Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Walking Dead, Season 8, Episode 7: Time for After

Alas, it’s the plot that never ends, the Saviours won’t just crawl under a rock and die (after said rock is used to beat the Scavengers to death because ye gods, no). Carol, invite all these people to a flower show already

So, in the Saviours compound, we’re focusing on Eugene and his motivations which are shifting left, right and doing the odd somersault. While his loyalties may be all over and his language the second most ridiculous on the show until Jardis is eaten by zombies (soon. Please let it be soon), his brains are, sadly, still top notch

Firstly he has figured out Dwight is the spy and goes to Dwight and is quite fine with not telling anyone this so long as Dwight stops spying and putting the lives of everyone in the compound (including/especially his) at risk. Dwight appeals to Eugene’s sense of how terrible this place is, showing his scars as certain proof: but Eugene clings to one thing. The
Saviours are safe even if they’re not “perfect”.

He also visits Gabe who, out of all the many many many many people who has smeared their bodies with rotten flesh, has finally found there’s a downside to that: infection. He’s very ill. But he wants to recruit Eugene to their side and to get the nice doctor to Maggie as well. He wants Eugene to do the right thing

While Eugene is quick to insists that Rick’s group weren’t friends, just “travel companions” and who even knows what the right thing is - what’s right for some could be devastating for others (not inaccurate given the workers whose lives are at risk against Rick’s group). Gabe appeals to faith which doesn’t move atheist Eugene so Gabe appeals to SCIENCE and hey if zombies exist then you might as well believe in god

I think the last few episodes have already established that Gabe isn’t logical.

We’re reminded that Eugene does have some more complexity as the woman who appealed to him for help (and he refused) is now trading him for booze to help him sleep, and poking his conscience by reminding him she’s already trapped.

And we get to negan who does what he’s very good at - inspiring Eugene. With tricks (like the handshake of respect) and a whole lot of praise for Eugene who probably doesn’t get a lot of that, and invoking the need to save everyone’s lives (not Negan’s because Negan is sure he’ll always survive) including Eugene’s (invoking his cowardice) and he needs his big brain to find a solution

Negan is good at manipulating people. But also he burns faces and rapes women and kills people for funsies

Eugene does come up with a plan - but Dwight holds him at gun point to stop it. And surprisingly Eugene goes forwards - seeming to be willing to save other people but it all feels a bit out of character for him - or rather more complicated characterisation for him.

The plan doesn’t work because of Dwight anyway

Outside the compound we catch up on Michonne, Rosita, Tara and Darryl: Darryl has a plan to drive a big truck into the wall of the compound and let the zombies flood in and eat everyone. It’s a simple plan. Morgan also joins in because he’s team massacre

Rosita considers this is a huge risk, they already have a plan and can just wait the Saviours out. Darryl isn’t a fan of that because the Saviours outside have already come up with 2 plans to save their boss and may have another. Also the plan trusting the Scavengers is terrible. It is known. Tara also feels guilty because she could have handed over the Oceanside weapons much earlier

Rosita opts out - this is a terribad idea and while it feels better to actually do something; sometimes waiting is the best and hardest thing you can do

Michonne is leery and after going on for a little while she also opts out. She has some excellent realisations that she’s worrying about how things are going to work out but you never know how it’s going to work out (especially in the apocalypse). And the plan is working - so taking a huge risk, risking them, to disrupt a plan is just not wise. She’s out

To be fair, Darryl respects that and clearly doesn’t hold this against her. But he still goes through with this plan which works

Zombies flood in, massacre lots of Saviour people and Eugene watches, his face going from horror to flaming rage: at which point he runs to Gabriel and has a long epic rant about how Survival is all and all he cares about is living. It’s incomprehensible yet still epic.

