“All you have to do to be on the winning side is stand down. Do nothing.”
This week’s episode should come with a pre-warning: beware this episode may contain unhealthy amounts of Eugene (Josh McDermitt). We have nothing against the nonsense spouting wimp in particular, honest, but of the myriad of characters the show has to offer Eugene would most certainly be at the bottom of our “a whole episode dedicated to” wish list. In fact we would have even preferred ANY of the other lieutenants. And yes we hear you nit-pickers in the back purring – we know that Eugene doesn’t take up all of the screen time in “Time for After” but he is without doubt the protagonist and the majority of the episode is concerned with him and the decisions he needs to make.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the episode.
We open with Rick (Andrew Lincoln), still in the container, dripping with sweat in his undies. He is dragged out seemingly to participate in a photo shoot (Jadis (Pollyana McIntosh) plans to sculpt Rick “after” – which can only mean after he is dead) and he takes the opportunity to very calmly reiterate his deal: join the allied communities or be destroyed. Big words for a bound, half-naked man. He is of course ignored with Jadis believing Rick is out of his depth, and, at this point, quite rightly so.
Meanwhile, in this week’s main plot Eugene presents Dwight (Austin Amelio) with an ultimatum: stop helping Rick immediately or Eugene will tell Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) that Dwight is the double-agent. Dwight assures Eugene the plan will work and all he has to do is sit tight and do nothing. But it’s not enough for Negan-fanboy Eugene, who now fully believes Rick and his crew are the villains whilst The Saviors are exactly that: saviors.
Next, Eugene meets with a seriously-ill Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) – “you look like a potato in a shit casserole,” Eugene says in the show’s latest attempt at snappy dialogue. Much like Negan’s dialogue it doesn’t quite have the affect they intended. Gabriel wants Eugene to help him smuggle Dr. Carson (R. Keith Harris) out of The Sanctuary. Gabriel is unaware of Eugene’s new disposition but is quickly filled in. Eugene also explains that it would be against his nature to help Gabriel anyway. Eugene is a coward whose sole motive is to ensure his own survival and for the foreseeable future that means avoiding the wrath of Negan.
After some ego pampering from Negan himself, Eugene commits to solving The Sanctuary’s walker woes by building a remote control plane which will project music from some make-shift speakers. Here is where the show is really displaying the importance of Eugene’s character, and why he has become an valued tool for Negan. His McGyver-like abilities give him a function in the post-apocalypse. Negan sees this and it’s why he has been such a fan of Eugene. However, we as an audience know that Negan does not care for Eugene, he is using him as an instrument of his war. Whilst, Rick never saw the value in Eugene because of his cowardice, he also knew that Eugene was not built for war and gave him the option to stay out of it.
If “Time for After” focused more on Eugene’s skills, committed to his transformation as a soldier of Negan and didn’t have his plan be so easily foiled, it might make for a more captivating and necessary episode. Alas, Eugene’s plane is quickly taken out by Dwight, who interestingly chooses to keep Eugene alive. He is rewarded for sparing Eugene’s life when Eugene decides not to tell Negan that Dwight is the rat.
Elsewhere, we catch up with Daryl (Norman Reedus), Tara (Alana Masterson), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rosita (Christian Serratos), who are now joined by Morgan (Lennie James). Morgan agrees to help Daryl and co see the plan through, providing sniper cover, whilst Michonne and Rosita finally come to their senses and bail at the last minute. The rest see the, lets say it, incredibly stupid plan through, driving a truck into the side of The Sanctuary and letting the walkers roam free inside. As predicted, many innocent workers lose their lives whilst the survivors retreat to the upper levels.
Daryl’s plan only confirms to Eugene that he has picked the “good” side, and we don’t blame him, although we will question Eugene’s investment in looking out for the innocent workers. Eugene is an active part of a dictatorship enjoying the luxuries it affords him, knowing full well that those luxuries come at the expense of the quality of life provided to the workers, who sit at the bottom of the food chain.
Daryl’s actions this season have well and truly turned the show’s most beloved character into a villain. There may be no coming back for the character. By seeing his plan through he has not only carelessly taken innocent lives but he has also put Rick’s plan, and his community, at risk. There are no longer any walkers outside The Sanctuary keeping The Saviors inside. They finally have a chance to escape. Daryl, and Tara, have risked losing the war and we are struggling to find a logical reason why.
Finally, Jadis sentences Rick to death by walker. He is placed on his knees, hands tied, in front of a walker attached to a long stick. Bizarrely, Jadis has decided to execute Rick with the help of just two unarmed soldiers, giving Rick the opportunity to get the upper hand. We’ll be frank with you here, this scene is completely unforgivable for one of the biggest shows on TV right now. Terrible choreography, unrealistic outcomes and no logic what-so-ever, this is a low point for the show. Rick, bound, manages to take out the two guards, using the stick attached to the walker, with ridiculous ease. He then rips the zombies head off of its body and holds it to Jadis’ face and makes her agree to the plan. She does. She then has The Scavengers, armed to the tee now, follow Rick to The Sanctuary so he can show them what has happened to The Saviors. They arrive to see result of Daryl’s plan and the look on Rick’s face best sums up how we feel in relation to the last few episodes given the season’s solid start.
I think we can officially say we will most likely never get a consistent season of The Walking Dead. Whilst we are enjoying the ongoing moral debates surrounding the ethics of war, the fact that these issues only reveal themselves in painstakingly dull filler-episodes is aggravating to say the least. This week developed characters and factions deeper but also displayed some truly awful writing and direction which is unforgivable for a television powerhouse in its eighth season. It also would appear the show no longer has any tricks left up its sleeve. Most of the season, thus far, has been predictable with little to no shock value and our patience is well and truly wearing thin.