The Walking Dead has really gotten lucky with Negan. As the show’s new antagonist, the zombie drama has gotten a lot of mileage from his band of Saviors. “Hostiles and Calamities” focuses more on life as a Negan minion, rather than the big boss. It’s an interesting exploration, and plays on the hopelessness Negan represents. While not every Savior is as compelling as Negan, The Walking Dead uses its new villain’s hype to its advantage.
The most interesting character The Walking Dead follows this week is Eugene. If you had told me I’d be this invested in Eugene last year, I would’ve laughed. Now, I am enthralled by what can only be described as Level Three Eugene. He’s not the normal verbose coward he’s been in the past. He’s better described as a coward confident in his skills and place in the world.His jump from Macgruber-like inventor to nasty Negan sympathizer is a well-paced transformation. It plays off Eugene’s history well, having been a coward and a subject of disdain by the rest of the group. Now, given the chance to take what he wants, he has no problem living in the fantasy world Negan has created.
While Eugene takes a turn for the bad, Dwight takes a turn for the… something. He’s still in a moral gray area, taking Negan’s commands, but not his mindset. Dwight has constantly been torn on his motivations, mostly due to the people in his life. His hatred of Daryl, and fear of Negan, has been somewhat cancelled out by the love for his wife. However, now that she’s gone, it seems he may be committed to Negan once more. It’s odd to feel somewhat sorry for a character that’s been so nasty for two seasons. Maybe this motivation of his lost love will compel him to follow her example. But it likely won’t come to pass until the end of S7 at the earliest.
Focusing more on Negan’s henchemen and wives made for a more interesting episode. Negan’s interactions with Eugene and Dwight are nothing new. We’ve seen Negan play with Daryl and Carl in the same way, albeit with different result. It feels weak when Negan tells Eugene how lucky he is to be brought into the fold. Seems like any person from Alexandria would be extended the same courtesy (except maybe Rosita). But on exploring what life under Negan looks like, we see more than just profanity and bat-swinging. The idea that more Alexandrians could be turned into Saviors is more interesting than just watching Negan beat on survivors.
“Hostiles and Calamities” isn’t exactly a filler episode, but it doesn’t propel any specific plot point further. Eugene was kidnapped specifically to make bullets, and now… he’s going to do that. He’ll be more keen on doing so, mind you, but his fear made that inevitable. The metal Walkers may also be “badass,” but Rick tangled with a similar creature just last week. Dwight’s wife may have left, but it seems likely she’ll fall in with one of the many allied colonies. The exact impact of last night’s The Walking Dead likely won’t take full effect until later in the season. At the very least, we know it’ll be a hard fought battle between both sides. Eugene’s here to make bullets and eat pickles. Let’s hope he doesn’t run out of either, for his sake.