This week’s episode saw Eugene nail his colours firmly to Negan’s mast, allaying any lingering suspicions we may have had that he was playing a long game for his former friends. And while Rick found himself in hot water inside the Heapsters’ compound, more trouble was brewing on The Sanctuary perimeter, as Daryl and Tara decided to take matters into their own hands and breach Negan’s besieged stronghold.
While the battle between Team Rick and the Saviors was rumbling along in the background, the focus of “Time for After” was very much Eugene and his inner conflict, having identified Dwight as the ‘mole’ feeding inside information back to Rick’s people. I’d imagine that your enjoyment of this episode would have been directly proportional to how much you rate Eugene as a character, and for my money, he’s one of the most relatable and effective of the show.
Rather like Peter in the Biblical tale, Eugene was offered three chances to come to the aid of the allied communities, and three times he refused. Firstly, Gabriel – bed-ridden with multiple infections from slathering himself in rotting zombie guts to escape the trailer – asked him for help in getting Doctor Carsen out of The Sanctuary and back to the Hilltop for Maggie. This interaction was more moving than expected, and I especially enjoyed the former friends needling each other about who looked the worst (even if Eugene’s ‘potato and shit casserole’ sounded like a rejected Negan line. Maybe that was the point!)
Next up was Tanya, one of Negan’s ‘wives’ who brought Eugene a gift of wine in exchange for him fixing her radio, although it turned out he hadn’t actually gotten around to this particular chore. When Tanya withheld the wine, Eugene asked if he could take it in advance, saying it helped him sleep since the perimeter was breached. Tanya reminded Eugene that they could have provided a solution to the problem before it happened if he’d helped her last season when she asked for suicide pills. This little exchange was a timely reminder that Eugene was previously approached to help the women who form Negan’s harem kill their captor, and he refused. Tanya’s insistence that she and her fellow ‘wives’ were prisoners at The Sanctuary long before a horde of undead blocked all the exits fell on seemingly deaf ears, and Tanya left him the bottle despite having told him he should live with the consequences of his inaction.
Finally, Eugene squared up to Dwight. Having been sussed as a traitor, Dwight assured Eugene all he had to do to be on the right side of the war was nothing. While Dwight is now convinced Rick’s ‘plan’ is the way forward, little knowing Rick’s own allies are going against that very plan, Eugene firmly believes being Negan is the way to stay alive. It’s hard to fathom why either man thinks the way they do. Dwight must know Daryl and Tara are not going to let him live. It’s too little too late, whichever way you look at it, from the guy who put an arrow through Denise’s head. And Eugene watched Negan bludgeon his best friend and incinerate the first Doctor Carsen. He can’t truly believe he’s safe with The Saviors, although perhaps he’d rather follow the rules and take Negan’s protection for as long as possible than chance surviving alone outside the walls.
That’s the thing about Eugene. Love him or loathe him, if you strip away the babble and the mullet, he’s much more like us than any of the other characters. He’s not evil. Even when he angrily told Gabe he wouldn’t help him break the medic out after witnessing the dead breaking in through the hole in the Sanctuary wall, there was a sense that none of his decisions sit easily with him. He actively wept when recovering the iPod from Sasha’s coffin and, when given the opportunity, he failed to grass Dwight up to Negan. The scene of him necking Tanya’s red wine then puking it back up demonstrated how conflicted and stressed out Eugene was by events. I mean, come on, man! That’s a breakfast portion of wine for me! But while we’d all like to think we’d be heroic and aspirational like Rick or Maggie in the face of world-wide catastrophe, I’m afraid most of us would be doing what we could to survive, just like Eugene.
Outside the Sanctuary, Daryl and Tara decided they couldn’t wait for the dead to starve the Saviors out, and came up with a madcap scheme to drive a dump-truck through the outer wall to speed things up. Weirdly, Rosita and Michonne – who were both fully on board last week – decided that actually maybe they should all stick to Rick’s strategy, and opted to return to Alexandria, rather than hanging around to, y’know, stop their pals from hampering Rick’s efforts. Morgan also returned to help Daryl and Tara, having been out in the wild doing a spot of sniper duty since his fight with Jesus, apparently. Morgan has done so many three-sixties at this point, I’ve stopped trying to rationalise his behaviour. While Tara and Daryl are clearly motivated by guilt at this point (Tara for keeping schtum about Oceanside’s guns, and Daryl for getting Glenn killed), I’m not sure what’s driving Morgan.
And poor Rick was having quite a day of it over at the Trash Palace, as Jadis tried to kill him with another elaborately adorned walker. Luckily for Rick, even half naked and with his hands tied, he managed to get the upper hand, and threaten Jadis with the still biting severed head of her creature. Inexplicably, after they’d kept him in a box and tried to kill him for a second time (after betraying him, of course), Rick still seemed keen to get the Heapsters on side. Even more incredibly, Jadis was still trying to haggle a majority cut of the spoils for her gang. All I can say is Rick must be pretty desperate for friends or else he has an end game in mind which is yet to be revealed.
In spite of the odd character choices on display, this was an enjoyable episode which nicely set up the inevitable fragmentation of the allied communities as we head into the second half of the season. Will Rick and Daryl’s bromance come to a sticky end? Watch this space…
Final Grade: B-
+ Jadis might be annoying as all Hell, but you have to admire her tenacity in trying to get Rick naked.
+ This episode contained one of the most chilling and atmospheric zombie attacks we’ve seen for a long time.
+ Eugene might not be likeable but he is interesting and relatable.
– Morgan showing up to help Daryl seemed so contrived.
– I am struggling to understand Rick’s rationale for wanting the trash peeps to join him so badly.
– Why would Rosita and Michonne turn a blind eye to Daryl’s sabotage after stating in no uncertain terms that they should obey Rick?
Extra Thought: How did Gabe get so sick so quickly, whilst Negan suffered no ill effects?
What did you think? Did this episode soar like Sasha’s iPod, or did it leave you with a worse hangover than Eugene? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter!