The Walking Dead, S07E11

The Walking Dead, S07E11

“Hostiles and Calamities” Departs From the Main Group to Tell the Story of a Cowardly Lion and a Grinning Jackass


We open on Dwight discovering the body of Fat… uuh, I wanna say… Billy*? Y’know, the guy who got in Daryl’s way as he was making his escape from Negan’s compound and had to be put down (brutally, I might add). The first shot is actually of Billy’s tragically uneaten sandwich, a poignant reminder of an interrupted life, of dreams and aspirations unfulfilled in a world reduced to the base instincts of power, survival and merciless brutality. Or it’s just a sandwich. Yeah, probably that.

When you really think about it, we’re all just half-eaten sandwiches. (AMC)

We cut to a blubbering Eugene, who was kidnapped for his complicity in that bullet that embedded itself in Negan’s bat Lucille (read: bruised his ego or, alternatively, questioned his cock size). Eugene is led – by a character the internet tells me is called Laura – into the relatively well-furbished room Negan tried to entice Daryl with last year, where we’re treated to perhaps the most intentionally funny exchange in the show’s long history:

Laura: “You hungry? I’ll get you something. Whadda you want?

Eugene: “What do I want…?”

L: “Yeah, to eat. Whadda you want?”

E: “…anything?”

L: “Sure, whatever.”

E: “Really, anything I want?”

L:Dude, yes! You can have anything. What do you want?”

E: “…can I have lobster?”

L: “No, you can’t have lobster. What the hell do you think this is?”

I played that scene back three times just to appreciate how well it was executed, as a piece of writing, on a performance level and from an editing perspective. You got me, Walking Dead: sometimes you don’t suck. Anyway, afterwards Dwight gets beaten to shit by Negan’s men for his presumed involvement in Daryl’s exodus, even though (as we and Dwight know) it was of course Sherry who slipped the key and that note saying “GO NOW!” to Daryl. We get a pretty cool shot of the back of Negan’s head – which is incidentally my favourite angle to see him from – as his men go to work on Dwight. Cue theme music.

I dream of whole episodes like this. (AMC)

Oh damn, and now Dwight is in the same cell as Daryl, like they switched places ’cause they’re one in the same! Oh, the irony! Anyway, Negan taunts Dwight through the door (because hearing him whisper “Dwighty boy” is sooo intimidating) and inexplicably gets him to swear allegiance once more before sending him out to recapture or kill Daryl and/or Sherry. Then Dwight is patched up by the Saviours’ resident doctor, who gives maybe the 7,000th speech this season alone about what it takes to survive in this world, that he and Dwight both see the bigger picture while Sherry is blinded by her compassion. “You get it”, he says admiringly to Dwight. “I like to think that I do.”

As per the nameless doctor’s unquestioning commitment to Negan and the Saviours, it’s at this point that I need to voice my biggest criticism of the path we’re currently on for Season 7: the power dynamics that exist between Negan and everyone else make absolutely fuck-all sense. To explain why, let’s look at another successful AMC show: on Breaking Bad (and yes, SPOILERS, duh) antagonist Gustavo Fring seemed for the longest time like a man invulnerable to all manner of attacks on his person. However – setting aside that one time where he exhibited an unexplained, coyote-like premonition that Walt had strapped a bomb to his car – Gus’s particular standing was fleshed-out and explored in a way that made sense and was inherently compelling, especially in his eventual cat-and-mouse engagement with Walt.

Walt and Gus, locked in a battle to the death. Fuck, I miss this show. (AMC)

Gus was one of the biggest manufacturers and distributors of an insanely profitable product (crystal meth) in the country, with ties stretching as far as Germany, which meant even when he was warring with the Cartel it was against their financial interests to harm him directly. His men were loyal and unlikely to betray him because he was respectful, paid them well and had a contingency plan set in place for their families in the event they were to be incarcerated. He almost even managed to turn Jesse against Walter by reaching out to him with hospitality and kindness, artificial though it was. In other words, he was a businessman and a consummate one at that, whose downfall was at the expense of the one aspect of his life that existed outside of that framework: a personal vendetta.

Negan, on the other hand, is a leather-clad shit-talker with a barbed-bat. He treats his people terribly and keeps them in line with the threat of further mistreatment, though they outnumber him literally a hundred to one. He burns the faces of men who cross him and takes their wives as his own, then those same men go back to working for him. He has no secret stash of supplies, no particular set of skills deemed necessary for survival and no higher function beyond leaning back on his heels and exclaiming, “Well look at yoooou!” every ten seconds. Most notably, despite his claims to the contrary, being in his service doesn’t seem to have provided any of the Saviours with a more favourable or prosperous lifestyle. Seriously, when have you seen any of even his top dogs kick back and reap the rewards of being a Negan crony? Everyone constantly seems miserable and afraid, yet unwilling to fucking kill the dude. Why? WHY?!

I’ve read arguments online that say Negan has developed too strong a cult of personality for any mutinies to arise, or that he cultivates a widespread version of an abuser/abusee relationship, doling out unjust punishments and making it seem like it’s the fault of those he inflicts it upon, which keeps everyone in a state of perpetual, subservient fear. That may be the case, but my point is that there’s nothing to suggest in his behaviour or the disposition of his followers that either of those approaches would be sustainable over an extended period. Not to mention that, as far as television goes, it’s not particularly fucking interesting to watch Negan walk around with impunity for hours at a time, grinning like a schmuck, because everyone’s too afraid to do anything about how much he suuuucks!

