Warning: Spoilers are ahead for the season eight of The Walking Dead. Keep reading at your own risk.
If I had to choose a character who frustrated me the most on The Walking Dead, it would be Eugene Porter, hands down.
Eugene is, by his own admission, a liar and a coward. Unlike his comic book counterpart, TV Eugene quickly switched his loyalty to Negan in season seven, and this week’s episode confirmed that wasn’t some long con on Eugene’s part. Even Eugene’s actor sees him as lacking loyalty: in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Josh McDermitt says Eugene is “firmly Negan...I don’t think that there is a [sense of] ‘Well I’m going to be Negan and then I’m going to be subversive and work against him’ or any of that because, again, Eugene’s all about his own survival.”
Eugene himself repeats that sentiment to Gabriel this episode. “All I want you to to do is do the right thing,” Gabriel tells Eugene, slowly dying in the Savior’s hospital and yet speaking calmly, illuminated by light streaming through the windows. “What you may have forgotten is I’m a small person who does not stick his neck out for anyone other than himself,” says Eugene, sitting in darkness and looking practically constipated with guilt. (“Ooh shit, you look worse than me,” the bedridden Gabriel says to Eugene when he first walks in the room, and can I just say I really like Gabriel now?)
Throughout the episode we see Eugene confronted by three people, Ebenezer Scrooge style, who demand he overcome his self-serving nature and do the right thing. Gabriel is the first, and then Tanya, one of Negan’s wives. Eugene, who has ridiculously bought into Negan’s lies, looks shaken when Tanya reminds him that she’s been trapped inside the compound, long before Rick’s walker horde showed up. Despite seeing himself as a clever man, Eugene never realized--or willfully ignored--that we’ve never seen Negan’s wives ever allowed outside. She then reminds Eugene of a plot point that I sorely wish the show had expanded on: that the wives wanted and tried to kill Negan, but Eugene thwarted it.
Eugene’s last confrontation is with Dwight. Eugene attempts to lure the walkers away from the Savior compound by attaching an iPod and speakers to a mini plane, but Dwight shoots it down. “I’m trying to save people, Dwight,” Eugene says. It’s easy to read between the lines, here, as Dwight does: Eugene is afraid of Negan, and he’s really just trying to save himself.
It’s difficult to buy into Eugene agreeing with Negan that the Saviors live up to their name. There’s no way he could’ve watched Negan literally throw their doctor into a smelter and listened to Negan’s wives beg for freedom from the man and still believe that lie. For a self-professed intelligent man, does Eugene really think these people are safer living under a power hungry autocrat than on their own? Perhaps that’s the kind of situation that makes sense for a person like Eugene though: with Negan, he simply has to follow the rules to live in comfort. Living out there with the walkers means having to fend for himself.
We know, as Eugene finds Sasha’s coffin and begins to cry, that Eugene is not a bad person. But he’s also not a brave one, and The Walking Dead has told us before that people who only look out for themselves are often just as dangerous as the walkers.
In the end, Eugene ends up not giving up Dwight to Negan. I'm not quite sure yet if I believe he did that because he knew it was right. (And certainly within the episode there's a conversation about what's "right" for one person can be wrong for another.) Did Eugene finally choose a side, or is he still simply thinking of his own hide?
Elsewhere, Rosita, Michonne, Tara, and Daryl rendezvous with Morgan. Rosita and Michonne have reservations about ramming a truck into the Savior compound--for both the worker’s safety and their own--while the latter three are determined to go through with it. While we get some good moments with Rosita and Michonne, it’s difficult to understand why they simply disagree and walk away from the other three. Rosita and Michonne both reaffirm they believe in Rick, and in the idea that the workers deserve to be saved, so why do they not attempt to stop Daryl, when his plan is likely to severely hamper Rick’s?
There’s also definitely a thread here of Tara and Daryl running entirely on their own hatred and guilt: Tara for Denise’s death and for not speaking up about Oceanside’s guns sooner, and Daryl for his torture and being responsible for Glenn’s death (according to Negan himself). They are, in their own ways, being driven by their selfishness as well, and that’s clearly leading up to a collision with Rick.
We also finally see Rick convince Janis to join them, only to discover Daryl and Tara have undone his work at the compound. It really does appear Eugene, working from the inside, will be the key to Rick's victory. The question is, will he do it? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I'll stop being disappointed in Eugene when he stops clearly being disappointed in himself.
Do you think Eugene is now going to work against Negan? Sound off in the comments!