[Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoiler details for the "Time for After" episode of The Walking Dead.]
After last week’s ho-hum The Walking Dead episode that caught us up on the dealings of Michonne, Rosita, Carl the Merciful and the Scavengers—and left Rick boxer-clad and imprisoned in a shipping container—tonight, we got a barnburner that was Eugene-centric and all about loyalty. To whom you award it. When you award it. Why you award it, misguided or otherwise.
Also, all hell kinda broke loose.
Still, the most compelling moments happened mostly in the front half, when pairs of characters faced off and called each other out. Eugene and Dwight. Eugene and Tanya. Eugene and Gabriel. Rick and Jadis. Michonne and Rosita. Michonne and Daryl. Negan and Dwight, not so much, but we’ll get to all of this later.
We open with Rick, who still thinks he has the upper hand even though he’s standing in his underpants, wrists bound, on enemy turf. He tells Jadis she has two options — join the AHK or D-I-E. She opts for a photoshoot instead. There’s the Junkyard version of a courtroom sketch artist on hand, as well, just in case the shots don’t work out. The images are all art for art’s sake, Jadis tells Rick. She plans to sculpt him. After. After what? Just … after.
Back at the Sanctuary, Eugene is doing a three-columned variation on the ol’ Ben Franklin close, chronicling “What I Know” “What I Know I Don’t Know” and “Things I Am Unaware of Wholly” in a notebook, ostensibly to make a definitive plan about his Dwight discoveries from a couple episodes back. He doesn’t get too far before he bags the exercise and goes directly to the source of his turmoil.
“I’m well aware you’re the fifth-columner,” he tells Dwight (teaching me a new term in the process). “Green duffel, red paint, workers guns.” Therefore, it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that Dwight’s the one colluded with “Ock”—make that AHK, as Eugene takes the credit for the Alexandria/Hilltop/Kingdom acronym (KAH is “a hair too onomonpoeiac”).
Never one for potential injury, Eugene wants to make a deal: Dwight knocks it off and Eugene will keep his discoveries to himself, even if Negan himself thinks Eugene’s the rat. Instead, Dwight sits him down for a little clear-up: “The Saviors are finished,” he says calmly at first, then with increasing volatility. “Negan is finished. And this place—what it’s been—that’s all over. Food and water is running low. The workers are angry. And the Saviors themselves [Oh. There’s a difference between Worker and Savior. Everyone is Negan, but everyone is not a Savior. Who knew?] are getting scared. This place is gonna fall. And all you have to do to be on the winning side is to stand down. All you have to do is nothing.”
On Sunday it was announced that James' character Morgan Jones would cross over from 'The Walking Dead' to 'Fear the Walking Dead.'
Can Eugene do that?
“You don’t got blood on your hands yet … but that’s coming,” Dwight snarls, literally nose-to-nose with Eugene. Once you do those things, you become those things. And there’s no going back.” Austin Amelio, you, sir, are my favorite.
But Genie’s willing to risk it. What “cranks his shaft” is his own personal safety and by his calculations, that’s a goal best served by Negan. He heads for the door, but keeps his deal on the table. Well, I’ll be. Eugene’s grown a set. Well, sort of.
Heading to the ground floor of the Sanctuary, Eugene finds Laura trying to bolster the walls against the herd of walkers. She tells him the effort will only hold a day, maybe two.
Dr. Carson Two Point Oh needs Eugene’s help, too. Gabriel is bedridden in his office, slowly expiring from infection. Eugene opines that that’s Gabe’s own fault for participating in the attack on the compound; as much as he wishes it wasn’t so, he also wishes for Razzles … and if wishes were horses and all that. Even though he’s not really onboard with Eugene’s assessment, the good doctor leaves him to safeguard the priest while he goes in search of a holistic cure. No meds left in the joint, but someone must have some slippery elm and ginger lying around, am I right?
Gabriel comes to and tells Eugene he looks horrible. Eugene returns the favor. Gabe, he says, looks “like a potato in a s**t casserole.” I’m totally stealing that. Someone, quick. Tell me I look tired.
Gabe just lets the insult slide. Is Eugene helping him get Dr. Carson back to Maggie or not? That would be a no, with a bonus, former-friend-ly reminder. “I am a small person who does not stick his neck out for anyone other than himself,” Genie drones. And as for all Gabe’s “doing the right thing” crap, well, “Right for some has been damn right horrific for others, and knowing that has kept me vertical when so many have gone horizontal.” So there.
Gabe’s not done trying. With filtered sun beams making him look downright saintly—or maybe lighting his pathway to heaven—Gabe tells Eugene that what he really needs is more faith and less knowledge. Faith is God is absurd, says Eugene. Allow me to paraphrase Gabe’s argument: “Oh yeah, Mr. Science? What you would have found absurd before the zomb-pocalypse is that the dead could stand up and shuffle—but here they are.” Then Gabe grips Eugene’s hand with what’s left of his strength and says he hopes that, when the time comes, Genie will recognize the right path and take it. Gabe falls back; Eugene looks at the red dot on his thumb still gracing his hand. [Wash your hands, Eugene. It’s paint, not a friggin’ tattoo. Yeesh!]
The actor wishes Negan had made a different choice in this particular scene.
But Eugene’s very busy day isn’t over yet. Back in his room, he gets a visit from Mrs. Negan Whatever, Tanya, who is still done up like one of the ladies in the Robert Palmer “Addicted to Love” video. She’s here for her boom box, with the agreed upon bottle of wine in hand as his payment. Eugene wants to know why she’s so focused on the boom box when they’re mere moments from being zombie snacks. Tanya isn’t impressed. She tells him she’s been trapped in here by a real live human long before the herd ever showed up. Eugene can have his wine when she gets her tunes.
Eugene begs. He needs the “giggle juice" to sleep and the sleep to save the day.
What he gets is a lecture. Tanya and the other wives tried to bring an end to Negan’s reign. All Eugene had to do was make the poison. He could have been the key to making the Sanctuary a sanctuary for all. He could have been a hero. And all the wine in the world won’t fix that judgement call. But have the wine, anyway. Hopefully it pairs nicely with WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!, asshole.
Speaking of which, Negan would like to see him.
Meanwhile, in Rick’s absence, Rosita, Michonne, Daryl, Tara are discussing whether or not to take the next step in the plan and storm the Sanctuary, even though Rick and the Scavenger army that was supposed to be with him have yet to materialize. Morgan shows up, volunteers himself and the other snipers, and votes they go now and get it over with. Of all people, it’s Rosita who gets cold feet. That gunshot must have impacted more than her shoulder (or maybe I missed something), because suddenly Mrs. Defiant is all about Rick and the plan. She’s not moving ahead without him. And she can’t believe Michonne would, either. Nothing ever goes exactly to plan. Did we learn nothing from Sasha’s sacrifice? Nothing at all?
Back at the Come to Negan, the two guys with The Walking Dead’s most colorful vernacular discuss Eugene’s best asset—namely the “spongy organ” between eye and mullet. Yes, Eugene does believe he has a solution to the herd. The prospect earns him a rare handshake (ya gotta have a ring to kiss the ring, there, Eugene).
Back in his room, Eugene is at work at what looks like the boom box, but it’s kind of hard to tell. He picks up a shiny part and somberly examines his teeny, tiny reflection in it. Then he goes on a mission in a Sanctuary storage area. He finds the coffin from which Sasha made her grand and final entrance, flashes briefly back to the horror, then opens it anyway. Her mp3 player is still in there. And it’s what he’s after.
As the rogue AK’ers (no one from Hilltop is present) take formation outside the Sanctuary, Michonne decides to stand by her man. Doing this without the numbers they thought they would have isn’t worth the risk to the group. It is for Daryl, and the equally partnerless Tara and Morgan. Daryl assigns no penalty points for ditching, which Michonne does, wishing him and the others luck.