In his rage he has a huge plan to save them all, which will use most of their ammo, which he tells Negan - Negan is super impressed. But even with this, Eugene still doesn’t expose Dwight because his Motivation is Complicated. Negan announces Eugene is the best thing ever and the plan goes ahead - while Eugene is tortured, conflicted and drinking

Alas this is where I have to go to the Scavengers who have locked Rick up in a container only wearing his underwear. Jadis brings him out to sketch and photograph in case she wants to sculpt him nearly naked later, as you do. They also decide to try and execute him with a chained zombie

Which is ridiculous in many ways. Aside from the danger of dragging a zombie around, you’re also attacking someone with a zombie, pretty much unleashing another zombie in your tetanus den.

Rick saves himself with some improbably fighting and manages to hold Jardis hostage. At which point he gives these rubbish people yet ANOTHER chance to join him adding that the choice is get on side, get a quarter of the loot and not be annihilated by the Kingdom/Alexandria/Hilltop alliance

Jardis starts to bargain but Rick isn’t having it. He’s also not posing naked for her as part of the deal (hey, Jardis apparently has lines: she’ll kill people by zombies, imprison them and take pictures of them ALMOST naked but draws the line at fully stripping them. Or AMC does anyway). Jardis agrees

And can we trust her? I doubt it. Especially when they go from there to the Saviour compound and find Eugene’s ill-defined plan has actually worked and the Saviours have escaped

So, I think the core of this is episode is supposed to be Eugene, his motivations and his choice. We can say Eugene is a coward and maybe everything he did here was for his own survival. But he puts his life at risk. Is he a loyalist to Negan - then why hide Dwight. But he also saves Negan. Does he even have a coherent motivation? I mean that not as a criticism but as a realistic reflection of how humans think, especially under high stress and with conflicting emotions. Urge for survival can meet lingering Rick loyalty/unwillingness to see Dwight squished in front of him and all run into outrage at the slaughter Tara and Darryl unleashed which overwhelms any deeper thinking about the fact he’s saving Negan. I think Eugene becoming a Negan loyalist will be the ultimate annoyance because I’m not sure I can follow that unless we really think Eugene is motivated by COMFORT to that degree (safety we get - but equally the Saviours are no promise of safety here. What they are promise of is him having a comfortable, relatively luxurious lifestyle)

Or is he really invested in the whole “Saviour” narrative- or his version of it? That the long term safety represented for him and the people here outweighs putting his life at risk even to preserve it?

I’m not going to buy into the whole idea that Darryl and Tara somehow proved there was moral equivalency between Rick and the Saviours: the scars on Dwight’s face are a constant counter to that

The sad thing is I think this is the point. All the complexities and illogical simplicities that Eugene could represent here, instead ultimately are going to be another hammer in the “you’re just as bad as Negan” failed lesson.

Or maybe even this is reading too much into it - maybe he’s just angry that HIS life has been put at risk, he had an idea to escape because it would save him and being Negan’s no.2 is a pretty safe place to be and ensures him the quietest, safest, happiest life. Maybe he’s decided that really all these moral questions are moot? Maybe Eugene IS indeed Negan - only while Negan wants power and mastery, Eugene just wants a quiet life

But, no I can’t run with this - it doesn’t work. Sure he enjoys a privileged position with the Saviours and Rick’s team may have risked his life in the crossfire; but the if the Saviours lost he’d enjoy a safe position with Rick’s group AND wouldn’t be with Negan who is INHERENTLY UNSAFE. In every single episode we see the threat of violence has hung around Negan, violence if you’re disobedient, violence if he wants something from you you don’t want to give and violence IF YOU FAIL. We see this with Eugene himself who despite gestures like Negan’s handshake is visibly terrible of Negan every time they’re together. So… Stockholm Syndrome? Need for affirmation?

And it’s now 7 episodes in, I thought the Saviour war was over but apparently we’re going to drag it out yet further

Do I even need to address to the junkyard nonsense? That rick is trusting them YET AGAIN? Exactly how could they be trusted at this point?