well, once it got past that awkward beginning stage. But, like so much in this finale, the moment cheapens when one understands those scenes are a manipulation tool to make up for the lack of surprising action outside Abraham’s sudden appearance.

The plot is pretty straightforward. The Kingdom marches to join forces with Alexandria. In Hilltop, Maggie is done waiting around and will take her new people to likewise join the budding army. Over in Alexandria, Dwight spins his tale. Rick takes the bait. Everyone springs into action, laying out road blocks to slow the Saviors, and even setting up explosives at the gate. The Scavengers arrive in garbage trucks, and then spend half the episode being obvious double-agents as they “help” stage the ambush. In the Savior’s convoy, Eugene implores Negan to stand back and let him do the talking. Which he does. Rick gives Rosita the okay to bomb Eugene’s smug self. The bomb fails. That’s when the game is up. Jadis and her people turn their guns on everyone in Alexandria’s walls. Negan and Rick chat. Mostly, Negan makes demands and derides Rick for his audacity. Sasha pops out of the oh-so-dramatic casket as a walker, surprising Negan for perhaps the first time on the show. The fight breaks out—as far as fights goes, it’s a typical TWD gunfight with quick cuts and the body count is almost entirely third-string characters who didn’t even have names. Jadis shoots Rick, and after that it takes but moments to cow Alexandria into submission. Negan makes good on his promise to go after Carl as the next sacrifice for Rick’s hubris. Rick grandstands with the same tired, chest-pounding rhetoric he’s uttered since the day Negan killed Glenn. Then, Shiva happens. The cavalry arrives on her heels, saving everyone—except Michonne, who fights on her lonesome and is presumed dead for a while. The Scavengers and Saviors flee. Alexandria plays clean-up. In a voice-over, Maggie gives a speech to Rick about coming to help them because Glenn helped Rick, and that’s how they all started this life—or some utter rubbish because I couldn’t listen after she basically threw Glenn under the bus for every death Rick’s poor leadership has caused in seven seasons. Yeah. No. Don’t use a favorite character to boost the poorly-written character who in-part caused his death. That’s the same as Maggie forgiving Daryl, giving him an ego boost, and watching quietly while Daryl continues to express the behavioral problems which killed Glenn in the first place. The white guys don’t get a free pass because the woman from an interracial couple says their sins are washed away.

Much like I thought, this episode isn’t even the proper beginning to the war. It’s the warning shot. How will the showrunners handle a full-out war with bloodthirsty Negan? They’ve balked at every turn, admitting they downgraded the violence after the season opener, while still swearing Negan is Negan is Negan. Not when you trade Lucille for a whiffle bat. Maybe the downtime will help them reaffirm what, exactly, they want to do with these characters. If they don’t change something, the fans will leave. It’s the cool thing for reviewers to drop TWD from their rotation right now. Good thing I’m not cool. I really, truly want to see if they can get over these hang-ups and dig into good storytelling again. Bring on season eight and the war. I mean, war prep was boring, but surely being in the thick of it will yield more tension beyond those awkward pauses when Rick and Negan talk alone together.


Something They Need: Review for The Walking Dead 715

Something They Need:
Review for The Walking Dead 715
by R.C. Murphy

Warning! There’s episode spoilers below.

The action targets three story lines; a blessing since the Oceanside invasion is a snooze-fest and utterly predictable. If it were the sole story line in the episode, it would have been one of the most boring hours of television in creation. The only curveball in the episode is Tara’s complete lack of give a dang once decision time is up and the invasion begins in earnest. Mind you, they have a plan to rob women and children, yet ask any Alexandria resident exactly how they plan to employ these guns against Negan and there’s crickets. So why would Natania trust a woman holding her at gunpoint with no provocation, and then just hand over every gun to hyper-aggressive people who can’t say what they’ll do with them? Obviously Natania is never going to agree to such ludicrous demands. The second Oceanside’s leader fails to say yes, Tara blames her for making the only logical decision available. Women and children needlessly suffer emotional and physical harm for failing to fall in line with Rick’s demands. Didn’t anyone stop to think that if they used explosives to scare the residents, it’d also attract zombies? Why hold civilians in an unsecured portion of unfamiliar territory? Nothing about the invasion’s resolution makes sense, unless you realize it was written to indebt Oceanside to Rick, therefore forcing Natania to surrender their weapons to the people who saved them or look completely unhinged. Don’t forget, Oceanside could have protected themselves had Rick not ordered his people to disarm their fighters and hold everyone outside the secure perimeter. How does Rick react to her grudging gratitude? By taking every last gun in the community. That pettiness is exactly why this show is going downhill. Enough tit-for-tat revenge schemes. How about an episode where Rick treats an outside group with respect? Would it have killed him to speak to Natania in person before getting her people attacked, or is he like our sitting Vice President, unable to be alone in a room with a woman who isn’t his spouse?

