Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Walking Dead S7X11 Hostiles and Calamities

The Walking Dead Hostiles and Calamities
Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page
Rick might be on a roll with getting new allies on board to take on Negan, but one innocent bystander still has to contend with being Negan's captive: Eugene. After Rosita failed to assassinate their new leader, the prized bullet maker was taken hostage and back to the Savior's compound. Hostiles and Calamities answered if or how quickly Eugene may join the enemies ranks.

The Walking Dead has always challenged fans to think about what they would have done in a character's position or a part of the zombie apocalypse. Each has their own way of surviving one more day either by scavenging, hunting, being a medical asset, conquering others or building a family. If there's one way that never thinks about getting ahead, it might be lying or concealing your butt off.

Dwight and Eugene were the stars of the latest episode, where we saw the inner-workings of the compound in very different ways.

Considering he tortured Daryl when he was previously hijacked in the compound, Dwight probably shouldn't be a character to care about, but he really is.

There's a certain amount of privilege that comes with being a Savior, especially one in his position - his own apartment, the ability to take what he wants from the community pool of supplies and food, and overall treatment of prisoners. But with every win for him i.e. force prisoners to submit their independence and perks, there seems to be a loss, like losing his wife and every piece of his morality.

Once Negan found out that Daryl escaped, Dwight was pushed to find out who it was and prove his own innocence. Left with a mysterious note, and the simultaneous disappearance of his and Negan's wife Sherry, Dwight returned to their former home where he found a goodbye note from her, admitting that when she signed up to Negan's wife and keep them alive, they both died a little inside. And that living a life like the one Negan has them forced into is just as worse as dying. She admitted to letting Daryl go because he reminded her of who Dwight once was.

Dwight has always had a certain ambivalence when it comes to being Negan. Certainly, there's a sadistic side to him that loves to be in control and have power, to yield orders down to other Saviors and enjoys sitting on his high-horse. But his morality is always in a contest with itself and the lengths he'll go to stay ahead of Negan.

With Sherry gone, he has nobody to bring to Negan. Given a run-in with the Saviors' doctor, Dwight takes the opportunity to muster up a story or two about Sherry having an affair with him and letting her and Daryl escape. The move saves Dwight to stay in good graces with the boss, but it obviously comes with a price - the doctor has thrown into the fiery pit to be killed.

There's also another side to his treachery and throwing the doctor under the bus, Dwight lies to Negan about Sherry's whereabouts. We know that she is gone, simply taken off  and we don't know where. But her husband tells Negan that she was killed by a walker as he was trying to get them home so she could be held accontable. And the affair with the doctor were merely more exaggerated details. Surely, Dwight got the doctor killed but in a twisted way, it's also an attempt to prevent Negan from leading a search for her, while simultaneously, saving himself.
Without anyone to pin Daryl's disappearance on, Dwight had to get creative. Same thing with Eugene.

Besides the hair game, Eugene doesn't have a lot of cool points, so he let his verbal skills save his skin throughout most of the apocalypse. The last time we really saw Eugene's deception was back in season five when he finally revealed to the group that he was not a scientist; that his lack of weaponry skills and ability to kill walkers would speed up his expiration date.  He's increasingly leveled up and built his stamina, but Eugene being taken hostage was surprisingly all about him playing the game and moving Saviors around like chess pieces.

Of all the attempts we've seen characters make quick, even miraculous getaways, there may be no other episode where Eugene was playing the game.

No doubt he's is an asset to the Saviors, and they knew it by charming him up with a bachelor pad of his own, access to electricity and pickles, even some of Negan's wives for a night or two. It's practically like he's back at home before the apocalypse playing video games and living a comfy life.

But he's also walking a tightrope of going back to what was comfortable for him and having to evolve into a better survivor. Not just to lie so other people do the dirty work, but pulling wool over people's eyes and camouflaging into the environment. Does he lie to lock himself in his room, or it is all part of a bigger plan?

He entertained Negan's wives by making home-explosives and playing video games. In his meetings to Negan, he proved to be a Doctor Smartypants by giving directions of melding the walkers to the fences, but also slyly seeming to be holding something back. While walking the compounds he witnessed Saviors on the lower end of the totem pole stealing supplies and used some of his privileges to his own benefit. When Negan's harems propositioned him to make a cocktail to help Amber commit suicide, Eugene mustered all of the random items he could get his paws on - a toilet bowl, a stuffed monkey, capsules for the drugs. He also figured out that the sex slaves were planning on drugging Negan instead of Amber, and for that he could get in big trouble and didn't help them out. Even though he was living like a king, Eugene was taking notes on what he can use later.

By the end of the episode, it was difficult to determine who team Eugene was on. When interrogated by Negan, he had no problem claiming he was Negan. But it's really the final moments of Hostiles and Calamities that was the most telling. Eugene and Dwight standing on their perch overlooking the walker backyard:
Eugene: Eugene. You’re Dwight. We are Negan.
Dwight: Yeah....
An episode dividing up the group again might not have worked like it did in the first half of the season. It's certainly a gamble. But the writing, directing, and acting made it intriguing enough to watch. Austin Amelio and Josh McDermitt might be supporting characters, especially McDermitt who used to have Michael Cudlitz or Christian Serratos to play off of, but they're really coming into their own.

The combination of Eugene and Dwight dodging suspicion and using their cleverness to their own gain might end up being one of the better aspects of the second half of season seven. In Twice as Far Eugene clamped down on Dwight's crotch, which isn't the greatest beginning of a beautiful friendship. Are they completely obedient or just walking on a leash until they can sneak away? Dwight is a mere Savior, while Eugene knows how to make bullets, so how long will it be before Dr. Smartypants ends up the furnace too? Will Negan catch on, and will they possibly team up to escape or take down the regime, or use each other to their own means?

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