We gave it a B
Unless you count his earlier voice cameo over the walkie talkie, Negan makes his first appearance this week since the midseason premiere, but the action has calmed down a bit since Rick’s junkyard match with Winslow. This week, it’s back to spending an entire hour, mostly within the confines of the Sanctuary, with Dwight and Eugene as the camp scrambles to pick up Daryl’s trail.
Eugene isn’t exactly the most likable or interesting character, and he isn’t the most likely candidate to carry the bulk of an episode, but when paired with Dwight, it makes a little more sense. Both are reminded of who they once were and make strides to return to their former selves — Dwight learns from Daryl and Sherry that he’s not the obedient lapdog Negan forced into submission, while Eugene learns from Negan that he’s someone who can exploit the one thing that makes him indispensable. When he does so again, we’re reminded of how he lied to Abraham and Rosita about his work before the outbreak, a lie he repeats to Negan and his wives to convince them he’s worth keeping alive — and, more than that, worth a place among their ranks.
Negan, even though he seems to have lost a bit of his bite, tends to bring out the best — and worst — in everyone.
Dwight discovers Fat Joey’s bashed-in remains and begins piecing together that it was Sherry who let Daryl out of the cage when Eugene is carted in. Negan’s “Mr. Smarty Pants” is an emotional wreck, but, aside from the initial handcuffs and bag over the head, he’s given the star treatment. He gets his own room, any food he wants (except his first thought, lobster, because seriously), books, and a fridge full of beer and perishables.
Dwight, however, is blamed for letting Daryl out. Even after he’s beaten and thrown in the closet, he protects Sherry from Negan’s suspicions, but she, too, is missing — so he’s tasked with retrieving her. Dwight first stops is to get stitched up by the doctor, who reminds us that Sherry married Negan in order to save her husband’s life. He then stops to grab his pack of cigarettes hiding in his room before heading out. There are only three left, and one of them, half smoked, seems to have lipstick stains on the butt.
The courting of Eugene continues in Dwight’s absence. He’s brought into the main warehouse, where the lower workers reside and trade food and services. Laura, one of Negan’s right-hand women, tells him he’s part of the elite, so he should get used to taking what he wants instead of asking, starting with the jar of pickles he’s been eyeing. He’s then led out to the fences, where Negan is waiting to size up just how smart he is. It’s here where he reprises the lie that first led him to Rick: that he worked with the Human Genome Project with other scientists to try and weaponize diseases against other diseases.
As a further test, Negan needs Eugene to solve a problem for him: some of the “free labor” protecting the Sanctuary are falling apart. Eugene, always quivering in the presence of Negan, suggests melting down scrap metal and coating the walkers with the liquid, which would keep their bodies from decomposing while transforming them into the likes of Winslow. While Eugene isn’t a typical “badass,” his ideas are, and that’s why Negan likes him — not to mention the reason he’s there in the first place, which is to make bullets. As a reward, Negan promises to send Eugene some of his wives later that night to keep him company. But no funny business — that’s “a big no-no.”
NEXT: Out with the old, in with the new