The Walking Dead S07E11 “Hostiles And Calamities” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Previously on The Walking Dead! Eugene made a bullet! Rosita had no capacity to shoot at close range WHATSOEVER! Negan briefly gained Force powers! Eugene was drafted!
- So, Eugene is led through the Saviour’s compound sobbing with terror. He’s shown through to… a nice room. With a TV and books and a kitchenette. He realises, slowly, he can ask for things. That he is not a prisoner.
- He realises a little faster that he MAY be okay with that.
- Elsewhere, Dwight realises Daryl’s gone. He stares dumbly at the note slipped to Daryl and there’s a knock at the door. The Saviours storm in and beat the hell out of Dwight.
- Dwight is thrown back in prison and Negan pays him a visit. Turns out Sherry left right after Daryl and Daryl had the door opened for him… Dwight is adamant that it wasn’t Sherry but Negan isn’t having it. He knows Dwight has legitimate grievances against him and orders the scarred Saviour to go find Sherry and “sort it out”. Both men are painfully aware that Daryl is either running for home or preparing to come back and kill more Saviours. Odds are, starting with Dwight and Negan.
- Dwight gets patched up by the Doc who makes it pretty clear he thinks Sherry did it, understands why she did it and thinks that Sherry is basically doomed. And better than both of them.
- Dwight sets out in search of Sherry.
- Eugene is shown around. He discovers they even have a barber. He finds out about the Point system and, notably, does not mention a kid he saw steal something.
- He’s brought out to see Negan. The usual Happy Saviour Psychological Degradation Hour looks like it’s about to ensue until Negan asks if Eugene is a smartypants. He is, and very slowly lies his way through his old story about working on the Human Genome Project. Negan challenges him to work out how to stop the Walkers on the fence decaying.
- Eugene does so. He suggests melting down scrap metal and pouring it over the Walkers in order to solidify them. Negan is VERY impressed. So much so he decides to send some of his wives over to Eugene that night. No sex but conversation. Because yay harems apparently.
- That night the remaining wives come over and play video games with Eugene. Eugene, in his own, unique twisted way, refuses to take advantage of them and sympathises with their plight. They joke about how he could make a bomb out of very little. He then tells them exactly what he CAN make a bomb out of. Their response is “…seriously?”
- A little while later, Eugene and the wives stumble out of the warehouse with the bomb fixings. Eugene, brilliantly, hums the 1812 overture as he shows them some rudimentary fireworks. They are VERY impressed. Eugene is less so.
- Dwight arrives back at his old house, where he and Sherry agreed to regroup if it ever went bad. He finds a note from her that’s both compassionate and utterly brutal. Sherry isn’t coming back. Sherry loved who he was. Sherry is sorry she made him into a monster.
- Catatonic with grief, Dwight stares at their wedding rings. Then, he leaves the beer and pretzels he once promised on the table and leaves.
- The Wives come back and level with Eugene. Amber, the youngest wife, is terrified. She can’t live like this. She wants to end it. They need him to make a poison to help her end it. They need Eugene. Reluctantly, he agrees to help.
- The following day, Eugene is waiting in line for the drugs he needs. He’s turned away when he tries to line jump, turns and… pulls rank. He bullies the capsules out of the commissary. And a dish.
- And every other drug he can carry.
- And a weird cuddly toy.
- Dwight is back too. He tells the Doctor he found, and killed, Sherry. The Doctor reassures him, in a terrifying way, and Dwight takes a handful of the lollypops.
- Eugene is brought to one of the town meetings by the furnace. Notably, he’s not on the floor with everyone else. Negan breaks the Doc’s arm and shows him a note saying “Goodbye honey”. Sherry wrote it. The found it in his desk.
- Dwight is notably not making eye contact while stoking the furnace.
- The Doc begs that he’s innocent and that Dwight lied. Negan doesn’t believe that. Dwight hands him the iron. The Doc, the iron an inch from his face, confesses. Even though he’s innocent.
- Negan smiles, tells him that’s all he had to say and looks at Dwight.
- Then he hurls the Doc bodily into the furnace.
- Amber sobs in horror. Dwight turns away.
- Negan apologises to Dwight and, dead eyed, Dwight looks at the furnace.
- Later, the Wives visit Eugene and ask for the pills. He tells them that he knows the pills are for Negan and, while they can be replaced, he can’t so they have no bargaining power. The wives leave in disgust and Eugene, apparently completely at home in Degradation City now, eats a pickle.
- There’s a knock at the door.
- A familiar knock.
