Monday, February 27, 2017

The Walking Dead, Season Seven, Episode Eleven: Hostiles and Calamities

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With Eugene arriving at the Sanctuary,  this is the first time we get an in depth look at how the Sanctuary functions and how the people balance their desire to survive with their abject hatred of Negan.  The residents of the Sanctuary may have much of their material needs taken care of, thanks to the fact that they steal food from all of the other communities but no one living there is happy. They've all made a compromise with the devil and in the process sold their souls. The heart of this episode is about Dwight and Eugene figuring out who they are in this world.

Eugene is in full out coward mode when he is brought to the Sanctuary. Given all of the violence Negan has committed, Eugene's fear is absolutely justified at this point.  The only thing he knows is that Negan took him from Alexandria because he made Rosita's bullet and therefore he assumes that Negan is looking for some kind of revenge against him. Eugene however is pleasantly surprised to be installed in a relatively comfortable apartment, complete with a fridge stocked with fresh food. The point system by which people acquire food and various other sundries is explained to him.  

While Eugene is settling in to his new life, Dwight is in a panic because he's discovered Joey's dead body and of course the missing motorcycle. Dwight finds the note which was slipped to Darryl to aid in his escape and it's not long before he realises that Sherry had a hand in this. As you might expect, Negan doesn't take Darryl's escape lightly and he is quickly suspicious of Sherry.  Dwight knows the consequences of standing up against Negan but he does his best to try and protect Sherry and to deny her involvement in Sherry's escape.  Dwight is rewarded with a beat down and being shoved into the very same closet that he once held Darryl in. 

Laura is clearly playing good cop to Negan's bad cop.  Laura's approach is meant to put Eugene at ease and to imply that his life in the Sanctuary could be an easy one.  Eugene is then brought to see Negan who wants to know exactly what Eugene is capable of.  Eugene starts off by saying that he taught himself to make bullets and that he is good at taking in knowledge.  Negan doesn't seem overly impressed with Eugene even though he managed to make the bullet which almost ended his life.  Eugene then reverts to the lie he used to get Abraham to protect him and claims that he has multiple Phds and that he worked for the Human Genome project in the area of germ warfare. Negan presents Eugene with a problem in order for Eugene to prove that he isn't just a regular old smarty pants. The walkers which Negan uses to guard the fences of the Sanctuary continually rot and fall apart, forcing them to head out and round up new walkers.  Negan sees this as wasted labour.  Eugene suggests melting metal and pouring it over the walkers because it will keep their bodied intact and protect their heads so they cannot be killed. It's really quite bright and Negan is quick to recognise this. Eugene is awarded with a night with Negan's wives though he is warned that sex is off the table. 

Having been ordered to find Sherry, Dwight has to pay a visit to the doctor to fix up his banged up face. The doctor talks about how special Sherry is because she married Negan to protect Dwight.  Dwight then heads to his quarters where he pulls out a pack of cigarettes which only contains three cigarettes. One of them is butt which has lipstick on it. Clearly Dwight kept it to be close to Sherry in his own way. 

Eugene is having his night with the ladies and they are clearly bored watching him play a video game. Amber takes the opportunity to suck back as much alcohol as she can. It's then that Eugene acknowledges that the women aren't there of their own volition. The woman don't want to watch Eugene play a video game and instead they suggest talking about the Human Genome Project.  This is a risky time for Eugene who as we know is simply a science teacher. Eugene claims that it's all above their heads and then makes a home made bomb to dazzle the women and change the subject.  Eugene has always been rather creepy but the way he seems to soak up the adoration even after acknowledging that the women don't have any agency is this situation is a new low for him.

Dwight returns to the house he once shared with Sherry, certain that she would return there because of a shared promise. Dwight finds a letter from Sherry and her wedding band.  Sherry writes about their plan to meet up at this house if they ever got seperated and her belief that Dwight will never read this letter. Sherry explains her belief by saying that she didn't know if Dwight would come with her or if he would hunt her down and kill her.  It's not been lost on Sherry how much Dwight has changed since they've been forced to become part of the Saviours and she blames herself for that. It turns out that Sherry freed Darryl because she knows that Darryl reminds Dwight of the person he used to be before he got caught up with the Saviours. Dwight pulls out the cigarette pack again and this time he pulls out his wedding band along with Sherry's cigarette butt. It's clear that no matter what has gone on between Sherry and Dwight that he still loves her dearly.  Dwight sinks to the floor in despair for a bit before leaving a bag of pretzels and a six pack of beer on the table.

