Yep. It’s that time again on The Walking Dead: Time to get cerebral.
It’s no secret this type of episode, one that explores different sides of a character, is one of my favorite kinds. And with “Hostiles And Calamities” we got a two-fer; both Eugene and Dwight were heavily (and almost exclusively) featured.
Let’s riff on Eugene first …
Eugene is definitely “a man apart” as he claimed to Negan’s wives. In every sense. From the haircut to the cargo shorts right on through to his verbal deliveries, both intelligent and comical.
But, damn, if we haven’t seen him whimper, moan and cower enough over the course of the season. And beyond. When we first “met” him, in that flashback encounter where he met Abraham for the first time, the guy was crying even then. He’s been a blathering baby since his introduction.
As a matter of fact, there are really only two predominate mannerisms whenever Eugene is shown: He’s either whimperingly pathetic and vulnerable, or coldly stoic while delivering lines and responses that make you take a step back a moment while you interpret what the hell he just said.
And it’s precisely those two mannerisms we’ve seen time and again that contributed to the completely unexpected from him – that subtle (yet glaring!) smirk he gave us after his initial discussion with Negan after boasting about his intelligence. If there are a couple of things Eugene is good at it’s book smarts (or the ability to apply what he’s learned from his studies) and, now, deception. Because he certainly pulled the fast one on Negan, convincing him of not only his value but why he is not expendable.
But it’s a dangerous game he’s playing. One which could backfire explosively if he doesn’t play his cards right. Or if he can’t live up to it. But you gotta do what you gotta do given the situation. And the situation is such that Eugene has to put to use that which he knows so well: Intelligent falsification and diversion. His proclivity for off the cuff or rarely used words and terms only aid in making his case. Face to face in a conversation with Eugene you’d surmise he’s the dorkiest sort of nerd. And he is. But he’s a brainy one, too. And that’s a nice little false front to have in your arsenal. It’s gotten him this far in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead and it’s served him pretty well. All he’s had to do is swallow his pride, something that’s not been an obstacle for him. And he takes swallowing that pride seriously, “serious as sepsis” to quote another of his lines.
Then there’s Dwight.
Dwight is not so much the conundrum one might think he is. You can see the conflict within him in nearly every action he takes. He’s a victim of circumstance and he’s trying to cope in a world he has little control over.
Sure, he’s done lots of things he’s not proud of (he won’t offer any gushing confessions though so don’t hold your breath) but, again, he’s doing what he can to survive and curry favor in order to keep on keepin’ on. Quite possibly with an ulterior motive down the line.
Now, sometimes the things he does don’t quite run parallel to that line of logic. Take his set up of Dr. Carson – not to the good doctor’s ultimate benefit, to be certain. But, in a twisted bit of understanding, Dwight’s actions still do ring true to who he is. In betraying Carson, Dwight has once again won over Negan where the leader of The Saviors, in all his skepticism, wondered whether or not Dwight had turned the other cheek. Heinous as his actions turned out to be, that betrayal saved his skin.
We saw a softer side of Dwight this episode as well, one that’s been hinted at a few times previously. And there’s no softer side to him than when he’s thinking about his wife, Sherry. All the regrets he has in letting Negan have her as a wife? Not standing up for her? Some of those regrets go back to what she’s told him: “People will trade anything for safety, for knowing that they’re safe” (the S06EP06 episode “Always Accountable”). That’s something that sticks in Dwight’s craw … and it’s a regrettable memory. He continually thinks about that. You could see him doing so while reading the letter she left him at the house. You could see it in the peace offering of pretzels and beer he left her, not knowing if she would ever see the gifts. And, if you didn’t see that softer side of him courtesy of the cigarette he holds onto with her lipstick covering the filter, it had to in the revelation of the rings he kept of theirs. Talk about some soul-baring moments …
The scene that really got to me, though, was the final one with Dwight sidling up to Eugene as the latter oversaw the application of molten metal to the guard walkers in the compound. It may not have seemed like it but the entire exchange comprised several seconds of unspoken camaraderie between the two, clearly book-ending all the events laid out within the episode. We may have witnessed two vastly different stories in the hour plus but they coalesced into that poignant closing moment at the end.
There were a couple fun nods in the episode. Did you notice them? One was Eugene humming the 1812 Overture prior to setting off his “fireworks” for Negan’s wives. The other was the tell tale “shave and a haircut” knocking from Negan at Eugene’s door.
I can see it now: In a future episode Eugene is going to be in a room with Daryl and he’s going to casually punch that boombox, blaring out “Easy Street.” Daryl, in a fit of rage, is going to pick up that boombox and heave it with all his might against the opposite wall, much to Eugene’s surprise. Mark my words.
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