Who’s holding him accountable for his questionable decisions? It sure as heck isn’t God—a.k.a. the writers.

Who does suffer drastic consequences for their actions on TWD?

Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha Williams – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

It all boils down to punishing women. Sasha’s irrational decision to join Rosita’s mission means she must be pushed, in this case via David’s rape threat and molestation. When Rick jumped on the crazy-hair train and promised Jadis a ton of weapons they’d never have a chance of finding? He’s rewarded with armloads of guns falling in his lap with little to no effort on his part and a whole lot of grandstanding. Daryl’s decision to hit Negan cost someone their life, yet his punishment on-screen is some dog food sandwiches and gopher duty. Excuse me? How is raping Sasha going to make Rick’s war happen? It isn’t. It’s a message to women to stay in their place, listen to the man in charge, and to rely solely on the good graces of another man in order to make it anywhere in life. This show if chock full of these jabs at the strong woman stereotype. Maggie endures a dozen moments like this per episode in this season alone—and let’s not forget her near-rape moment back during The Governor’s reign of terror. There are few exceptions to this rule when it comes to TWD women. At some point or another, they’re a forced-sex object. Can’t the writers move past this already? Name anything a man finds terrifying and I guarantee it’ll also frighten a woman. Lean in close, writers. Not every strong woman needs a rape story in her history in order to make her a true survivor and therefore worthy of becoming a leader.

Playing off the rape threat, Sasha depends solely on Negan to survive the night locked in a closet with a soon-to-be walker when he gives her a knife and several “difficult” decisions to make. Obviously she isn’t going to lay there and wait for an attack—that’s what David wanted to do in the first place, now he gets a second change to molest Sasha after death? Bull. But we’re supposed to believe Negan Is Great And Merciful. He’s not. He’s the bad guy, and despite Jeffry Dean Morgan’s insane amount of charm, he will remain a scum-sucking monster no matter how much positive PR the writers give him. Standing up against rape doesn’t negate murder, mental abuse, and torturing those who step out of line. Negan gives Sasha the right to life, and orders to strategize how to stop Rick’s plans before they fully hatch. She turns around and makes some grand lie about wanting to kill herself in order to manipulate Eugene into giving her a weapon to use on the bossman.

I’d like to remind writers that suicide is not something to arbitrarily throw into a script because your character needs or wants something. Too many depressed people are ignored or belittled when they do reach out during an emotional crisis because pop culture trains us to believe they’re exaggerating, or worse trying to manipulate. There were numerous ways for Sasha to convince Eugene to give her a weapon, yet when hard-pressed to deliver something clever, the writers use the lowest form of mental manipulation. F for effort. Go back and write something which doesn’t harm an already ostracized subset of people.

Back in Hilltop, it’s really more of the same. Maggie’s role as a leader solidifies as she expounds expert farming advice to receptive ears, much to Gregory’s chagrin. This is where it gets eye-roll worthy. Gregory stalks Maggie, cornering her to discuss her intentions in the community now that their doctor serves Negan. The scene is only fun when it comes to realizing Gregory can barely tie his shoe in a tense situation, let alone protect a pregnant woman and take on a zombie. Of course Maggie saves him. She also has the gall to tell passersby that he just made his first kill. The second she shames him in public, Gregory rushes to look up Simon’s address and plans a trip to tell Daddy about Maggie’s bad behavior. Gregory is that manager who’s so afraid a woman in his employ will take his position, he winds up ruining his own career undermining hers. Simon doesn’t want Gregory to whine at his doorstep. He only gave the guy his address to get information about whatever Rick’s planning. Once Gregory fails to deliver more than babbling about women taking over his mansion, he’s walker food. I know, I know. I keep predicting Gregory’s death. At some point it’ll happen. I honestly cannot see that character surviving until season eight. He’s just too . . . pathetic.

