Eugene fully commits to his role as a Saviour in this week’s episode. I never wanted to believe Eugene could turn on Rick, but it isn’t so surprising. This series revels in moral grey areas and Eugene is no different. His journey to becoming Negan’s right-hand man has been a slow and natural process, only helped along by Negan’s trademark manipulation. Not only does he struggle with the morality of every situation, he is a character who is intelligent enough to identify weaknesses in any plan; he considers every possible failure. He is rarely hot headed and however misguided or maddening his plans are, they are always well-considered. And Josh McDermitt (who plays Eugene) manages to evoke a huge spectrum of emotion without saying much at all, so it is obvious Eugene is struggling with his morality with every decision he makes. By the end of the episode he simply chooses one imperfect regime over another, and he comfortably carries what is one of the strongest episodes of the season so far.
Following on from last week’s episode, Eugene confronts Dwight and asks his to “cease and desist”. Dwight argues for Rick and states nobody else has to die apart from Negan. The confrontation is brief and toothless, but later, Eugene contradicts Dwight and his gun and chooses to fly the “drone” he fashioned. This is quickly shot down and Eugene’s despair is palpable.
Daryl was as trigger-happy as ever this week. While I think this could lead to his downfall, it did pave the way for some exciting action sequences in this episode. Watching the Walkers flood the Sanctuary was particularly thrilling, a reminder of how “right” this series can get it in its brightest moments. Overall, the scene was very simple, but handled very effectively. After the look of horror settled on Eugene’s face, it wasn’t surprising he emphatically severed ties with Father Gabriel. I don’t support Eugene, but I can understand why he doesn’t support Rick any more.
One of Negan’s biggest strengths is his ability to read, identify psychological weaknesses in others and use these to control them. Alas, he has not always been successful - Sasha and Rick being prime examples – but Eugene is not Sasha or Rick. He wears his insecurities on his sleeve and Negan managed to appeal to his vanity, intellect and his survival instinct in one single exchange. He assured him of his importance and special position amongst the Saviours, he heaped praise on him and promised him his work would save lives, even if it will seal Rick’s grim fate.
Ultimately, Eugene could not bring himself to hand Dwight over. When another face-off inevitably occurs it would be naïve (would it, would it?!?!) to think Eugene could change his mind about his choice of Negan over Rick, but his hesitation to blow Dwight’s cover suggests he has not drunk the Kool-aid. He is not “Negan”, not completely. Yet.
Next week is the mid-season finale. I assume we can expect conflict between Rick and the rest of his group, particularly after the look on his face when he realised that they had breached the parameters of the Sanctuary. I still don’t trust Jadis and the Trash people. I have no idea why they insist on sculpting and speaking like Yoda. And I imagine Dwight’s attitude and appetite for revenge which compromise at least one of our heroes lives…roll on next week.