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.