The Walking Thread: Time For After (S8, E7)

TWD 8.7

TWD’s war-focused season 8 started out with a serious bang and kept the energy sustained for an impressive run, but in the last couple episodes the show has fallen into something of a lull as the focus has shifted to character and to setting up plot threads to be resolved later. In “Time For After”, which is mainly focused on Eugene, there is an even bigger lull, especially in the middle. A couple of plot threads do get their resolution (Rick vs. Jadis, Daryl’s plan to attack the Sanctuary), but on the whole this seems like more passing time while we await next week’s big midseason finale. Much of your enjoyment of “Time For After” will depend on how much you like Eugene, the show’s resident mulleted (and probably autistic) genius, and his unique speech patterns. Josh McDermitt does a pretty good job of making him sympathetic and giving the man a soul underneath all that weirdness and cowardice, but he’s far from likeable, and a little of him goes a very long way.

The episode opens with a conversation between him and the very sick Father Gabriel (an infection is apparently the culprit), in which the latter encourages Eugene to effectively save his soul by risking his life to help the Sanctuary’s doctor escape and bring him back to Hilltop, where he can help treat Maggie and save her baby. This sets up what essentially becomes an episode-long crisis of conscience: should he choose survival by being loyal to Negan, who is an evil murderer but keeps him self and well-treated, or put himself at risk by aligning with Dwight to betray Negan and help Team Rick win the war? It’s easy to say that it’s better to serve in Heaven than reign in Hell, but in the zombie apocalypse, it’s just one Hell versus another.

He confronts Dwight about being the mole (and is tempted to tell Negan about it at least once), but holds his tongue. He is tasked by Negan to find a way to get all the Walkers away from the building, thus becoming a hero among the Saviors and earning Negan’s undying respect, and is just about to enact such a solution when Dwight stops him, shooting down the homemade drone he was going to lead the zombies away with. It ends up being a moot point, as a moment later Daryl executes his attack plan on the compound, knocking down the doors with a runaway van and letting all the undead in. The Walkers manage to mob and chomp on a few Saviors before they are bottlenecked on a staircase while a desperate Eugene frantically tries to think of a solution for this new predicament.

Not surprisingly, he decides to take the safe bet and align himself with Negan – Eugene is a survivor at heart, guilty conscience be damned – and he proclaims as much to Father Gabriel. Of course, with a huge horde of Walkers in the compound and Team Rick closing in on them, he may very well be backing the wrong horse, even from a survival standpoint. He may need to start becoming more afraid of Dwight and Rick than of Negan.

Meanwhile, back at the trash heap town, we finally find out what Rick’s big plan was to deal with Jadis and her people. His plan was to assume (correctly) that Jadis is an imbecile, and thus wait until she tries to kill him in a Bond Villain-esque way, then single-handedly escape and take her hostage until she listens to reason. It helps that Rick is a total badass and Jadis and her people seem to be halfway out of their minds, but still, even by this show’s standards, the fact that this goofy plan worked is pretty ridiculous. At any rate, he convinces her to join his side of the war, mainly because it’s the best way to avoid getting slaughtered by him and his people, but just as he’s about to lead her people in a final assault on the Saviors’ compound, he discovers to his shock that the Walkers are already inside, thus thoroughly screwing up his plans. Man, a guy can’t leave his peeps alone for a couple episodes without them waging a separate war behind his back, can he?

Next week’s midseason finale is expected to be long (90 minutes) and bloody, and rumor has it at least one major cast member will be biting the dust. This episode was a bit of a slog (that occasionally had its moments), but I suspect this lull in the action is about to come to an end.

TWD 8.7.1

Random thoughts on this episode:

*It’s actually kind of interesting that Father Gabriel is sick with an infection rather than something more dramatic. I imagine that in a real apocalypse, most people wouldn’t be dying of zombie bites or gunshots, but rather of infections and other more mundane things that we wouldn’t be able to cure anymore. Here’s hoping the doctor will be able to find medicine to save him, but at this point Gabriel practically has “Martyr” written across his forehead, so I’m not holding my breath.

*Man, that was awkward when Eugene tried to kiss Negan’s and and Negan’s like, “I was going in for a handshake”. To be fair, though, who holds their hand out like that for a handshake?

*I don’t usually mention the cinematography on this show, because it tends to be pretty workmanlike, but man, that one scene with Father Gabriel laying in his hospital bed with heavenly light streaming down on him from the window, and Eugene sitting in the dark? Absolutely beautiful. Looked like a painting, and it highlighted the scene’s moral subtext perfectly.

*So what exactly was Jadis’ plan, given that Negan wanted Rick alive? Let that armored Walker bite him, then bring him to Negan, dead but zombified, and hope that’s alive enough to make him happy? Man they are a weird group of people.

*Both Rosita and Michonne back out of Daryl and Tara’s attack-the-Sanctuary plan at the last minute, but they are still able to pull it off because Morgan joins them, and Morgan is awesome. But hey, at least Rick can count on a couple of people not to screw up his war plans behind his back. That’s gotta count for something, right?

*Oh look, Negan’s “wives” are still alive.

*Assuming that Eugene survives this war to the end, I hope he joins up with Jadis and her trash heap freaks. He talks weird and is completely self-interested, so he’d fit right in with them.

*That flashback to Sasha’s death was quite unexpectedly poignant. Seriously missing her on this show.

*Seriously, Jadis is still talking about getting Rick naked? Of all the single women in the zombie apocalypse, she definitely needs a boyfriend the most.

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