The Walking Dead continues its strong run of episodes in the back eight of the seventh season, moving the action away from The Hilltop and The Kingdom and into the Saviors’ compound, where Eugene has been taken “prisoner.” In this case, “prisoner” somewhat mischaracterizes Dwight’s situation: He’s a hostage, but there are plenty of reasons by the end of the episode to think that he may not be a totally unwilling one.
The episode, “Hostiles and Calamaties,” is another departure from the comic book, but a well executed one. With Rick finding some success in building alliances with The Hilltop and the Hipster Junkyard Gang, this week’s episode represents something of a setback for Alexandria in that they may have lost an ally. However, it looks like the setback may benefit Eugene in the short term, because within the Savior compound, he’s afforded a much better life than the one he had in Alexandria. He gets all the pickles he wants, all the supplies he could need, more respect than he ever got in Alexandria, and his own room, complete with a video-game system.
Eugene is living the life, and all he had to do in exchange was to pledge his loyalty to Negan, a matter that came easy to our mulleted friend, who has always been a coward. Eugene quickly gave into his fear and switched alliances; when Negan tossed the doctor into a crematorium, any thought of defiance probably quickly vanished from Eugene’s mind. He also passed up an easy opportunity to kill Negan by spiking his drink with poison, a plan hatched by Negan’s “wives.” It’s hard to know for sure if he demurred because he’s afraid that it might backfire and he’ll end up tossed into the fire himself, or if Eugene honestly believes that Negan doesn’t deserve to die.
That question is the most intriguing of the episode, which resurrected a theme that surfaces periodically on The Walking Dead: Who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys? Or is it all just a matter of perspective? To the viewer who has been following Rick and Co. for seven years, Negan is an obvious villain. He killed Glenn and Abraham. He rules by fear. He takes from others. He steals wives from his own men. Some of Negan’s actions are obviously morally wrong, but Eugene is right to suggest that it would be hypocritical to vilify Negan based solely on the fact that he killed a few Alexandrians. Rick and company killed 30 of Negan’s men, many of them in their sleep. At the time, those men did not even pose a threat to Rick. Hell, they didn’t even know about Alexandria yet. It was preemptive murder as a form of potential self defense.