The result of Eugene’s mission is revealed to be a sort of Stealth-shaped model airplane with Sasha’s iPod attached, intended to pump up the jams and lure the walker herd—or at least enough of them to make for safe passage out—away from the compound. High above the courtyard, he’s just about to fire it up when a gun cocks and a voice instructs him to stay still. Hey, Dwight. Good timing.
Shaking in his shoes, Eugene makes his case. They really are Saviors here, and killing the brains of the operation is “killing a great many innocents.” Dwight says he wants to save Rick and the crew Eugene himself fifth-columned AND the good people within the Sanctuary. Negan alone is the problem. Eugene decides to test that set he grew with the plane he made and launches it anyway, which makes for a memorable sight as the circus-stripey thing wafts high above a sea of undead. Sparing Eugene, Dwight instead shoots the plane out of the sky before the walkers even notice—and at the same time Daryl, Morgan and Tara conveniently launch their plan, masking his gunshots.
Daryl crashes his truck through the side of the Sanctuary, opening a nice entrance for the walkers. Now it’s number of bullets versus number of undead for Negan and Co.
In the midst of the chaos, Eugene takes a moment to figure out if he’s really going to come to Jesus or stick with Negan. The effort seems to near-literally blow his mind, but he does choose. He storms in on Gabriel and rages to the startled, dying man that he is Negan to the end.
To Negan, he says he will keep the ammo coming if Negan figures out a way to reunite him with the machines to do so. Negan tells him he is now the second most important person in his ranks. Emboldened, Genie’s just about to spill the beans on Dwight when the self-same bursts in with the other lieutenants to report on the desperate state of affairs downstairs. Negan tells that Eugene will save the day—and, also, he has another big announcement. Though there are plenty of other lieutenants to execute the traitor on the spot, not mention the ever-present Lucille, Eugene chickens out. Blood on his hands and all.
Safely back in his room, Eugene goes for the wine to maybe lubricate the ol’ gears on what to do next or maybe drink himself into a coma so he doesn’t have to worry about any of it. He chugs, gets a little urpy, chugs again and keeps the giggle juice down. But he’s far from giggly, since who’s on the right side of survival and who’s about to be right horrified is now as blurry as his vision should be in about, oh, five seconds or so.
Back at the Junkyard, Jadis somberly informs her captive that it’s “time for after,” which will come courtesy of another helmeted walker. It’s all no match for Rick. Even bound and boxered, he quickly takes out not only the walker, but the guy who delivered him to it and the guy who delivered it to him. Armed Scavenger backup quickly arrives, but Rick’s not troubled by them, either. He holds Jadis’ head next to the now decapitated-walker’s noggin and lets it gnash in her face as he instructs her people about a couple things. Number one: He’s leaving. Number two: He’s leaving. Number three: The group can join the AHK or they can make a run for it or they can sit here and sculpt s—t, but, number four, he’s leaving.
Jadis signals her people stand down, Rick lets her back up and it’s back to negotiations. Jadis says they’ll join, but they want all of the Saviors’ stuff. Of course, she doesn’t use that many words in a row, but about as close as she’s ever come. Rick says they’ll all share. Half. Fourth. Half. Hush. Fourth and Jadis still gets to sculpt Rick. Whatever. Let’s go get stuff done.
But Rick’s late to the party, which he discovers when he climbs the tower and discovers … an empty courtyard where once stood a thousand walkers.
Next week is the midseason finale, Deadheads, and AMC promises that all the Season 8 storylines thus far will converge. So what do you think? Will Jadis keep her deal? Will we finally get some idea who’s not just winning the battles, but winning the war? In an oddly death-free season for our main characters, is someone big about to go? Are you disappointed or relieved that someone big has yet to go? It’s our last chance to talk it over for a while, so what are your wishes?
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC