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REVIEW: The Walking Dead 5×05 “Self Help”

Written by Alex Reale

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was a huge step up from last week. Not only was it fast-paced and extremely crucial to plot progression, but this episode also had some of the best character development I’ve seen in a while, especially with the characters of Abraham and Eugene. (spoilers ahead!)

“Self Help” follows Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Tara, Glenn, and Maggie heading to Washington D.C. with a supposed solution to the outbreak. Right away, the story takes a sharp turn as their bus crashes and bursts into flames, forcing them to continue on foot with little supplies.

From the very beginning of the episode, we dive right into two character development arcs: one for Eugene and one for Abraham. Eugene’s arc begins with his companions asking him about his trademark mullet. Eugene explains that there is no true rhyme or reason behind it except that he really likes it. He then goes on to compare himself to the Biblical figure of Samson. I thought this comparison was brilliant because it definitely illustrates Eugene’s character.

If you’re not familiar with the tale of Samson, he was almost like a biblical equivalent of Hercules. God granted him super strength, which allowed him to do stuff like slay lions and conquer armies all by himself. He is one of the historical icons for strength and courage. Of course Eugene would want to compare himself to Samson because they are complete opposites. Eugene is not strong nor is he very brave; he relies on others to protect him. In order to mask that, he grows his hair out and tries to point out his similarities to Samson.

Eugene DID show some courage in this episode to help push his development. Twice he saved his companions from walkers, when typically he stays out of the way and cowers in a corner. It was cool seeing him step up to the plate and try to demonstrate that he actually had some courage. I’m surprised it took Eugene this long to do so. Look at Carol. She was this timid, battered housewife who made a complete 180 in a few seasons and became the biggest bad-ass in the cast. Meanwhile Eugene is still hesitant to take on a single walker shuffling towards him.

However, by the end of the episode, it all makes sense. In one of the most shocking twists of the season, we learn that Eugene was lying about being scientist all along. He lied about his knowledge of a cure for the outbreak so that people would protect him. He couldn’t hold his own and he felt like nobody would help him unless they thought that he had vital information. Well, guess what? It worked! Abraham and Rosita did everything in their power to protect Eugene up until now because of that very reason. He’s a cowardly character, but he sure is smart.

Josh McDermitt rocks out in this episode with his performance. It’s pretty heartbreaking when he gives his confession and admits that he’s not a scientist. He sounds like he’s about to bawl his eyes out because of the guilt he feels for deceiving his friends and for indirectly causing the deaths of many people with his lies. You want to hate Eugene, but you feel so damn sorry for him that you can’t possibly be angry. McDermitt knew how to play the part perfectly.

Then we have Abraham’s story. His development is completed through short flashbacks interspersed throughout the episode. From what these short clips tell us, in the earliest days of the outbreaks, Abraham was trying to survive with his wife, son, and daughter. We see him trying to help his family by beating another survivor to death and stealing their food. When Abraham wakes up the next day, he sees that his family has taken off with a note asking him not to follow them. Distraught, he searches for them and finds their corpses in the woods. Just before Abraham is about to kill himself, Eugene comes around the corner chased by walkers. Abraham kills them and that’s when Eugene explains how he has a mission to complete.

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I’d love to see more backstory regarding the earliest days of Eugene and Abraham’s companionship, as well as when they pick up Rosita. For now, I’m satisfied with what we know. It was cool seeing some background on Abraham and how he came to meet up with Eugene. Once again, you feel sorry for him because you see what he’s lost. Now it seems like Abraham is committed to getting Eugene to Washington so that he can make up for the death of his own family.

My only complaint about Abraham’s backstory is that it was too sudden. In the past few episodes, he was a little rough around the edges, but you didn’t see him display any emotions besides anger. In this episode, he was going a little crazy here and there. I’m curious as to why it was sudden. Maybe something triggered it? By the end of “Self Help”, he has a complete breakdown after punching Eugene in the face (it’s very possible that this killed Eugene, but the ending was pretty ambiguous; I’m guessing he’s still alive). This could spell trouble for the Washington group as they are left with no transportation, no mission, no leadership, and possibly no hope.

Overall, it was an excellent episode almost on par with the beginning of the season. I loved seeing the character development with Abraham and Eugene as well as the occasional contribution from everyone else. The huge reveal about Eugene was also pretty amazing and makes me excited to see what happens next.

Final Grade: B +

+ Excellent performance by Josh McDermitt.

+ Awesome character development with Eugene and Abraham.

+ Eugene’s reveal was one of the best twists on the show.

 

– It was a little strange how Abraham all of a sudden started getting so emotional. I would’ve preferred it if we had a slow build-up of this during previous episodes.

– Some slow pacing with the overall episode.

 

What do you think will happen next? Will the group continue on to Washington, or will they head back to the church? Will they even stick together at this point or split up? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Alex Reale

From a young age, Alex knew he was destined to be a writer. He also harbored a deep infatuation with superheroes and comics. Luckily, he was able to combine these two passions through his role with A Place to Hang Your Cape, where he works as Junior Sidekick and Social Media Hero.

When he’s not writing for AP2HYC or working full-time as a content manager for a small business website, Alex is diligently at work on other creative projects including a fantasy novel collection and an independent comic series.

You can find Alex's first book, Dodger's Doorway, on Amazon!