This is a spoiler-free review. Come back after the UK broadcast for additional spoilery bits. For information on how to watch it, click here.
“God hath given you one face and you make yourself another.” – Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1.
Back in Season 2, The Walking Dead went Shakespearean, when Rick (Andrew Lincoln) had words whispered in his ear by his wife, like Lady Macbeth telling him to kill his best friend. Hostiles and Calamities turns to Hamlet, as Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) put on their Negan faces in order to survive. Dwight must face the consequences of losing one of Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) most coveted prizes and Eugene experiences life at the Sanctuary. Is Dwight able to remain in Negan’s good books and is Eugene willing to embrace the Saviours’ culture or is everything they do just a façade?
Negan finally makes his return to screens in this episode, and he is just as twisted, fearsome and sarcastic as ever. Moulding his disposition from an intimidating interrogator demanding answers, booming Lucille against a door with that foreboding, familiar knock, to a tricky joker who still evokes so much fear that those in his presence don’t know whether to laugh or cry. His return is a welcome one, reminding us of how dangerous he can be and just how much he needs to be taken out – but, most importantly, how much the show needs him right now. Negan has provided fresh blood to the show, more than replenishing the amount of it he has shed since arriving. He has given Rick and Alexandria a serious shift in their dynamic, as we’ve witnessed their fall from grace. In an apocalyptic world where there doesn’t seem to be a happy ending, where violent groups arrive and are defeated, Negan and the Saviours finally feel like a real match.
While Rick is preparing for war outside the Sanctuary, inside, Eugene is being shown around peacefully; he’s being shown the Easy Street, where Daryl (Norman Reedus) was dragged down it and shoved in the hole. Unlike Daryl, Eugene has something to offer the Saviours – he has the know-how on making ammunition, like the bullet that took a chunk out of Lucille – but his intelligence stretches far beyond just weaponry. That makes him an asset and when Negan questions Eugene’s abilities, he delivers the answers to please his new captive. The system works both ways: keep Eugene happy to keep Negan happy, and Negan will ensure the new Doctor Smarty-pants is kept happy, by any means necessary.
Someone needs to be held accountable for Daryl’s escape, meanwhile, and when another Saviour goes missing, all fingers point to Dwight. He’s been Negan’s right-hand man since returning to the Sanctuary, and he may need to prove his loyalty once again. Dwight’s allegiance has been questionable in the past – apart from his original escape from the Sanctuary, this season has already shown that he may have another face, one that he hides from others and one that yearns for his life before the Sanctuary with his wife. His behaviour this episode is Negan-like in its ruthlessness, but it’s the need to survive as part of the Saviours that drives his actions, to try to stop the other side of his face being burnt.
Both Eugene and Dwight have put on their Negan faces. Whether these are genuine or hold an underlying deceit to them remains to be seen. Life is all about survival now, not just against the dead, but the living and both Dwight and Eugene understand how to manipulate their surroundings to better their lifestyle. They are Negan, but are they utterly, totally and completely?
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Entrails and innards (spoilers)
– Hostiles and Calamities jumps back in time to when Eugene was taken from Alexandria. It’s not a major time shift, but it is very likely that by the time Rick has recruited the Takers, Eugene has been eating pickles and playing video games for a number or days, if not weeks. Is it coincidence, then, that Eugene’s plan to use molten metal to preserve the integrity of the wall of walkers outside the Sanctuary is just what the Takers had done with their pet spiked walker, Winslow? If the time jump is greater than we think, could it be that the Takers have taken this metal walker idea from the Saviours? If not, then at least Alexandria has experience in dealing with them.
– Sherry (Christine Evangelista) has gone missing along with Daryl and it’s clear from her note that Dwight finds that she was the one who let him go. It was a little insulting to our intelligence that Dwight had to compare the handwriting to prove it was, indeed, Sherry’s letter, but what was clear was that Dwight still yearns for his wife and the life that they left behind. Sherry had to escape – we learned earlier that she may be pregnant with Negan’s child and that could mean the end of her easy life as a wife, or tear her and Dwight further apart.
– Doctor Carson (Tim Parati) made a terrible mistake by insulting Sherry right to Dwight’s face and it cost him his life. It does seem a little frivolous that Dwight would frame the good Doctor when he was only trying to help, but he did know about Sherry’s pregnancy and maybe Dwight wanted to protect that secret more than anything. Like Eugene said, the Doctor was expendable, they have another one, so Negan could just throw him in the furnace without batting an eye. Whether he believed Dwight’s story or not, he could use the Doctor to set his own example and send another threat to the Sanctuary, right in front of Dwight’s face.
– Eugene proves he is the Mr. T of the Walking Dead, able to craft bombs from kitchen equipment and a death pill from cough medicine. He is a certified genius and soon able to conclude that the pill isn’t for Amber, as the girls told him, but part of a plot to take out Negan. By refusing to give over the pills, he has painted himself as a coward, what he truly is deep down, but also learned that there are some within the Saviours who want a change of leadership. Eugene may have picked up on that, but he appears to be embracing his new place of importance.
– The end meeting between Dwight and Eugene could signal the start of an internal uprising against Negan, or maybe it is nothing more than two new co-workers proud of their day’s work. If they are plotting a revolt, they are going to need someone on the outside who can co-ordinate with Alexandria; maybe that will be Sherry, if she finds the gift left at her old home. For now, it’s too early to tell which of these many faces they both exhibit are genuine.
Photo: Gene Page / AMC