Seeing as we’re just one episode away from the mid-season break, there was always the potential for episode 7 to be just another filler. After all, the past few episodes haven’t exactly broke the storytelling mould. But thankfully, it’s slightly better than expected. Only slightly, but it’s a definite improvement on the drawn out, yawn fest that was episode 6. And most of that is because the main focus of Time for After is Eugene. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, be warned, there’s spoilers to follow.
Seeing as he’s such a drip, it feels strange to think that The Walking Dead’s current success is hinged on Eugene, but here we are. Since the cowardly, mulleted scientist first appeared in the series he’s been a pathetic excuse for an apocalypse survivor. While the others cut through zombies like butter, he’ll always be the one sweating somewhere in a corner looking utterly terrified. It doesn’t even have to be the Walkers that terrify him either, the living with any kind of intent to harm will set his bottom lip quivering.
In this season it’s not been quite clear whose side Eugene is working for. On the one hand, he’s in cahoots with Dwight within the Sanctuary walls and seemed to be looking out for the health of Father Gabriel, but on the other, he’s having private meetings with Negan and has a seat at the inner table. In this episode, it’s quickly clear that he’s at least on the side of the people trapped within the Sanctuary - if not Negan himself, despite the fact he actually professes that he is Negan. Traitor.
Watching the cogs so clearly turning in Eugene’s mind as to what course of action he’s going to take to save the Sanctuary is part of what kept me hooked to this episode (something I definitely can’t have said for the previous few). I haven’t been this angry at The Walking Dead in a productive way since the opening of season 7 with the whole “eenie meenie miney mo” game. I never thought I’d find myself rooting for Dwight in a shootout, but it turns out The Walking Dead is still capable of surprising me.
The episode actually starts with naked Rick (thought you’d seen the last of that, did you?), but this time he’s managed to find some boxer shorts in that shipping container he’s been locked in. That doesn’t stop Jadis - aka the local creep - from eyeing him up like a piece of meat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see a woman treat a man like that after so many, many years of it being the other way around, but there’s something oddly cannibalistic about the way she treats Rick.
As she launches a zombie-on-a-stick towards the near-naked, bound, Rick, she takes some perverse pleasure in the thought of watching his skin being ripped from his body, constantly talking about “sculpting him after” in some twisted form of life-drawing class. She’s a brilliant character to watch, even if her speech patterns do drive me crazy. Of course, Rick emerges unscathed, gets all his clothes back and an unexpected ally to boot. In his eyes, he’s winning.
But what he doesn’t know is that there’s a little mutiny going on. Remember Daryl and the truck from last week, along with his rebellion crew? Well, he’s putting that plan to “end things” in motion earlier than expected, although he hasn’t got as much support as he’d probably like. Rosita and Michonne decide they’re still Team Rick and peel off to leave Darryl and Tara as the runaway brigade with a little assistance from Morgan in the sniper tower.
As the truck smashes through the outside of the Sanctuary and the Walkers spill in, you’ve got the most exciting moment the season has had so far. Sanctuary guards start going down in a mist of blood and despite the bullet brigade raining down on them, the Walkers just keep on coming. It almost looks like the Saviours are in a tricky spot, but they’ve got… well, Eugene to save them, right?
Darryl’s deception may well be paving the way for a serious fracture within Rick’s crew. The fact that he and Tara are so focused on making Dwight and Negan pay has eclipsed their comradery with the rest of the survivors and could - finally - make for some interesting storylines. But, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Dear AMC, don’t kill off Darryl. It’s finally all getting interesting.
As the credits roll, it’s unclear quite what Rick is looking down on in the Sanctuary. Is it just that all the zombies have gone and there’s a truck in the wall? Or have the Saviours, led by their new second-in-command Eugene, put a plan into place that’s going to turn everything on its head? For the first time this season, I’m actually excited to watch the next episode - even if it’s just to see Eugene get his comeuppance. He’s been getting off scot-free for far too long.