I apologize for being late with this review. Not only did I spend Sunday night watching the Oscars but I’ve also been sick for the past few days. As a result, I’m running about two days behind when it comes to reviewing stuff.
As for last Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead…
To be honest, before I watched Hostiles and Calamities, I was really concerned. I knew three things. I knew that the episode featured a lot of Negan, which was the main problem with the first half of the seventh season. I knew that the episode would involve the Saviors, who may be properly hissable villains but whose bully-based society had never seemed particularly interesting. And I knew that the episode centered around Eugene, a character that I have never been particularly fond of. When we last saw Eugene, he was being taken away from Alexandria by Negan. And, to be honest, I was perfectly okay with the idea of never seeing Eugene again.
So, imagine my surprise when Hostiles and Calamities actually turned out to be a good episode!
Note that I didn’t say it was a great episode. It wasn’t. Negan and Lucille may be intimidating but they’re still not exactly as compelling as the show seems to think they are. That said, we did get to see a slightly different side to Negan as he half-seduced/half-bullied Eugene over to the dark side. For once, Negan actually did seem like a character who was worthy of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s considerable talent. But still, as a general rule, Negan is a lot like Jacob from Lost. He’s best used sparingly.
As usual, Josh McDermitt did a good job as Eugene but, since the character is already fairly annoying, it wasn’t a huge shock to hear him declaring, “I am Negan.” As smart as he may be, Eugene has always been one of the weakest members of Rick’s little group. For that reason, it made total sense that Eugene would be the one that Negan would decide to “recruit.” There’s no way that Negan would have been able to brainwash Daryl. Daryl is too strong for that. Daryl is willing to die before betraying Rick. But Eugene’s a self-described coward. As we all know, most bullies (and that is the perfect description for the Saviors) start off as cowards.
Seeing as how it was centered around the least likable of Rick’s group, I really shouldn’t have liked Hostiles and Calamities but the episode worked for me. For the first time, the Savior society actually seemed … well, I wouldn’t go quite as far as to call it compelling. But still, it was interesting to see a new side to life in the Sanctuary. Our previous exposure to Savior society came through seeing Daryl in a cell and various Negan lieutenants harassing communities. In this episode, we got to see how things actually worked on a practical level. Even more importantly, we saw that Negan may be a jerk but he still manages to maintain order in an otherwise chaotic world. The scary thing about the collapse of society is that it’s usually the Negans who survive and thrive.
It also helped that this episode actually had some moments of humor. How couldn’t you smile at the sight of trembling Eugene, wandering around the compound with his jar of pickles? Personally, I sympathized with Negan’s “wives,” having to pretend to be impressed with Eugene’s video game just out of the hope that Eugene would help them poison Negan. When Eugene announced that he would never poison Negan, it wasn’t only as close as Eugene will ever get to being in control of his situation. It was also a declaration that Eugene was now a Savior for life.
(I assume that means that Eugene will eventually be devoured by zombies. That seems to be the punishment for turning your back on Rick.)
As for Dwight and the consequence of his search for Sherry, I felt bad for Dr. Carson. Carson seemed like a pretty nice guy but, since Dwight needed someone to blame for Daryl and Sherry’s disappearance, Dr. Carson ended up going head first into the fire. That whole scene made me cringe. That worked out well for Eugene, who is now the only “doctor” at the compound. You do have to wonder what will happen if Negan ever finds out that Eugene is a pathological liar.
In the end, Hostiles and Calamities was a pretty good episode of The Walking Dead. After a potentially calamitous first half, the second half of season 7 is developing nicely.