The Walking Dead: 7.11 Hostiles And Calamities

After a good couple of episodes involving a lot of the main cast and several things going on in the various group settings, The Walking Dead this week returned to The Sanctuary for another Negan-heavy episode, focusing (once again) on him, Dwight, and interestingly this time, Eugene.

Hostiles and Calamities picked up from after Daryl’s escape from the Saviours. Overnight, Dwight was shut in the same cell that Daryl had been in, and Negan told him through the door that Sherry was missing. Though most people already suspected, it’s now confirmed that she was the one who helped Daryl escape. On Negan’s orders, Dwight went out to retrieve her, but only succeeded in finding a letter left behind.

Dwight and Sherry have been a sad story since the moment we met them, and things have only deteriorated for them since. Sherry’s letter explained how she let Daryl go because he was reminding Dwight of who he used to be, and she wanted to let him forget. The letter was left in a house that was a place that she and Dwight used to always say they’d meet at if they were ever separated, and they’d bring pretzels and a six pack. But Sherry didn’t meet him there this time because she wasn’t sure he wouldn’t take her back to Negan. Essentially, she thought he was too far gone, even though it was implied he really would have run away with her this time. He even brought the six pack and pretzels. I’ve never really felt much for Dwight, but that was a bit heart wrenching.

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Also in the letter were mentions that he used to have trouble remembering things. I don’t really understand why anyone thought it was a good idea to include this as part of Sherry’s otherwise very smooth flowing prose. I don’t think we’ve seen anything on the show previously to indicate that Dwight may have memory problems and I highly doubt that we’ll see it explored any further, so it really just felt like a flimsy way of trying to incorporate the “you’ve forgotten who you are” trope.

Upon Dwight’s return to The Sanctuary, he decided to feed Negan a story about catching up to Sherry only for her to get killed by walkers. Oh, and he framed their friendly doctor for being the one to let Daryl go in the first place in order to impress Sherry, resulting in Dr Deserved Better being burned alive. You’d think Negan definitely knew he was being lied to - he’s no idiot - and there’s lots of speculation surrounding it, but it’s really not clear at this point. Either way, Dwight has clearly taken a dark turn. Even if it was to protect his ex wife, what he did was cruel, cold, and calculated. We’ve seen Dwight do some nasty stuff before, but this was next level cunning and I’m wondering what he’s gonna do next. I kinda hope he’ll see Sherry again and they’ll make up, but at the rate this show is going it seems more likely that he’ll find her only to get killed in front of her or something. Even if things magically work out okay in the end and he becomes a proper Good Guy like he must have been once before, in my book he’ll never be truly be redeemed until he stops wearing Daryl’s damn vest.

As for Negan, his role in the episode is the usual one of swaggering around, drawing attention to his bat, and generally being a big bully. Nothing new there. The real star of the episode was Eugene. I didn’t expect to like his bits of screen time, mainly because I’ve just never been able to care about him as a character. There are two main sides to his character: pathetic wimp, and survivalist liar. This week, those two traits once again went hand in hand, and with the old Human Genome Project lie created something new. Not a weaponised disease to fight the dead, nor a cure for the infection, but an actual interesting progression for Eugene.

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Pretty much from the moment he arrives at The Sanctuary, it’s clear that Eugene is going to have a very different experience here than the one Daryl did. He gets a nice bedroom, is gifted some pickles, even gets some cheery music… the revival of the legendary Easy Street was both hilarious and blatantly symbolic in terms of how much Eugene enjoys the song, compared to Daryl for whom it was used as a form of psychological torture. Fun.

This is the easy life that Eugene has wanted since the apocalypse began. He’s not cut out for bashing the dead in the head and being a fighter against the biters. He’s not a soldier; he’s a smarty-pants. This much is painfully clear during his face to face with Negan. His pathetic nature was emphasised as he quaked there, clutching his precious pickles, reverting back to his old tactic of lying to make people think he’s worth keeping alive. He may be lying about being a scientist, but he’s intelligent alright. His cleverness is matched only by his cowardice.

Part of the Sanctuary’s VIP welcome pack involves Negan sending some of his reluctant wives to come and spend some quality time with you. You can’t have sex with them (so the time isn’t THAT quality after all) but it’s safe to say everyone involved gets to enjoy more pleasant company than usual. In Eugene’s case, he was having a whale of a time chatting and playing video games until he was asked by said girls to make them something that Amber could kill herself with. Amber is the one who was forced into being one of Negan’s wives by family circumstance, and who tried to secretly see her boyfriend a few episodes ago. She’s not having a fun time at the moment and what fake chemist doesn’t want to add “able to aid in assisted suicides” to their CV?

