“I am Negan. I was Negan before I met you, I just needed to meet your proper.”
Has Eugene turned his allegiance from the Alexandrians, or is he playing the long game and saying this for his immediate survival? Eugene is a man who claims his cowardice with a sad pride and since the beginning of his character arch, he continues to look out for himself even if it means lying for survival.
In this episode, we see a very frightened Eugene emerge from Negan’s truck at the same time that Fat Joey is discovered dead. As Dwight scurries around trying to find Sherry and put the pieces together about Daryl’s escape, Negan asks if he is a “smarty pants” and in prime Eugene fashion, he responds, “Yes, I am.” Eugene realizes that Negan doesn’t know anything about him other than the fact that he made the bullet that hit Lucille, so he begins to give the Saviors the same false profile that he gave Abraham. Negan tests him by asking him to solve the dilemma of the walkers on the fence. Eugene’s intelligence shines brilliantly, as he has an idea of pouring molten metal to strengthen the walkers and Negan is very impressed.
Negan identifies early on that his tactics with Eugene need to be completely different from the ones that he used on Daryl. He sees Eugene as a scared child who can be manipulated by giving him the illusion of power (power that he did not get from Rick or Alexandria) and uses a flies-to-honey approach. Negan tells Eugene that he can have anything he wants and even though Eugene turns him down at first; satisfied with with being “gifted a jar of pickles,” he soon decides to see how far he can go.
Unlike the hole that kept Daryl prisoner, Eugene was given a nice room with many comforts, including beer in the refrigerator and a boom box which conveniently has a cassette of “Easy Street.” While the song tormented Daryl, Eugene finds it rhythmic and comedically bobs his head up and down to the beat. As he looks through the books on the shelf, the woman Savior tells him that there are many more in the library. Still frightened, Eugene keeps taking it all in, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
As part of Eugene’s reward for coming up with a solution, Negan offers him a few of his wives as company for the night, with the condition that he doesn’t sleep with them. Eugene reluctantly agrees because he doesn’t want to disrupt the apple cart with Negan. As Eugene and the wives become acquainted, Eugene shows them some tenth grade level science experiments and they all have a good time. On the next night two of the girls come back to Eugene’s room and ask him to make some poisonous pills to help one of the girls quietly commit suicide. Thankfully Eugene didn’t just agree (he spoke about what might happen if she died during the night), but he said he’ll see what he can do.
As Eugene makes his way through the storehouse, he gets in line to get some of the things he’ll need to make the pills. He gets tired of waiting his turn and timidly walks up to the lady at the table, interrupts the man at the front of the line and awkwardly blurts out what he needs. He is quickly reprimanded for cutting in line and she sends him back. As he turns to go back, shoulders hunched from his embarrassment, he stops dead in his tracks. His shoulders straighten, his head is raised high with assertiveness and he turns back to the front. Here is Eugene’s trumpet song. This finally brings Eugene into adulthood and out of his cowardice. He looks her straight in the eyes and says, “I am Negan’s new Science Engineer. I report directly to him and you report to me.” The lady turns white as a ghost and she mumbles something about not knowing new people when they come in. He gets what he needs and walks away like a boss.
The B story that we are following was very sad. Dwight is beaten badly when Negan finds out that Daryl and Sherry are both gone. He asks Dwight who he is and he responds with, “I am Negan.” He tells Negan that he will find her. He begins his journey and we hear Sherry’s voice-over as she reads aloud a letter that she left for Dwight in their old house. When Dwight gets there, he picks up a picture of them before it all happened. You can see the defeat in Dwight’s eyes as he searches each room hoping that she is there waiting on him. She isn’t,and as her letter finishes she makes one sad confession, “I loved who you were, but I don’t like who I made you become.” He sinks to the floor and pulls out an empty pack of cigarettes and he drops the wedding rings that once enveloped their fingers in a distant past. Questions begin bubbling their way to the surface. Will Dwight continue to serve Negan or will he become an inside man and begin helping the Alexandrians?
Although this was a bottle episode and we didn’t see anything else that is going on with the rest of the group, we got a lot of really good character development and story arch. Hopefully Eugene is playing a long game and just adjusting his persona to what he thinks Negan wants. One thing is certain: he still has the poison pills (and anything else he made along with them). Will he turn Savior or will he keep the faith with the Alexandrians? Time will tell.