The finale is around the corner. I have absolutely no expectations and have passed up every preview so far. All I know is Dwight’s about to hand Rick the key to this war, and I’m livid that everything goes so smoothly for a guy who honestly can’t pry his head from his backside long enough to realize he’s gotten everyone killed thus far, with more deaths yet to come.


The Other Side: Review for The Walking Dead 714

The Other Side:
Review for The Walking Dead 714
by R.C. Murphy

Warning! This review contains episode spoilers.

There’s absolutely no sense of urgency going into the final two episodes for season seven. Sure, every character on-screen is doing something to prepare for this upcoming war, but they’re going about it in such bone-headed ways, there’s no enjoyment, just grim knowledge that the writers will kill off more characters after a flimsy attempt to make them loveable.

The Saviors roll into Hilltop on a mission to ferret out Daryl. It’s the prefect chance for Gregory to polish his reputation. In Simon’s opinion, the push-over leader might as well be the talking Welcome Mat from the Beast’s castle—sentient enough to be useful, but unable to enact any real change on his own. In a rush to save his skin, Gregory licks Simon’s boot with flattering talk about booze—men are so damn weird—and finally launches a desperate bout of word-vomit alluding to another party vying for power in the village. For his effort, and for graciously allowing Dr. Carson to become Negan’s personal physician, Simon invites Gregory to his place for drinks and a discussion about the power struggle. Who does Gregory see at a threat this time around? Not Maggie, who he’s fashioned into his own personal demon since her arrival. No, Gregory makes a 180-turn, focusing his paranoia on Jesus . . . in the same episode where we finally learn what lies behind the long-haired man of mystery. Chew on that for a while. Guess misogyny wasn’t enough of a shield for Gregory, they had to make him a bigot, as well. Can we just stop putting men like this on television? It’s no longer cathartic to see them attacked by the undead, or however they wind up dying, but instead reaffirms the notion that no matter how bad a person you are, in the apocalypse you can still get ahead by hating everyone who’s different. Want to smash the patriarchy with your art, TWD writers? Start by denying them someone to identify with and see how they like the turnabout.

Katelyn Nacon as Enid, Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha Williams – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

With the Saviors in town, Maggie and Daryl are finally forced to deal with each other when they take cover in a basement together. Was it the long-awaited verbal smackdown from a grieving widow? NO. And that’s a damn shame. Maggie is very forceful in the way she forgives the man directly responsible for her greatest loss to date, going from back-patting to straight up cheer squad for Daryl’s ego. The moment isn’t a sweet reconciliation. It’s downright infuriating to watch Daryl escape consequences for his childish behavior yet again. I mean, not only did his punch get Glenn killed, but he’s gone on to mope about it like a teenager denied the car for an evening joyride. Yes, I heard his apology. It’s empty. He is forced to apologize because he’s stuck in Maggie’s presence and afraid she’ll lay into him before he can slap a Dollar Store bandage on the problem. His apology is a reflex, bred from years of verbal abuse in his family, but it’s not a sign he’s learned a lesson. Maggie forgives him so the fan-favorite character isn’t in the dog house anymore. That’s the only motivation behind what should’ve been a powerful confrontation scene. Instead it teaches that empty apologies are currency to cover the cost of assisting in a murder. Whoops! Sorry your lover died. Wanna go shoot arrows together?

Give me a break from all this man-appeasing bull.

Okay, but I didn’t mean you should produce what’s probably the worst girlfriends road trip in the history of mankind, TWD folks.

Rosita and Sasha are forced to deal with each other yet again. Guys, this entire story line is just daft, let’s get that out of the way. No woman is going to buddy up with her dead lover’s ex to go shopping, let alone assassinate someone. Why put oneself in a position to be verbally or physically attacked by someone who obviously holds a grudge? Drama doesn’t make women’s hearts beat. Sasha’s finally achieved the good life. She just has to wait for the right moment to lead, or help lead, Hilltop. Instead, her mental progress is dust-binned in favor of a fruitless assassination plot. Rosita, for her part, does her best to screw up. Even when she opens up emotionally, it’s to admit she’s spent years using men with no intention to make a future with them, nor explain why she left. For the record, that’s not how feminism works, so let’s not make Rosita into some fort of feminist figurehead. She’s just a cruddy person who, instead of asking to learn a skill, she shadows lovers, takes what information she wants, and is gone not long after. No matter your gender, that’s awful behavior.

