This is a spoiler-free review. Read on below for additional, spoilery notes – plus how to watch online.
Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is a coward. We’ve seen the cowardice in him several times throughout The Walking Dead, using and manipulating others to save his own backside – his introduction to the series was based around the lie that he had a cure for the epidemic just to get protection. But at least he is aware he is a coward and not afraid to tell anyone who asks. He has shown signs of bravery, at times, but, in his heart, he is still, and will forever be, a coward. Despite this, Eugene is probably the smartest person left alive in the apocalypse. His ability to tinker with electronics and to create ammunition make him a valuable commodity and is partly what has kept him alive so long. But how long will that last?
Eugene’s smarts have made him a valuable member of the Saviour community and, despite his spinelessness, the workers show him respect and the lieutenants acknowledge that he is a useful resource, something that he never attained from Alexandria. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) may have issued him with a deadly ultimatum to find a way out of the Saviours predicament – trapped inside, surrounded by walkers – but when Eugene delivers good news, he quickly earns a whole new level of respect and trust of his leader. Clearly pleased with himself, there is still a zombie inside of him, eating away at his insides, as Eugene toils with the knowledge that he knows who the traitor at the Sanctuary is and Dwight (Austin Amelio) knows that he’s been found out. With a history of picking the winning team, Eugene needs to muster the courage to make the right choice: either pledging loyalty to the Saviours by outing Dwight to Negan, or keeping the secret and returning to Alexandria – if Rick (Andrew Lincoln) will have him back.
Josh McDermitt’s character is magnificent. From his southern drawl to his mullet, Eugene is an interesting character who knows who he is, just looking to find a place in this new world. Who wouldn’t have some part of them that would want to run and hide, when faced with the living dead at their door every day? Eugene’s struggle with the horrors he is surrounded by, both inside and out the Sanctuary walls, scares him, as he turns to alcohol to help him sleep and to do what he must to survive. While he may be in a bad place, Eugene has seen the good that Negan is doing. They are the Saviours, and they are saving people by giving them a purpose and making them stronger, making Eugene stronger. This has given him a confidence and an idea for a way out.
The penultimate episode before the mid-season finale, Time for After is a splendid character-centric chapter, although it suffers from more ridiculous logic failings within the sub-plots. Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) holds all the cards with Rick trapped, yet her and the Scavengers (in some way just like Eugene) appear to be more interested in saving themselves than getting involved with others. The reasoning behind Daryl (Norman Reedus) going off-script on Rick’s plan is still unclear and seeming more and more defective as the hot-heads continue to take matters into their own hands. There is no denying their passion and personal reasoning behind their motives, but it still doesn’t compute why they have chosen this, the most epic of all Rick’s attacks, to tear up the rule-book. Both Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) feel underused and their opposition to Daryl goes by with too little protest. As the episode wraps up, we get a brief glimpse at what lies in store for the mid-season finale and it’s certainly not for cowards.
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Innards and entrails (spoilers)
– What exactly was going through the mind of Jadis, as Rick remained captured in her shipping container? If she wasn’t going to turn him over to Negan, why play the silly game with the Walker? Also, if she has such a longing to see him naked, why not remove his underwear when they took the rest of his clothes? This is just one of the logic holes in the episode that make it feel unpolished. Rick is valuable alive, but also incredibly dangerous. Perhaps Jadis believed him, when Rick threatened his people were outside the walls, but the Scavenger scouts could have proved that wrong. Surrounded by guns, Jadis decides to join Rick (again) and not kill him. Even though Negan would be disappointed if Rick were handed over to him dead, he would still be incredibly grateful to those that ended his reign.
– Both Michonne and Rosita give up on Daryl too quickly. They know he’s stubborn and that when he decides to do something, there is very little that can be said to talk him out of it, but neither lady really puts up much of a defence. If Rick had a plan, did it involve getting captured by the Scavengers? And was he meant to win back their trust by defeating Son of Winslow? If that’s the case, then maybe Daryl and Tara (Alanna Masterson) are justified in their argument, knowing that Rick had a stupid plan that would likely fail. But it just seems that for an operation so large, involving three communities, that there would have been some strategy meeting, some war-room planning with little pepper pots being pushed around a makeshift map detailing where everyone will be and what they’ll do when. It has to be more than just In Rick We Trust and everything else make-up-as-you-go-along. These little things really do grind away at the back of your mind, detracting you from the rest of the episode’s events.
– Eugene is so smart, able to make a miniature, flying version of the musical car that was destroyed in the last episode, so why is he still so stupid in refusing to turn over Dwight to Negan? From his heated confrontation with Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Eugene doubles down on his allegiance to the Saviours, but once again chickens out at the last minute. Even the stupidest of people should be able to tell that keeping knowledge away from Negan, especially after he’s given you his version of the Paul Hollywood Handshake, is a mistake and one that is likely to come back to bite Eugene.
– How did Negan escape? We know it took a lot of bullets that Eugene is due to replace, but what toll did it take on the survivors? This little tease into the mid-season finale is a great whet to the appetite but brings with it a dose of fear. Have Daryl, Tara and company survived? Or has there been some tragedy, as Negan looks to bring a boat-load of trouble back to Rick’s doorstep?
Photo: Gene Page / AMC