“I’m as surprised as you are.” (AMC)

Look, I know I went off on a gigantic tangent there, but that’s because it seems kinda important to pick apart exactly why Negan is such a mess of a character so that I don’t have to keep repeating myself week after week. It’s also because, by the end of this episode, we’re greeted with maybe the first credible example of why Negan does actually work, though it obviously doesn’t make up for all of the rest of his juvenile bullshit up to this point.

Anyway, here are the basics of the plot: Negan asks Eugene to help solve his problem with the zombies affixed to his perimeter, all of which keep falling apart into puddles of dead goo. Eugene obliges and is treated to a night of platonic fun with Frankie, Amber and Tanya, three of Negan’s wives. The scene between the four of them and Eugene playing an 8-bit video game is as delightfully awkward as you would expect but then becomes more sinister when Eugene mentions that he can make a bomb out of common household items. Trust me, this is not heading where you think it is.

After putting on a little science show for the girls, Tanya and Frankie return the next night to ask Eugene if he can help them… make a suicide cocktail for the terminally depressed Amber. Nope, not a bomb so that they can blow Negan’s cock off or use it to, I don’t know, do something stupid but at least kinda cool with. They basically want poison. And Eugene’s all, “Naaah”, and they’re all, “Pleeease”, and then he’s all, “Sheeeit, alright then.” Which is just the worst fucking decision he could possibly make, helping to kill one of Negan’s wives two days after arriving. Granted, Negan’s basically a 6 foot toddler but I’m pretty sure even he can put two and two together dude.

I’ll give you three guesses as to which is the sad one. (AMC)

So, to get the necessary materials, Eugene cleverly pushes to the front of the line at a supply station and makes a big fuss over demanding the items that he needs. I mean, good for you for finally being assertive man, but maybe this isn’t the best time to call attention to yourself. Then, in ways both convoluted and stupidly transparent, Dwight manages to convince Negan that the nameless doctor from earlier in the episode was the one who let Daryl escape, so Negan throws the dude (a fucking doctor, once again) into a blazing furnace. What were we saying about stupid, short-term violent solutions?

I have to admit though, it turns out I was getting ahead of myself with calling out Negan’s wives for their weird demands, because the next visit they pay to Eugene he refuses to give them the pills he’s concocted, determining correctly that they are indeed intended for Negan. That’s actually a nice little twist that I’m happy to say I didn’t anticipate, which also leads to this brutal exchange:

Tanya: “You’re a coward!

Eugene: “That is a correct assessment.”

In the second-to-last scene, Negan pays Eugene a visit and, before he can even finish asking the question, receives the cowardly man’s unquestionable devotion. Paired with the previous scene, it does actually make an interesting case for the Saviours as a whole: it’s not that Negan uses fear to keep them under his thumb; in fact, he exploits the fear that’s always been there, the directionless fright that has overtaken them in this chaotic world. He promises them nothing so much as as a purposeful existence, be it happy or sad, and takes away the burden of the hard choices that plague them. At least, that’s definitely the case with Eugene, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t cautiously looking forward to where this particular plot might take us.

Like, I’m not as excited as Dwight. I’m more Eugene, content to sit back and see where this goes. (AMC)


Quotes & Random Thoughts


  • *Turns out it’s Joey. Cool.
  • “Welcome home, haircut.” Yeah, seriously, why does Eugene still have a fucking mullet? If Rick were any sort of a leader, there would’ve been a democratic motion to deal with that shit years ago.
  • I’ll give this to the writers: they pummelled us so hard with that “Easy Street” song last year that hearing it again made me want to scream. Well played.
  • “Tip to taint, as it were.” Negan continues with his “nine-year-old whose parents let him swear” routine. Ugh.
  • Damn it, I hate to admit when they make Negan look cool, but that shot of him standing in the doorway of the cell with that one halogen light above him is pretty badarse.
  • “Dr. Smartypants” is Negan’s nickname for Eugene. Can we honestly check to see if Negan is just two kids in a trenchcoat?
  • “I was gifted these pickles.” I can never truly hate Eugene.
  • That muffled growl Eugene makes as he shifts his leg away from Frankie’s grip made me snort pretty loudly.
  • Oh yeah, also Dwight goes to the house he and Sherry used to live in and reads the essay she left there for him. Here’s a taste: “I let Daryl go because he reminded you of what you used to be.” That’s Sherry for you, giving us the SparkNotes edition of the episode.
  • When Tanya and Frankie tell Eugene how dire Amber’s situation is, he asks, “You aren’t afforded any… mental health services?” He reeeeally doesn’t get how this place works.
  • Eugene grabs a stuffed animal from the supply store, saying, “I don’t even know what you call this, but I’m gonna call it a Gremblygunk.” God, I hope that was improvised.
  • “Pump your breaks, red.” Ok, Eugene is my new favourite character, hands-down.
  • “I am utterly, completely, stone cold Negan. I was Negan before I even met you, I just needed to meet you properly to know.” Aaaaaaand you lost me, Eugene. Goddammit, dude.
  • “Hey, you wanna get burned by molten metal? ‘Cause that’s exactly how you get burned by molten metal!” You need to stop toying with me, Eugene, because I have never been so conflicted in my life.

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