Two episodes left in the season and nearly an entire episode is devoted to developing secondary characters who’ve been neglected—except Sasha, who’s regressed to where she was mentally after Tyreese died. The writers use an entire episode for an info dump. Good writers spread information throughout the piece. They don’t stop in the middle of the arming-up scene and waste an entire chapter to delve into why a character has mired in two-dimensional Angerland for years, or to give a free pass for bad behavior because Tragic Backstory is a magical cure-all. It’s not. It’s cliché, lazy writing. Seven years down the line, these people are so far removed from the world, they no longer understand how to use fan’s emotions to pace the story’s flow. We should be desperate to know what happens next week. I watched one preview, shrugged, and assumed the next two episodes will be over-filled with action stemming from Rick’s rash decisions, with the season finale ending on a cliffhanger. I highly doubt the war is here yet. There hasn’t been enough tension to warrant a conflict of that magnitude, not with the side trips to frolic at the county fair and all the time it takes to don kid gloves for handling Daryl’s ego. Maybe next year we’ll finally get there. Have hope. We’ll get that war, guys.


Bury Me Here: Review for The Walking Dead 713

Bury Me Here:
Review for The Walking Dead 713
by R.C. Murphy

Head’s up! This review contains episode spoilers.

Pardon me while I try to wrap my head around something. A white man is radicalized through his own apathy at a refugee camp. He suffers heart-shattering losses due in part to this. When he’s safe, he turns to leadership-approved violence to cope. When his vengeance against the Saviors is constantly put on the backburner, the man turns to terrorism, going so far as to stalk and recruit an accomplice. Turned away from his vendetta yet again, this time by a kindred spirit, he executes a dramatic suicide-by-baddie ploy to finally spread his message. When his poorly considered exit claims another life instead, he backtracks and blames everyone else, only ever taking ownership of his original cowardice at the camp where his wife perished in a fire. Despite the method of his murder, this man dies thinking he’s a martyr. His end at the hands of a man half a sneeze from Full Crazy is pathetic, really. What was Richard ever going to add to the community? He came in ready to go out with a bang. A glory hog to make up for past sins. His death delivers a message: Terrorism hurts those who are given the dubious position of profiting from destruction with no consideration for civilian safety. How much effort does it take to stop and ask yourself, “How many people will die because of what I’m going to do?”

Okay, I think I’ve got it now. I understand. The writers weren’t happy just making a point, but they yet again proved said point with the tried and true white martyr story. The story line pushed the tension a little, mostly because fans were waiting for Richard to die, and motivated exactly one person to take up arms against the enemy. I wasn’t sure who’d end Richard’s woe-is-me festival. It was a tie between Morgan, Ezekiel, Gavin and co., or Carol should she catch wind of his intent to drop The Kingdom in the middle of the war without any time to prepare. Trying to guess gave me about a minute of enjoyment. Then the writers blew the surprise with foreshadowing when they took this as their golden ticket to trigger Morgan—adding an “unpredictable” element to liven things up, I presume.

Now we’re down a fighter and the Saviors have word that mutiny has been on The Kingdom’s mind. Thanks, Richard. Your legacy thus far is astounding.

Morgan is pretty much useless now, except for clearing the undead from around the community’s perimeter. That puts the burden of caring on Carol’s shoulders once more. She knows the truth at last, even if asking requires her to examine why she turned her back on humanity. Kudos to the writers for passing on clunky dialog in favor of allowing McBride to just react during two character-changing conversations—the first changed how she sees herself living in the mad world, the second demolishes the emotional barriers holding her back from engaging in battle. The minute she suspects her people suffered, she straps on her badass cap and goes to get answers she knows will break her heart. And they do. McBride’s genius is in her eyes as Morgan lays out what happened in Alexandria since their departure. Without much to-do, she delivers a gut-twisting performance. It’s probably one of my favorite acting moments in the series from the last three seasons, despite the tears it inspired.

