When it comes to war, the “bad guys” are pretty easy to spot: They’re usually the ones on the opposite side. But it’s never really that simple, is it? Even the most sadistic, depraved minds believe there’s some justification for doing what they do — sometimes they even believe what they’re doing is right. Negan is the same. He seems to genuinely believe that he and his Saviors are saving people from the chaos of this world, even though his power structure favors the 1 percent of The Sanctuary. There may also be forced labor, rape (because sex by extortion is still deplorable), shady coercion, and physical intimidation involved, but he’s doing the best he can — so he thinks.
Eugene is an interesting lens through which to see this side of Negan. He’s a tactician. A coward, yes, but someone who thinks it all out and makes the best possible decision for himself based on all empirical evidence. It’s why he accepted a position among Negan’s generals: He is a coward and he is physically weak, so it would behoove him to gain favor and power within the Saviors’ ranks — despite everyone else who is trampled in his wake. But there’s still some humanity left within him, despite all the selfish choices he’s made in the past. He brought Gabriel a pillow after he was hauled into a cell, and he still maintains some feelings for his old “traveling companions,” as he now calls Rick’s group.
So now he’s faced with two options: He can either work with Gabriel and Dwight for AHK (the acronym he thought up for Alexandria, Hilltop, Kingdom), or he can continue his service to Negan. Which is the right choice and which is the right choice for Dwight is what Eugene has to figure out. “Time for After” still suffers from the season’s ongoing issues — mainly, that everyone is their own worst enemy. But when compared to other episodes dedicated to the Sanctuary side of this conflict, we’re at least getting a clearer argument for why one might think Negan is a “good guy.”
First, though, Rick realizes Jadis and the Scavengers are much creepier than they already appear. Light floods into his container cell, where he’s been sitting with his hands tied, in nothing but his underwear (at least he’s not naked, as he previously appeared to be). Outside, Jadis is waiting for him to emerge with a camera in her hands, while one of her associates is sitting by her side in a chair with a sketch pad. Rick warns that they still have a chance to join his cause or die, but she’s more focused on taking photos of his half-naked body. I mean, we get it, Jadis. Andrew Lincoln’s body is sick. But they want to create references so they can “sculpt” him “after.” The “after” part is what worries Rick as he’s again sealed up in the container.
Back at the Sanctuary, Eugene is grappling with the discovery that Dwight is the AHK mole. A list-maker at his core, he tries to separate what he knows, and what he knows he doesn’t know, from what he’s wholly unaware of. He then makes a compromise: He approaches Dwight in his room and says he won’t rat him out to Negan if he can promise to cease his mission and not harm anyone in the Sanctuary. Dwight physically forces Eugene into a chair and tries to remind him of everything horrible Negan has done to his people. “You’ve heard the screams,” he says. “You’ve smelled the burning flesh.” But Eugene has been drinking the Kool-Aid (i.e. his personal stash of pickles) for too long. He reasons that what Negan has going isn’t perfect, but they are Saviors — and they’re here to save.
Eugene leaves Eugene with the ultimatum and finds Laura (the one with the neck tattoo) reinforcing the front door. She estimates they have at most two days before the walkers break in and massacre everyone in the Sanctuary. (Recap continues on the next page)
As Eugene is walking down a dim hallway — half lit, the other half covered in shadow — Harlan, the doctor from Hilltop, calls him into the medical room to look after Gabriel, who’s on a bed suffering from an infection. Harlan pities Gabriel’s condition and wishes they had more medicine, but Eugene wishes Gabriel didn’t conspire to put them in their current situation in the first place. The doctor leaves them to go find herbs for some Eastern medicinal treatment. As Gabriel struggles to lift his glass of water, Eugene helps him, though forcefully so — mirroring his inner conflict, caring for Gabriel but hating him for his part in AHK’s uprising.
As they chat, Gabriel implores Eugene to “do the right thing,” though he says “the right thing” could be “right for some and damn near horrific for others.” Taking his hand, Gabriel points to the near-Biblical phenomena of the dead rising again and argues that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he will know what the right thing is when it presents itself. Eugene is left with a blotch of blood lingering on his thumb when Morgan, keeping watch on the Sanctuary from his sniper’s post, catches sight of Daryl pulling up in a truck.
Tanya, one of Negan’s wives, goes to meet Eugene in his room. They made a deal: If he fixed her stereo, she’d pay in wine. He hasn’t been able to complete the repairs in light of the stress of walkers on their doorstep, but she says she’s always been trapped so she hasn’t thought much of being physically trapped — proving that at the end of the day, Eugene’s logic on all this is still horse crap. While he admitted aloud to Gabriel that he is a very selfish person who’s only looking out for himself, his actions still suggest he’s trying to do right. His implication is that AHK’s way is worse for everyone involved, yet he forgets about all the women who are forced to marry and have sex with Negan through blackmail, all the people who are run weary working for Negan and his generals, all those who’ve been ruthlessly executed for wanting out, and all those who’ve been brutalized day in and day out.