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While getting the supplies, Eugene decided waiting in line like a normal person wasn’t for him, and went on some sort of weird power trip, telling the stock lady that he reports directly to Negan, so she answers to him. He then swanned off with more medical supplies than necessary, along with a sock monkey. Some people are saying that this was just an act, and that Eugene is playing a role, and while it does seem out of character for him to be such an authoritarian ass, I don’t know what drawing attention to himself like this would accomplish.

Anyway, it appears Eugene got scared off by the whole burning-a-doctor-alive-for-defying-him-even-though-he-actually-didn’t display of Negan’s, so when the girls came to collect the death pills for their friend, he refused to give them up. Also he knew they weren’t really for Amber but for Negan. When the girls threatened to tell Negan about the pills, and say that they were Eugene’s idea, he said they wouldn’t because Negan wouldn’t believe him over them for the same reason that Negan believed Dwight over the Doctor: they were expendable, and he wasn’t. This is definitely true in the case of smart fake scientist vs some of several reluctant rape wives, but honestly, Dwight definitely wasn’t more crucial or irreplaceable than a doctor. Crappy comparison of the week goes to Eugene, for making zero sense even though he was right.

When asked by Negan what his name was, Eugene cut him off before he even finished the question, not hesitating to say that he is Negan, and has always been Negan. This is possibly the most poignant use of “Negan” as a unifying name for the people that subscribe to said guy’s principles so far. There is still the possibility that Eugene is playing some sort of sneaky long game, and if it came down to it I highly doubt he’d ever specifically act against any of Rick’s lot. But for the time being, it seems completely believable that he’s embraced acting in his own self-interest, accepting the authority and ease of Saviour life in a way that’s almost cool. He could still surprise us all in the end by attempting to off Negan when he gets close - there are still those pills to consider, after all - but it would be really interesting to see him genuinely switch sides. That would also beg the question of where he’d be left in the aftermath of the war we know is coming, or whether he might finally get killed.

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I’ve never really cared much for Eugene. He never seemed particularly engaging but for the first time, this episode made me curious to see more of him. Once he got past his initial wimpy reaction to being there, Sanctuary life really seemed to suit him. I don’t think he’s trying to con Negan, I think he’s ready to settle in. Maybe he can pull some more sneaky science stuff at some point but who knows? It might be more fun to just watch him go full Dark Side. His friendship with Rick and co. never exactly bloomed. It was like he was always just sort of there but never really came into his own while with them. Has he decided to just move on now that Abraham’s dead? Does he hold any resentment towards Negan about that, or is he really as stone cold as his “I am Negan” confession conveyed? Is he set to become a Peter Pettigrew-like character, not only willing to switch sides in favour of what’s safer and easier but betray his friends as well? Will there be a confrontation? I’m ready to find out.

While this was probably the least exciting episode since the end of The Walking Dead’s hiatus, there was still some interesting development. We got even more insight into the inner workings of The Sanctuary with Eugene’s tour of the workhouse, but honestly we’ve seen enough of that now. Eugene and Dwight are an oddly similar pair that in all likelihood both still strongly dislike Negan himself but do what they gotta do to look out for themselves. There was a funny moment at the end as they shared a brief conversation and Eugene tried to address the fact that he had once bitten Dwight in the dick. “Regarding me clamping down,” he began, but was interrupted by Dwight who clearly would rather not talk about it.

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My main criticism of this episode would be the fact that there are clearly a whole host of interesting women surrounding the Sanctuary that have their own stuff going on. Negan’s wives, Laura, whose nickname for Eugene is Haircut, and of course Sherry are all characters that are being really underutilised. Interesting though Dwight and Eugene and even Negan are to some degree, so much focus on them seems a little wasted compared to all the rich female stories that we’re missing because they’re taking place off screen.

Things started off a little boring and not particularly promising this week, but Hostiles and Calamities had found its purpose by the end. It was really just re-hashes and expansions on character stuff we’ve seen before, but a more climactic version of events caused by those things. We knew D and E were cowards, but Dwight getting a man burned alive and Eugene becoming a Saviour with a position of authority were hardly things we saw coming. It’s unclear where these characters will go from here and while it will be cool to find out, I hope that as well as that, we can finally catch up with Sherry at some point and maybe even gain more insight into some of the other women too.