Richard the Coward shoved the Kingdom into the warpath, whether Ezekiel thinks they’re ready to defend the front lines and the home front simultaneously or not. Morgan went ’round the bend again and can’t stop killing walkers. To clean up the mess, Carol’s coming out of violence retirement. It shouldn’t come down to one woman to smack sense into everyone, but since we’re here, I’m glad Carol is that woman. The Kingdom is being dragged into a mess they want nothing to do with. How will the average citizen react to the news?

Next week, Hilltop is likewise forced to choose their side in the war. Can they kill off Gregory as their sacrifice to the war gods, like the Kingdom did with Richard? His misogyny is tired and boring. We need to move on to more productive narratives, not the same ol’ men-holding-women-back bull, if this show is to get anywhere during the last three episodes in the season.


Say Yes: Review for The Walking Dead 712

Say Yes:
Review for The Walking Dead 712
by R.C. Murphy

Warning: Episode Spoilers Below.

Just when one thinks they’ve finally picked up speed, everything grinds to a halt so Rick can get in bed with a freaky gun-obsessed cult . . . oh, and Michonne, of course. Skip the pre-credits scene. It’s pretty much just sex cut with clips with them grabbing supplies. Has there been this much sex on-screen since the Lori/Shane era? Why now? It’s not the action-break fans need to deal with the lack-of-momentum in the plot. I got more enjoyment from the couple’s silly moments than the intimate scenes. Laughter leaves them more vulnerable than sex—they weren’t attacked mid-coitus, they fell through the roof during a light-hearted scouting mission. TWD writers are desperate to make Richonne work. Like Gretchen’s quest for Fetch, it’s just not happening. Do I hate the idea of their relationship? No. That being said, the writers spend so much time forcing them into “couple situations” that the characters never mature in their affection organically. I just don’t see love there. I see a gimmick.

We know they hump and grab gear, but really the main goal for the mission is guns. Which they find by funny happenstance while chasing a deer they spotted near camp. There’s a large compound not far from their van and they missed it. Huh. Anyway, they find a fenced-off building, which may have been military, along with a carnival. Uhh, okay. Sure. Stranger things have happened—like Alexandria’s scouts and the entirety of the Saviors magically missing a dump covering several square miles with twenty or thirty foot tall rubbish piles. The episode’s point is, Rick gets guns dropped in his lap. They do have to work for it. Kinda. There’s a lot of things magically going right for them that make the effort laughable. All-in-all, they kill a few dozen walkers, grab a van-load of food and guns, then take off to fulfill the new deal. There’s one moment where Michonne fully believes Rick, not the random deer, is zombie lunch. As always, it’s a death tease. When the moment is rehashed later to get the feels out, Rick babbles about them all being on a suicide mission to save the future. Why don’t I see these two in a relationship? When Michonne admits the depth of her love, Rick deflects and focuses on his self-appointed savior gig.

Meanwhile in Alexandria, Rosita has a series of self-important hissy fits. The tantrum culminates with Rosita stealing a rifle and convincing Sasha to go on a suicide mission of their own. Why don’t fans have many favorite characters outside the original quarry crew? Because the rest come on the stage with one foot already in the grave. Everyone has that same death wish mentality. Sasha has been there, done that. Do we need her to be the flaming moron agreeing to aid Rosita just because they slept with the same man? Nah. Women don’t work that way. Besides, Sasha matured from her death-beckoning days. Matter of fact, if she wanted, she could lead Hilltop—in part with Maggie, or on her onesies. The point is, Sasha still has potential. Rosita hasn’t shown the same kind of potential since she became the Angry Spurned Woman in the community. Anger is one-dimensional when used as the backbone for building a character. Pigeonhole someone in that stereotype too long and they just take up space in the plot. It may be time to say goodbye to Rosita. I just hope she doesn’t take Sasha out with her.

Jadis and her people . . . already over it. She and Rick haggle over the gun delivery—it’s not enough to arm her large group. Let’s be honest, this whole story line exists to enable Rick’s wanderlust and suicidal tendencies. If this all actually leads to genuine war with the Saviors, I’ll be surprised. More importantly, if the Jadis deal goes as planned at all, it’d be a miracle. I have zero faith in Rick’s judgement calls.

In the next episode, Carol jumps back in the fight. Maybe she can put some oomph back in the show.


Hostiles and Calamities: Review for The Walking Dead 711

Hostiles and Calamities:
Review for The Walking Dead 711
by R.C. Murphy

Whoa, speed demon. Before you read on, know this review contains episode spoilers. Now you may proceed.