Before she leaves, Eugene asks Tanya if he could still have the second bottle of wine to help him sleep. She reminds him that he could have helped her and Frankie before when they asked him for something to kill Negan, but instead he looked out for himself, and now that’s weighing on him. She leaves him with his own guilt (and the wine) when Laura comes to summon Eugene to Negan.
While all this is going on, Daryl and Tara are getting ready to screw everything up. Dwight mentioned to Eugene earlier that all he has to do to ensure AKH’s victory is just be patient and let the plan play out. These folks can’t do that. With Michonne and Rosita by their side, they’re planning to plow a truck straight through the Sanctuary walls to let the walkers flood in. They assume the workers are on the other side of the compound, so they should be okay.
Michonne and Rosita both question why they can’t just wait things out when so many things could potentially go wrong by acting in haste. Tara mentions the truck with the speakers and how something like that could happen again, and Daryl adds that they don’t have the Kingdom’s forces anymore. But Rosita reminds him that Rick is off trying to get the Scavengers to fight with them. (Speaking of which: What’s going to happen if Rick rolls up with Jadis, and Daryl and Tara have already acted?) It’s an argument that goes around and around in circles, with Daryl and Tara unwilling to listen to reason. Morgan walks up to offer his aid with sniping, as well, so Rosita decides she’s pulling herself out of the situation and reminds Michonne about Sasha’s death — about what can happen when they jump the gun. (Recap continues on the next page)
Inside the Sanctuary, Negan is blowing up Eugene’s spot. He extends his hand, which Eugene takes as an invitation to kiss it. Negan pulls it away, saying he understands why Eugene would be confused by this rare gesture of goodwill, but he meant to go in for a handshake. Eugene leaves their meeting feeling euphoric. Negan is a smart guy. As he says, he’s going to survive whatever happens no matter what. So this handshake was probably a chess move to make Eugene more loyal to his cause. Negan smiles as he watches Eugene go off to work on the walker problem.
While Eugene is looking for parts, he comes across Sasha’s casket, and he’s reminded of the sacrifice she made for the cause. In there, he finds her iPod, which he plans to attach to a makeshift remote control glider to lead the dead away from the Sanctuary.
Daryl & Co. roll up to start their plan, but Michonne bails at the last moment, making the “don’t fix what isn’t broken” argument. AHK’s plan isn’t broken yet, so why risk messing it up? Daryl says he just has to do this — he just has to. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t go as he thinks it will. Gee, I wish someone could’ve predicted that.
Eugene is preparing to launch his glider over the walkers from the roof when Dwight confronts him at gunpoint. I was distracted by this scene’s poor green screen, but the gist is that though Dwight threatens to shoot him, Eugene still launches the glider. Dwight then shoots it down as gunfire erupts from below and Daryl drives the truck toward the Sanctuary.
Walkers flood in — and many of the workers weren’t on the other side of the compound, so people start dying. The generals start clearing out as many walkers as they can. After witnessing the chaos, Eugene runs to Gabriel’s room to scream about how, again, he’s taking the selfish route. While it may seem like he might care for the workers who are dying, his main priority is keeping himself alive, and, for some reason, he still thinks that’s best accomplished by serving Negan.
He then goes to his leader with a plan to clear out the walkers; all we know is that it requires a heck of a lot of bullets. Eugene is about to reveal Dwight’s true loyalties when Dwight and the other generals walk into the room. He doesn’t, choosing instead to wallow in his room as he tries to drown out the sound of gunfire by chugging his wine.
Back at the junkyard, it’s time for “after.” Rick is hauled out to the center of the square to be executed by a walker that’s being led out by a stick attached to its head. Being Rick, he’s able to fight off the Scavengers’ guards and gain control of the walker, grabbing the stick and ripping its head clean off. He’s even able to subdue Jadis and hold her hostage with the walker’s chomping head close to her panicking face. When she submits, they forge a deal to give the Scavengers a fourth of the Sanctuary’s supplies if they fight with AHK against Negan — and he made sure to throw a no-sculpting-of-naked-Rick clause in there for good measure. How these groups will be able to trust each other after what happened in the season 7 finale is beyond me.
The Scavengers drive Rick back toward the Sanctuary, where he finds one of his snipers dead. He grabs his walkie and isn’t able to get anyone on the line, so he climbs up to get a better view of the Sanctuary. Rick is horrified to see that, sure enough, there aren’t any more walkers outside the compound. You can always count on these characters to get in their own way.