At the Sanctuary, Negan's wives have been plotting.  Tonya and Frankie approach Eugene about making a pill of some sort that they can give to Amber, who wants to commit suicide.  They want something that will allow Amber to have a peaceful death.  Eugene however isn't very interested in helping at first and points out that Amber dying could be a danger to others because of course, she'll turn into a walker. Eventually, after some ego stroking, Eugene agrees to to help.

Eugene gets into line to get the supplies needed to help Amber commit suicide. Eugene tries to bud in line and is immediately rebuked.  At first, Eugene is tempted to just walk away but then he decides to flex his newly attained power. Eugene announces to the woman in charge his number and the fact that he reports to Negan, thus making him her boss.  The woman is quick to start complying with his demands and Eugene randomly starts grabbing things to prove that he has the power to do so, before returning to his quarters to make Amber's suicide pills.

Back at the Sanctuary, Dwight heads to see the doctor again to get his stitches checked out. Dwight claims that he killed Sherry when in fear, she ran into a horde of walkers.  The Doctor responds that there's no room at the Sanctuary for people with big hearts and that people won't soon forget what Sherry did.  Dwight takes the opportunity to hide one of Sherry's notes in the doctors office.

Eugene is called to attend a community meeting and he back to being scared again.  Negan is holding court as Dwight heats an iron in the roasting fire. Negan accuses the doctor of helping Darryl to escape because he thought it would make Sherry happy.  Negan now believes that Sherry left because she thought that she would get blamed.  The doctor of course adamantly denies this accusation and in return accuses Dwight of lying. When it becomes clear to him that Negan is going to kill him, the doctor changes tactics and instead admits that he did what he has been accused of.  Eugene tries to look away, not wanting to see the horror unfold but he is forced to pay attention.  Negan responds by throwing the Doctor into the flames claiming that the man is now expendable because they have Eugene.

The wives pay their third visit to Eugene and though he's made the suicide pills, he is no longer willing to hand them over. Eugene has figured out that the women wanted two pills because their goal was to kill Negan and he doesn't want any part of that.  The women become enraged and call Eugene a coward, a fact that he more than readily admits to. In desperation, the women threaten to rat out Eugene to Negan but Eugene counters saying that he'll be believed, just like Dwight was believed because Negan deems him necessary.

Eugene's next visitor is Negan himself. Eugene goes weak kneed again and is barely holding back his tears, looking at Lucille. Negan assures Eugene that he doesn't have to be afraid because he's not there to hurt him.  Negan however does have a question that he wants to ask.  Negan barely gets the words out of his mouth before Eugene starts declaring that he is Negan. Negan seems oddly impressed by how easily Eugene capitulated.

The next day, Eugene is supervising the smelting of the zombies when Dwight arrives. The two men stand silently for awhile before Eugene declares their mutual hatred of Negan.  Eugene then finishes his statement by saying that they are both Negan.

The question of the episode for me is does Eugene have a plan other than surviving?  He may not be able to physically over power Negan but he can absolutely out smart him.  He didn't give the wives the pills for instance but he also didn't destroy them.  There's also the fact that there just might be a growing little kinship between Eugene and Dwight.  They both have good reason to hate Negan.  

Much of Hostiles and Calamities feels like a backward step for Eugene. After his lie was exposed, he faced his fears in Alexandria and even learned to fight. Eugene volunteered to drive the RV as a distraction to allow the others to attempt to escape their first interaction with Negan. In one fell swoop, Eugene returned to the lie that he told Abraham to get Abraham to protect him and sought to use his intelligence to buy his safety.  It proves that Eugene is smart but it also proves that Eugene is a coward once again; however, from Eugene's perspective, he finally no longer has to be afraid. Negan will protect him and not force him to do anything outside of his comfort zone.

Dwight's rebellion this episode proves that there are lines he simply will not cross. He could have sold Sherry out at any moment but instead he worked to protect her. Claiming that Sherry is dead might just give her enough cover to get far away from the Sanctuary.  Sherry's goodbye letter also served to remind Dwight of who he was before this all started.  Is this the beginning of a breakdown in the Sanctuary compound?