- Negan arrives and makes it clear that Eugene is exceptional. And he doesn’t need to be scared anymore. He just needs to answer one question:
- “Who are…”
- Eugene doesn’t even let him finish.
- “Negan. I’m Negan.”
- Later, Eugene is coordinating the armouring of the Walkers on the fence. Dwight joins him and Eugene reintroduces himself, reminding Dwight they are both Negan now.
What a deeply weird this episode is. On the one hand, we get Dwight’s slow, stumbling progress towards… well… less badness. On the other, we get Eugene’s apparent descent into Hell and the cheerful erasure of two plus season’s worth of personal and emotional growth on his part. Then we get some welcome agency for the Wives. And Negan apparently being the easiest person in the world to lie to. And some incredibly ill-advised comedy moments. And video games.
Like we say, odd episode.
Anyway, the good stuff first. This entire episode is basically a showcase for Austin Amelio and Josh McDermitt. Both do excellent work but it’s Amelio who ultimately takes the episode. Dwight has been monstrous, and – it’s sometimes seemed – not fully conscious every time we’ve seen him. He’s numb and angry and recently we’ve found out why.
And here we see what he lost for it. You could go back and forth on whether Sherry taking the blame for his actions is good or very, very bad. Dwight and Sherry may be one of the show’s greatest tragedies in fact. Two people who deserved better, trying to survive and not realising the very things they’re doing to survive will destroy them. The silent sequence with Dwight ripping the house apart was tragic. The fact he remembered the beer and pretzels after all was horrifying.
McDermitt fared less well because, it seems, the show has forgotten how to write Eugene again. In the presence of Abe in particular, he was balanced out as this hyper serious southern gentleman with a vastly over inflated intellect and sense of his own importance. That’s now been swapped out for the standard issue cowardice he’s defaulted to twice before.
That leaves us in a difficult position. We like Eugene a lot. We think the show does too. We’d love to believe this is an elaborate double bluff but… well… remember when Carol got religion in the space of an episode? The fact as well that Dwight seems to be riding the upward moral escalator as Eugene rides the down one suggests he may not need to start any long books.
Of course the fact Dwight’s first step towards moral redemption was framing an innocent man who then got incinerated suggests Dwight maybe has a ways to go yet too.
The rest of the cast impressed too. Chloe Aktas and Elyse DuFour as Tanya and Frankie are FUN and we love that Negan’s wives have had quite enough of this horror now. We can’t wait to see what they do next and can only hope Eugene either comes around or was never actually crossing the line at all.
No, the problem here is the tone. The episode has no idea what it wants to be; a tragedy, a comedy, a horror story or all of the above. Elements of the Eugene plot play as comedy but it’s so muted and disturbing the episode walks all over it. Likewise the Dwight plot is great, and poignant but completely different to everything else we see here. Even the Saviours Do Something Horrible moment of the week feels weirdly perfunctory. Although at this stage so many people are lying to Negan we’re increasingly convinced Darkest Timeline Daddy Winchester knows all and is prepping for the mother of ALL punishment details.
So, a side step from last week’s moment of top fun, and not a wholly successful one. There’s still some good stuff here, though, including four really good performances, a genuinely great idea (why hasn’t Rick had Eugene do this sort of stuff before?) and some interesting set up. Fun, but let’s get back to the main plot next week please.
- “Like that poor sack of… that PILE of shit over there.” Like Eugene, the show struggles with Negan. But when they get him right, like this moment, he’s glorious.
- “I did what I did because I didn’t want you to die. But now you’ve killed. You’ve become everything you didn’t want to be. And it’s my fault.” The entire letter is great but this is perfect.
- And the heart-breaking coda that Dwight DID remember the beer and pretzels.
- “We don’t get to have big hearts. Remember that.” We’ll miss the Doc. His odd brand of fatalism was refreshingly honest.
- “Eugene. You are Dwight. We are Negan.”
“…Yeah.” Just chilling. Simple and chilling.
- Dwight grabbing the lollypop.
- Eugene sighing and asking, “How much does she weigh?” McDermitt, when they know what to do with him, can do internal dialogue like no one else on this show and this is a great example.
- Weeks since totally unnecessary and increasingly offensive fat shaming: 1!
- That “sucker” reveal on Eugene’s room played very oddly. Almost as if the show is leaning on that sort of nonsense increasingly frequently huh?
- The weirdly lumpy tone.
- Eugene stepping ALL over the, “I am Negan” moment.
And The Random:
- Why does Eugene’s stereo have “Easy Street” preloaded?
Review by Alasdair Stuart