“I know things.” — Eugene Porter
Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was shaping up to be one of this season’s first major stumbles in what has been a very good season. The show was due for a mulligan this first half of the season and audiences probably wouldn’t have made too much of a big deal. It’s almost a joke now that the series tends to have some weak throwaway episodes that goes nowhere before ramping things back up again.
“Self Help” did try it’s hardest to put the breaks on this season’s forward momentum, but surprisingly the episode ended up being a helpful and informative entry to The Walking Dead series.
We get a cold opening of Abraham, Eugene, Rosita plus new additions in Glenn, Maggie and Tara on the bus having left the Rick and the other half of their group back in the church. They’re on their way to D.C. where Abraham hopes whatever miracle cure Eugene has in his mulleted head will end the nightmare world they’re now living in. It’s a mission that Abraham has such a laser-focus in completing that when we get back after the cold opening’s bus crash there’s signs that our redhead Sergeant might not be as calm and collected as we’ve come to believe.
Yes, tonight’s latest episode is a sort of origin story to how Abraham and Eugene got to where they are now. Why is Abraham so intent on getting to D.C. as fast as possible despite Eugene acting like me might not be who says he is.
It’s how the episode was structured that made it look like it was going to be one of the weaker episodes this season. The cold opening was almost done as a sort of joke with Eugene’s mullet being the punch line. We still get the requisite group zombie attack on the group several times throughout the episode and we see that even though their number has been halved they still work quite efficiently in spite of Eugene’s utter uselessness in the face of battle.
Why exactly is Abraham so protective of Eugene? Surely there’s probably other scientists who have survived who could do the same things Eugene professes to know.
We find out exactly through flashbacks to Abraham’s time in the early days of the zombie apocalypse when it looks like he still has his family. These flashbacks show us exactly why Abraham has taken on Eugene as his mission. In an encounter at the end of the episode we find Eugene stumbling helpless as Abraham was about to end it all with a bullet, but seeing this mulleted man looking like he could barely out-walk the zombies stumbling after him puts him into badass mode.
Abraham has a reason to continue living. His temper getting the best of him and having his family seeing him at his most brutal and terrible has cost him their lives. While his temper saved his family from further rape (seemed implied) and harm from random strangers it also showed them the sort of man he was when confronted with danger. He’s a soldier. A sergeant in the military who was probably the toughest one in his unit. He’s probably seen combat and done things in war that he wasn’t proud of but he did it to finish the mission. With protecting his family from the zombies and the chaos out in the world now gone he has moved on to protecting Eugene. He sees Eugene as the hope he’s returning back to the world and, maybe, make the loss of his family not be in vain.
The same could be said about Eugene who is the polar opposite of Abraham, but whose smarts and ability to think on his feet (meaning lie) has kept him alive where others more physically-able has fallen. Eugene has a mission to keep himself alive as long as possible and he has conned Abraham and the others into thinking he’s the savior. Yet, as we see throughout this episode he has begun to see that maybe he doesn’t need to keep lying to stay alive. He has found a group in Rick and the others who bring people in because they’re decent and willing to forgive.
Abraham and Eugene have switched roles by episode’s end. We see Abraham’s sanity reach it’s breaking point and when Eugene tells him and the others that he has been selling them all a lie we see a that tenuous hold Abraham has on his bottled up anger unleashed on Eugene. On the other side of the equation we see how Eugene has gathered the courage and confidence in knowing the others will not turn him away to finally reveal the truth.
While “Self Help” wasn’t one of the better episode this season it served it’s purpose. We finally find out the truth about Eugene. He and Abraham finally have begun to round out as real characters instead of one-note caricatures of the badass soldier and the meek brain we’ve been shown, so far. Even Rosita gets some of her rough edges trimmed a bit as we see her as a sort of calming influence on the volatile sergeant.
With the cure now a mission that’s sure to end where does this leave and Abraham and his group. Do they make their way back to the church and join up with Rick again or do they continue forward and find a new place to hold up until Rick gets to them? Will Eugene ever be trusted by the others again or will they understand why he did what he did even if it meant others died to keep him and his lie safe? More questions arose with tonight’s episode, but they’re new ones that look towards moving the story forward instead of keeping things in place and going in circles.
- “Self Help” was written by Heather Bellson and directed by series regular Ernest Dickerson.
- We get a brutal flashback with Abraham using canned food to smash the face in of a man who might’ve raped his wife. Again the show does a lot to push the line in terms of TV censors (so far they’ve gotten a free hand at things), but they continue to stay away from actually showing rape occur on the series. Everything has been implied.
- In the comics the men Abraham killed in the flashbacks were friends of his he banded together with in the early days of the zombie outbreak. They ended up raping his wife and daughter while he was out scavenging for weapons. He literally ripped apart all 6 men with his bare hands and why his family were scared of him.
- This season has seen quite a new look for the zombies as we see them more lethargic and easier to kill due to their physical status, but as we see in the end it’s their massive numbers which continues to make them such a danger even to a hardened, veteran group of survivors like Abraham Glenn and Maggie.
- Yes, that mullet on Eugene was getting to be too much party in the back.
- Never thought I would hear the words “dolphin smooth” uttered on The Walking Dead but heard them I did.
- At least we now know that Abraham and Eugene pair up all the way back in Texas. Most likely Houston.
- Talking Dead guests tonight are a trio from the show itself: Michael Cudlitz (Abraham Ford), Josh McDermitt (Eugene Porter) and Gale Anne Hurd (series Executive Producer)