Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers..
Have you been enjoying the relatively more upbeat version of The Walking Dead? Were you ready to dive back into the miasma of misery that is the Saviours storyline? Us neither. And yet, here we are. Rolling the clock back slightly, Hostiles And Calamities heads to the Saviour compound for an episode that focuses, as the show occasionally does, on just a couple of characters. The main storyline this week is Eugene's arrival in Camp Negan (motto: "Abandon Hope All Y'All Who Enter Here"), which for all its apparent advantages ("we eat good") still resembles Butlins crossed with a hard labour prison. And for all the vague evolution of Eugene's character, this storyline finds him slap back to being the cowardly, self-focused mumbler none of us particularly loved. Couple that with yet more sassy fascism from Negan and it all represents a big step back in the enjoyment factor of the series. We're really not sure how desperate anyone was to learn how Dr. Porter was getting on at the Saviours' place, and even if you were a little interested, we doubt this will do a lot to please you. Certainly there were still one or two light moments – Eugene certainly has his uses in small does – and scenes where he bonds with the "wives" (Elyse Dufour's Frankie, Chloe Aktas' Tanya and Autumn Dial's Amber) forced to hang out with him are at least fun, with his video game obsession and their good-natured teasing. But then, of course, it all has to take a dark turn as the wives' request for a suicide pill is shown to be an ill-advised plan to murder Negan.
Eugene's storyline raises some big questions: does he truly submit to Negan's will at the end, or is he simply cowed, trying to wait out his time until Rick and the rest can come and find him? Neither offers much in the way of hope, and we're mostly happy to cling to the idea that he might be quietly working on something to help the good guys' cause. If it's the alternative, then a character that was insufferable to begin with, takes a hard right turn into downright awful. There's only so much you can watch him shuffle about, jump queues, and obtain a variety of nicknames – "Haircut" and "Dr. Smartypants" among them – before you just wish the series would show us something more interesting, such as an entire episode of Daryl cleaning a bike, or Carl roller-dancing to impress Enid. Or just an all-walker episode devoted to a performance of The Tempest conducted through moans and groans. If there's any real interest to be derived, it's from how Negan treats the not-so-great doctor, from his seemingly luxury abode (nice callback with the Easy Street song playing on his stereo), clearly thinking he can be won over with coddling as opposed to the rough, torturous time Daryl experienced.
Talking about Daryl, his escape spurs the second of this week's storylines, and while it was entirely dramatic, it actually proved to be the more satisfying of the two. Dwight (Austin Amelio) discovers that Dixon has managed to hightail it, so of course he's in trouble with Negan, who suspects that "Dwighty-boy" helped him to get out. To cleanse his record, he's dispatched to find his wife Sherry (only her voice is heard), and so we watch him head to his ruined old home, discovering a note from Sherry – who also managed to escape – and not much in the way of happiness. Amelio carries off the weight of the storyline well, even if a lot of it is beats that he's had to play before, including his shifting allegiance to Negan, the pain of his failed relationship and the hint of hope that his wife might have gotten away this time. There's the return of Iron Man, or Negan's scar-tastic blend of justice, which is taken further this time as the Doctor, framed by Dwight for Daryl's disappearance is first threatened with the iron but then simply shoved into the fire.
Not exactly a satisfying turn this week after a couple of episodes that actually managed to offer something fresh to enjoy. Some have complained that last week's visit with the Junkers (or whatever the heck they end up being called) felt like wheel-spinning, but we'll happily take that over yet another trip to Negan's House Of Pain. Once again we watch long, involved sequences of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's scowling/smirking dictator doling out rough justice to his subjects. There's another introduction to how the Saviours' particular society functions that feels like it was included purely for people who haven't seen previous episodes, but never quite escaped being an information dump. While we're talking that society, we have to raise the complaint that once again security seems dubious at best: they have a fence lined with walkers, but seem perfectly happy for a new arrival to collect chemicals and set up experiments in the yard with only one gun-toting guard showing up to display any sort of concern.
Let's hope that next week's episode manages to switch back to shifting the story forward and not simply wallowing in the lesser elements of the plot and characters.
Could Eugene just be faking it?
Sure. In the comic books, he's a key part of the resistance against Negan, so there's a big chance he's simply biding his time. And he did dig up his lie about the Humane Genome project.. But we know he's a man who will do anything to survive, so fingers crossed he doesn't turn on Rick and co.
What does this mean for Dwight?
[Spoiler Alert!] Again, in the comics, Dwight ends up turning against his dictator, so we could be seeing the true birth of that decision here, even as Dwighty-boy also schemes to save his own skin.
Read this season's previous reviews below...
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC in the States and Mondays at 9pm on Fox.