Eugene isn’t the only story here. We’ve got two men making important decisions over the blessedly average-length episode. See, guys, they can indeed pack some decent story into forty-something minutes.

While Eugene finds his footing in the primary Saviors compound, Dwight has the rug yanked from under him. It’s not hard to connect the dots—Sherry freed Daryl, then ran away, and her ex-husband is the only one on-site to take the brunt of Negan’s anger. Unlike Daryl, it takes Dwight one night in the closet to get his Negan on, promising to hunt down his ex for the Big Man. That’s when things actually get good. Dwight never finds Sherry. He visits their old house and finds a note explaining why she did what she did, and why she is gone for good—likely already dead, given her lack of survival skills outside the ability to manipulate men. We’ve known for a while that Dwight isn’t a complete pile of rubbish. He fought to keep his sister-in-law healthy, only giving up in order to save Sherry once her sister passed and there was no need to keep the stolen insulin. For some, it is better to reside in the arms of the devil promising an easy life instead of struggling through a desert to reach the angels in a far-off, peaceful land. The price for that stunt was pain, originally. Now Negan cost Dwight the company of his still-loved wife, who was sole supplier of the meager good moments Dwight can hold onto with his memory problems.

Side note: Any time a disorder like this is handled with tact and care, a fairy gets its wings. This is not one of those instances. Sure, her letter was meant to sound heartfelt, but it fell short. Sherry mentions Dwight’s problem as her last manipulation tactic. It’s pretty crappy to gaslight a guy on your way off the mortal coil by stating you hope his mental disorder warps his sense of reality so he can cope with working under a monster.

Fortunately, it lights a fire under Dwight instead. From here on out, this is the guy to watch. He wastes no time in securing his place at Negan’s side by offering up a stress release tied to Daryl’s release—likely spurred by the afore-mentioned memory problem and that ever-present sense of doom. Hope no one was fond of top Negan toadie Dr. Carson. Poor guy catches the wrong end of a bad mood after Dwight plants enough evidence to convict him in the Court of Negan for the grave crime of freeing Daryl.

Eugene absorbs many, many important lessons in the episode, but none as important as what they all learned during Dr. Carson’s final moments—make yourself irreplaceable. There’s never been a place for Eugene in the world. He lied to Abraham to secure a spot in a vehicle headed anywhere safe, and perpetuated said lie for the sole purpose of garnering favor with Rick’s group. After the truth came out, everyone fell back on the notion that he doesn’t get respect because he’s weird, book smart, and lied to his best friends. The writers were good with leaving him there, wallowing in his omeganess until they needed a permanent outsider’s point-of-view in the Saviors’ camp. Who’s completely disposable? Eugene. Who’s most likely to piss off fans by falling in line with the bad guy? Eugene. He was set up to turn teams back when they reached Alexandria, guys. This is some long-game stuff going on in the writing room which could’ve resolved so much sooner to really shake up the show. Fans deserve more than Rick’s lame war-making attempts.

Over the hour, Eugene morphs from a pickle-jar clutching coward to a video game junkie with his finger on the Saviors’ pulse. Probably, maybe literally since the doctor died. How’s that? Eugene is not a doctor, you say? He was once upon a time, remember? The Lie is in play again. Will Eugene stumble and expose the truth? So far he’s pretty sturdy on his feet, dodging one attempt to use his kind heart to do harm. The wives thought the new guy would help poison Negan. They grossly underestimated a frightened man’s ability to figure out any plot which may endanger his safe place in the world. For so long as it is necessary, Eugene is Negan.

Look at all that character work! Look at it! There’s no lame zombie gimmick undermining the story. No grandiose ego-driven statement negated efforts from primary characters—Rick’s assurance he’d get his new fighters completely ignored the fact that Michonne’s ingenuity saved Rick in the pit and there’d be no army without her. The characters in episode 711 act, react, and plot their future in wholly believable ways. How is it they captured Dwight and Eugene’s struggle, but the Rick story line constantly fails to deliver? Next week’s preview looks like more of the same half-thought Rick antics, too. I’d rather spend more time watching Dwight work to screw up the Saviors from the inside out, honestly. I’m way, way over Rick’s suicidal war-mongering mission.